We recently asked participants at a seminar to raise their hand if they were informally mentoring someone.  Almost everyone in the room held their hand up.  We told those folks to keep their hand raised if the answer was yes to the following question: “Would that person, if they were sitting next to you right now, say they were being mentored by you?”   Almost all the hands dropped.

What does that say and what does that mean? 

Although most of us are informally mentoring, we basically end up answering questions, lending a hand, or offering support.  Whatever you offer to others reflects positively on you, and your generosity and willingness to give your time and energy to others.   However, when the other person actually knows you are mentoring them, you both win.  You get credit for your generosity of your time and expertise, while also communicating an important message to them: “You matter, you have value. I believe in your potential.”

iStock_000029822034XSmallThe now famous messaging  from the old AT&T, “reach out and touch someone,” offers much wisdom.   As 2013 comes to a close, consider what you could do to make more of a difference by reaching out and touching those whom you informally mentor.

Four Suggestions

1. Let the person know that you see your role as a mentor, helping them grow and develop and fulfill their potential.

2. Make yourself more available.

3. Talk to your informal mentee about how you can best use your time with each other to make the learning more meaningful.

4. Be more proactive in supporting your informal mentoring relationships rather than waiting for them to come to you.


Beautiful business woman with question mark above the head lookiQuestions to Think About

Who are the people you are informally mentoring right now?

  • What would happen if you “formalized” aspects of the relationship?
  • What would be the benefit?


What are you currently doing in your informal relationship?

  • What more could you do?  (Here’s one hint:  Instead of giving answers, try asking probing questions and help the mentee find the answer for themselves.)


What would be the impact if you added more structure to your current informal relationship?  How might your mentee benefit if you . . .

  • Met on a regular basis?
  • Set expectations?
  • Provided learning opportunities or resources for discussion?


Go ahead, reach out and touch someone!