We all know how difficult it is to find the time to complete tasks associated with our daily work duties, much less to find time for voluntary activities such as mentoring. So why do people do it? And more importantly, how do they do it?
The answers to these questions are as unique as people themselves, yet there are some common factors. People become involved in mentoring so that they can learn a new skill, advance their career, share their experiences and knowledge, and expand their personal networks, just to name a few examples.
It is human nature to want to continue to improve ourselves. Our ongoing need for knowledge drives us to engage in relationships that can support our growth. Likewise, it is human nature that forces us to accept our mortality and compels us to leave our mark on the world while we are here. Our need to leave a legacy reflects itself in our willingness to help others and share our expertise.
These factors persuade us to engage in mentoring. Yet at times, despite our best efforts, we experience difficulties in our mentoring relationships. The biggest deterrent to a successful mentoring relationship is dedicating time and energy to the relationship. Half-hearted efforts yield half-hearted results. For a mentoring relationship to succeed, people need to fully invest themselves in it.
So how do people do that, given all of their other obligations?
The answer comes down to commitment—being obligated or emotionally impelled. People who are committed to mentoring make time for it because of the value it holds for them personally. They find the time to make the relationship work by holding it as a high priority for themselves, ensuring they give the relationship the attention it needs and deserves. They value seeing the relationship succeed, and therefore work to make sure the goals for the relationship are realized. As a result, they can be trusted to take actions that follow through on their promises. These traits are also why people like this make great partners to have in a mentoring relationship.
Asking questions at the beginning of the relationship and determining the scope of the potential relationship can help you assess your time and energy commitments. This will also help you figure out if you have the availability to fully invest yourself in the relationship. The following questions can help you determine the scope of the relationship and estimate how much time the relationship will require of you.
What are the goals for this relationship?
How can you blend tasks from the mentoring relationship with required work tasks?
What are your responsibilities for this relationship?
What do you expect of one another in this relationship?
How can you accommodate one another's time constraints?
If, after asking these questions, you determine you do not have the time or energy for the relationship, let your partner know immediately. It is better to say no at the beginning of the relationship than to fail your partner halfway through.
While it is ideal to ask these questions before committing yourself to a mentoring relationship, the reality is that many people are already involved in mentoring and not at the beginning of their relationships. If this is the case, you can still use the questions as a way to reflect on your relationship to date and determine which ones you need to reengage in order to renew your commitment to the learning and to your partner. In fact, revisit your commitment to the relationship and your partner occasionally just as a best practice, and then reestablish and reinvigorate the relationship with your new understanding. This can be accomplished through conversations with your partner or as an individual resolution you make with yourself.
To get started, describe your areas of passion for you mentoring relationship, and assess how you still are for those areas. Depending upon what you discover, consider these three options:
If interest has waned, what adjustments can you and your mentoring partner make together to reinvigorate this area of interest?
If you find your passion is still high for this area, how can you sustain this level of interest?
If new passions have emerged, how can you incorporate them into your mentoring relationship?
We are all human and will have times when our commitment, passion, and enthusiasm for our mentoring relationships wane. When this occurs, your partner can help bring you back to your fully committed levels by having more energy and passion at that moment. And when their energy wanes, you can do the same for them.
Mentoring is a two-way relationship. If you show up with passion and engage in the relationship with honest enthusiasm, you can help encourage more passion and enthusiasm in your partner.
About the Author
Randy Emelo is Founder and Chief Strategist of River, a social learning software company. His new book, Modern Mentoring, is now available from ATD Press and via Amazon. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.