7 Time management tips for mentors


The single biggest factor contributing to a mentoring relationship breakdown is the failure of mentors to dedicate sufficient time to interact with their mentees. More often than not, when there is a time crunch, the first meeting cancelled is the one with the mentee. Do you find that you fall into a similar habit at times? A lack of time for mentoring signals a ‘lack of commitment’, which is highly problematic in an interpersonal developmental relationship such as mentoring.

However, you can counter this issue. I have been both a mentor and a mentee. As a mentor, I have tried and tested the following techniques that have helped me to ensure I can devote quality time to enable my mentoring relationships to thrive.

1.Set a ‘time budget’ for your mentoring conversations.

I get it! You can often feel pushed and pulled in so many directions and your work program can change at the drop of the hat. However, as far as possible dedicate a specific time, duration, and place for mentoring conversations. Work out what day and time is going to work best for you both. I find that scheduling a mentoring session at the start or towards the end of the day can be beneficial with fewer appointments to compete with.

2.Communicate your availability in advance.

As far as possible communicate your availability as early as possible with your mentoring partner. You may travel frequently, have deadlines looming, project priorities to attend to, or you may simply have times of limited availability. If you know in advance actual or potential conflicts with your mentoring meeting schedule work through the issues sooner rather than later and communicate this clearly with your mentee.

3.Develop flexibility with your meeting format

Mentoring does not always need to be face-to-face. In fact, many mentoring pairs have successful mentoring relationships despite never actually meeting. I have enjoyed very successful mentoring relationships with mentors and mentees despite not actually meeting! Using technology to support your meeting such as phone, video conference call is so incredibly easy and of course you will find yourself saving valuable time when you need it the most. It can be less of a temptation to cancel your virtual meeting than a face-to-face meeting and remember, you can conduct this meeting anywhere (of course without distractions!).

4.Be accessible

Mentoring can happen in short bursts and does not always need to be a formal structured meeting. Maintaining contact with your mentee via email or a quick phone call is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment and interest in their ongoing professional development. Responding quickly is key. Don’t let short messages drown in emails or voicemails and fall low on your list of priorities otherwise you are having no impact at all.

5.Mentor as you manage

The responsibility to contribute to the professional development of your mentee should be high on your list of priorities. Mentor as you would manage the professional development of any other direct report and dedicate sufficient time to do so. Focus, accountability, responsibility, interest, inspiration and motivation are the key attributes of quality mentors and will help to achieve quality outcomes for your mentee.

6.Set homework

Some mentees will really thrive on practical actions or discovery exercises outside of your formal mentoring sessions.  If this is the case think carefully about what will complement your mentee’s learning outside of your mentoring conversations. Provide interesting articles to read, benchmark skills, complete self-discovery or insight surveys, recommend books or specific chapters to read. Reflecting on ‘homework’ can then form the basis for discussion and reflection at your next meeting.

7.Set the agenda in advance

Agree on a set agenda and specific topics you would like to discuss with your mentee. Perhaps you could ask your mentee to propose an agenda and provide five questions and would like to ask you during the meeting.  This will help you prepare and make the most of your time together.

Your commitment as a mentor

Don’t underestimate the value that you can provide to your mentee and the impact that your mentoring relationship can have. Above all, afford the same respect and dedication to your mentee and your mentoring relationship as you would to any other thriving professional relationship.

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