It's been a while since I've discussed mentoring. I love the topic, so it certainly isn't because I haven't had anything to write about or the desire, but rather my schedule, other writing topics I needed to clear up, and life in general. I return to the subject of mentoring today with a post on spot mentoring.
Essentially, spot mentoring is mentoring on the fly. Let me give you a scenario. Imagine that you are sitting at your desk at work, or whatever your workstation is, and a younger colleague comes up to you and asks for a seat. You offer, he sits, and explains a situation at home/work/school/etc. Here is your opportunity! Even if this young man isn't your official protégés, he is still a potential spot mentoring project, and so you must answer your best.
The fact is, mentoring will require you to think on your feet whether you are talking to one of your official protégés or a potential protégé. I can't count the number of times where one of my guys have come to me with a problem that I had to think on my feet to find an answer for. It is a fact of life for a mentor.
But spot mentoring provides a unique situation and opportunity. It could be that the young colleague needs a mentor, but doesn't know it, or doesn't even know what mentoring is. Your advice to his problem or question is the jumping off point to a future relationship that could grow in leaps and bounds. Because you could end up saving not just this young man's situation, but also end up guiding him well into his future, I want to suggest three things to keep in mind when you get your next chance to do some spot mentoring.
1. Ask questions, listen carefully, and give a good, quick response. As I said, you will have to think on your feet when given a chance for spot mentoring. Do yourself a HUGE favor and ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. Asking questions buys you precious time. It also gives you a window into the heart of the individual asking for your help. But don't waste time. Once you have enough information to offer advice, do it.
2. Follow up. I can't stress this enough! It is simply vital that you follow up within an acceptable amount of time. What is an acceptable amount of time? You have to give the young man time to either put your advice into action or reject it, but once that has occurred, follow up with it. Ask for results, even if they are different than you had planned or if he rejected your advice. In the end, it is his decision to either accept or reject your advice. Your job is to guide a younger colleague. You can't do that unless you follow up.
3. Ask for another opportunity to meet. This is how you change a spot mentoring opportunity into a true mentoring relationship between a mentor and a protégé. Now, don't do this unless you can afford to take on another protégé. However, assuming you are able and willing, ask for another opportunity to meet while you're following up.
That is the power of these spot mentoring opportunities. If you have conducted your business of mentoring in a successful manner (regardless of the results of his issue) then you may be placing yourself in a position to continue mentoring him in the future. And that's what we're here for as mentors, right? Helping people for an extended period of time? So be mindful of the next time someone surprises you with a request for advice. It could be the first time in a long and fruitful mentoring relationship.