Do You Really Lack the Time to Be a Mentor, or Just the Tools?


If you are a manager or leader, you are probably balancing multiple priorities and wishing you had more time to support your direct reports or mentees with career development effectively. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed and wonder if you are making a real impact as a mentor at all.


You are not alone.


As industry experts, we often ask professionals what’s holding them back from mentoring others? Not surprisingly, many say they are too busy. In fact,


The #1 frustration we hear from mentors and managers is “I wish I had more time to mentor and support my team members individually”.


We get it. Your time is precious and at a premium. Being a mentor can undoubtedly add to your already full To-Do list, but what if you had some help?


At Mentorship Moment, we believe mentoring relationships don’t have to be time-consuming if you have the right coaching tools on-demand. While many professionals may consider themselves highly effective mentors and leaders, this isn’t always the reality. As a matter of fact:


Gallup estimates 80% of the time many managers are ill-equipped to manage individual employees, let alone a team.


Shocking, right? So, why is that? Very often when individual contributors get promoted into management roles or get chosen to participate in a mentoring program, they don’t receive ANY formal training on how to grow their direct reports/mentees. Without formal training, they are left trying to figure it out on their own, with limited time. 


The bottom line is that, if you are a busy manager or leader, you need to know how to maximize every mentorship conversation so that it is outcome driven, value-added and impactful. If you don’t know where to start, check out Mentorship Moment, a platform specifically created to offer step-by-step coaching guides to help you make even 15-minute meetings with your mentees effective and inspiring. Additionally, you can find below our insights and tips to make the most out of your mentoring relationships in less time.


Improve Your Mentoring Techniques


If you are one of many professionals who is expected to be an epic mentor, yet never received any formal training, here are a few essentials to get you started: 


1) Establish short and long-term goals 


You have probably heard several times that the first step in building and maintaining a productive relationship is to agree on goals. So, what’s the best way to do that?


Firstly, it’s important to clearly set both short and long-term objectives. While long-term goals can help you determine the strategic direction of your mentees’ or direct reports’ career, short-term goals allow you to set milestones they can immediately start working towards. Remember to articulate your own goals and objectives for what you, as the Mentor, want to get out of the mentoring relationship too.


Secondly, you should encourage them to be as detailed as possible by brainstorming with them specific “actions” they can take to meet their objectives. For example, do they need to set up a coffee chat with someone in another department? Do they need to uplevel/re-skill by enrolling in an online course? The more actionable the items on the agenda are, the more productive and impactful the mentoring relationship will be. 


2) Align expectations 


A shared understanding and agreement of mutual expectations is crucial to creating effective mentor-mentee relationships. You have the unique opportunity to decide how much time you are willing to dedicate to someone by outlining where the boundaries lie and how your touchpoints will be structured. Some examples of questions you should ask yourself before having this conversation with your mentees or direct reports include:


  • How often do I want to meet (e.g. once a month, once a quarter, etc.), and for how long?
  • Do I want to provide regular feedback beyond our meetings, and if so, how? (e.g. through email, via WhatsApp message, a phone call, etc.) 
  • What are the roles and responsibilities I am looking to take on? (e.g. do I want to simply provide advice based on my own career journey, or actively coach them through daily challenges?)


To better help you set up mentoring relationships and clearly define goals, we have created a step-by-step Discussion Guide on How to Be an Ideal Mentor, which can be downloaded here for FREE.


3) Measure progress over time


Tracking your mentees’ or direct reports’ progress against their goals is important to fully understand if your efforts as a mentor are making a real impact. However, this can also be a great opportunity to reflect on the time you put in and whether that needs to be adjusted for the foreseeable future. Did your mentees need more guidance at the beginning of the relationship, and now require less help? Did you notice your face to face meetings were not as efficient as the online ones? Regardless of the specific conclusions you draw, assessing your progress is key.  Observing what is working vs what is not working gives you the chance to pivot and make your mentoring relationship more effective and productive.  


Be Selective 


The sense of satisfaction from supporting and guiding others through their careers can be a great source of motivation, but sometimes we cast our net too wide and try to be everything to everyone. It might not be possible to mentor everyone who asks you so give yourself permission to be selective and say “No” (without guilt). 


When lacking the time to mentor everyone who asks you, you can:


1) Identify your “ideal mentee”


Select people who you think can really benefit from your guidance and who are hungry to grow/learn from someone like you. If you are unsure about this, ask yourself what type of support you are able to provide your aspiring mentees given their specific career goals and aspirations. 


In addition, you might want to reflect on what YOU are interested in passing on. Are you looking to mentor someone who wants to follow a similar professional journey as yours, or someone who you see potential in but they don’t see it in themselves just yet? Do you have a unique skill you are eager to teach a specific group of people? Do you want to work to close the diversity gap at your company by mentoring a female or underrepresented employee?


These questions are extremely important to help you define your “ideal mentee”. This in turn serves as a guideline or set of criteria of people you are interested in mentoring as well as the required time commitment on your part. For example, if you decide to concentrate on your areas of particular expertise, perhaps you create a mentoring circle of a few mentees and share your stories in one session instead of three separate ones. We have noticed a rise in the number of mentoring circle relationships recently, that’s why the Mentorship Moment platform provides specific coaching tools and exercises for group mentoring sessions.


So, next time you are looking to set up a mentoring relationship, remember to take into consideration your preferences as well. If for instance you are part of a mentoring program where HR practitioners are involved in pairing mentors and mentees, consider addressing your interests before the matching process takes place.


2) Refer to someone else 


Referring aspiring mentees to someone else might be an appropriate solution if:


  • You don’t have time to support them
  • You are not sure your guidance would truly benefit them
  • They are not your “ideal mentee” or a direct report

AND you know of someone in your network who might be able to better support them.


While this may not be the expected response for the person who initially turned to you, it could be an even better option and letting them know the reason behind your decision can greatly help them understand you have acted with their best interest in mind. So, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t fear judgement, it's an opportunity to role model transparency and a counteroffer.


3) End the relationship 


Although this may sound highly harsh and, at times, uncomfortable, there are several situations in which it is ok and necessary to end a mentoring relationship. This can be the case if:


  • You feel stuck in a relationship where there’s no chemistry
  • Your mentee is not engaged and/or lacks accountability (mentee is not doing what they said they were going to do on a consistent basis)
  • The mentee has reached their full potential with your guidance and now needs another mentor
  • Due to unforeseen/personal circumstances you are unable to continue to invest the time and energy to maintain the relationship (remember, life happens and sometimes we have to adjust)


Staying in any relationship that is not working is not productive - this applies to a mentoring relationship too! Moreover, the outcomes might turn out to be more disastrous than beneficial as both mentors and mentees could lose faith in the effectiveness of mentorship. “Ghosting” on your mentee is unprofessional and hurtful, so if you are concerned this is happening to you, our advice is to have an honest conversation and check-in with your mentee about the possibility of amending or ending the relationship. Courageous conversations like this can either be a turning point in a mentoring relationship or an empowering way to bring a mentorship to a conclusion.


When lacking the time to figure out how to manage mentor-mentee relationships, take advantage of proven mentoring resources. Mentorship Moment saves you time by bringing you actionable tools, including step-by-step discussion guides and coaching exercises, so you can create a mentoring moment in less time and with more impact. If you’re interested in up-leveling your mentorship relationships, reach out as we would love to support you.


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