Micro-Mentoring – What it is, and How to Make it Work at Work

Do you ever marvel at a colleague’s work and think to yourself “I could never do that?” Have you ever been amazed by someone else’s slideshow presentation and then felt clueless when creating your own? Has a friend at work ever casually walked you through the steps of how to do something you’ve never understood before? Last week’s post discussed the change in perspective that can stem from short-term partnerships, but we only briefly touched on the idea of “micro-mentoring,” which we have all experienced – probably without ever using that label.

Like the short-term partnerships we discussed last week, micro-mentoring is low time-commitment but can make a meaningful difference; every member of your human library brings their own life experiences to your workplace, and has their own unique mix of skills. Micro-mentoring can take the form of a single one-hour meeting over coffee, or brief get-togethers over the course of a few days or weeks. Regardless of the circumstances, micro-mentoring is most effective when the subject matter is agreed on ahead of time – what does the mentee hope to learn from the mentor?; what would the mentor need to know from the mentee to make that happen?; what else might be relevant that the mentee might not have considered? etc.

Micro-mentoring takes place informally all the time in an in-person work environment, but if your workplace has become remote in the last eighteen months, many of the most natural chances for informal micro-mentoring have disappeared. Given how much we can each benefit from others, and how much we each have to offer to others, it is important – maybe even imperative – to create opportunities for micro-mentoring in our work environment. Fortunately, you can do this even if you’re not in an HR role yourself!

What might this look like this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Take concrete steps to incorporate micro-mentoring into your work this week:

  1. Write a list of discrete skills you’d like to develop that others in your organization could help you learn. These might be software skills that you’ve been using work-arounds for, or wondering how a colleague is always able to strike up great personal connections with clients, or something entirely different.
  2. Make notes of who could help you learn those skills, and ask them for some time. Even asking for a brief 10-minute conversation is a great start; then from there, they might offer to spend more time with you to help you learn; take them up on their offer!
  3. Write a list of discrete skills that you are fluent in that could make a difference for others in your organization to learn. This could be important “who would do this if I were hit by a bus?” information, or simply some skills that you have found beneficial to your work that you would love to share with others.
  4. Offer to micro-mentor others! You might choose to post on Slack (or equivalent), or consider how else to get the word out about the skills that you’d like to share with others. You might add it to your email signature!
  5. If you’re in a position to host micro-mentoring events, do it! These could take the form of speed dating; quick getting-to-know-a-skill events where each person can get a quick primer and then choose to follow-up for more! Or they could be more in-depth small-group sessions, with options for personal follow-up and one-on-one questions.

Try this out this week and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group – we’d love to hear what you learn about yourself and others as you do!

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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