While mentoring brings purpose and satisfaction, it can be draining. In the face of a pandemic with no end in sight, we must preserve our fuel supplies while we mentor others.
It is possible to be a mentor in an efficient manner that benefits mentees, growing their confidence and their network, but also conserves your energy. We call this an approach we call fuel-efficient mentoring.
The goal of fuel-efficient mentoring is straightforward: to become a more adept mentor with an even larger group of mentees while expending less energy and less time.
1. Clarify the baseline expectations
- Consider your expectation of mentees’ responsibilities, and then draft a document of standards and save it for future use.
- For example: Mentees should be prompt, create the agenda, organize calendar invitations (including a web-based conference link for virtual meetings), and complete action items.
- Provide context, that these standards will provide organization and leadership skills, and keep you, the mentor, focused on their larger needs.
2. Establish a budget of how much time you expect to spend annually.
- Share your time budget with the mentee. This allows mentees to see the mentor’s time as a currency and develop thoughts and questions prior to reaching out.
- It creates independence and confidence for mentees and pushes them to problem solve on their own prior to scheduling a meeting.
- It isn’t that mentors shouldn’t welcome questions, but mentors are best positioned to guide mentees after they’ve considered their options in advance.
- To increase fuel efficiency, consider whether or not the problem can be resolved efficiently over an email and consider shortening meetings.
3. Reconsider how you structure meetings with mentees.
- Traditionally, the mentor-mentee relationship is a dyad: Two people meet and discuss topics often framed under themes of professional growth, interpersonal conflict, or work-life balance, for instance.
- Often, mentors have similar conversations separately with a few mentees, and the answers they give to one would be relevant to the others, too. With that in mind, instead of spending five hours meeting separately with five mentees, consider combining the five separate mentee meetings into a single hour. (It is reasonable to deduct that one hour from each mentee’s time budget.)
- This approach can save time, sure, but there are other advantages, too: In the group setting, mentees can share perspective with each other and offer peer-to-peer mentorship.
- This establishes support and validation when mentees hear similar struggles and unmet aspirations. It also allows the mentees to build their trusted spaces and personal networks as a group by discussing what would otherwise be private matters in a 1:1 meeting. By grouping mentees, you impact more mentees and overwhelm your calendar less.
- Another avenue for combining mentees is through listserves or group messaging apps.
4. Look how other obligations can double as mentoring opportunities
- Consider a work-related or professional development event, such as a virtual webinar or mixer or even a board meeting a chance to invite your mentee..
- This strategy combines the time we, the mentors, had planned to spend independently with time alongside a mentee. It also allows the mentee to see our interests, networking skills, and influence.
- Lastly, it provides the opportunity to introduce the mentee to other potential mentors. Constructing a curated team of mentors for a mentee is a gift and fuel-efficient approach to offer more support to a mentee.
Mentoring should not burn and drain energy. It can be fuel-efficient and effortless. Look for ways to communicate expectations, schedule effectively, and consolidate mentees. These strategies provide room to go farther on the journey as a mentor.