Time to MentorWe all know how difficult it is to find the time for our daily work duties, much less for voluntary activities such as mentoring. So why do people mentor? And more important, 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 improve. 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. 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 their other obligations?

The answer comes down to commitment. People who are committed to mentoring make time for it because of the value it holds for them. They make the relationship work by making it a high priority, giving it 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 follow through on their promises. These traits also make them great partners in a mentoring relationship.

Asking questions at the beginning of the relationship and determining its potential scope 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 it 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 each other in this relationship? 
  • How can you accommodate each other’s time constraints?

If 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 than to fail your partner halfway through.

While it is ideal to ask these questions before committing yourself, many people are already involved in a mentoring relationship. If this is the case, you can still use the questions as a way to reflect on your relationship and determine where you need to re-engage to renew your commitment to the learning and to your partner. In fact, revisit your commitment to the relationship and your partner occasionally as a best practice, and then reinvigorate the relationship with your new understanding. This can be accomplished through conversations with your partner or as a resolution you make with yourself.

To get started, identify and assess your areas of passion for your mentoring relationship. 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 your partner’s 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.

Looking for more information? Check out my book Modern Mentoring.