FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I am a team leader at a company that has started encouraging everyone at my level to mentor at least one or two people below us. The point is to identify those with the potential to move up and guide them toward getting the right skills and experience. We can choose our own mentees, rather than having them assigned to us, but we do have to report periodically on how it's going. In fact, "talent development" is now a big chunk of what determines our bonuses.
All well and good, but I'm so busy already that I really worry about whether I have the time to do this on top of everything else. It might help if there were some specific benchmarks for what mentors are supposed to do, exactly, but that's being left up to us, too. Can I be any good at this in, say, 30 minutes a week? Do you or your readers have any suggestions for me? — Overbooked
Dear O.: Your employer's mentoring push sounds unusually vague, but maybe that's a good thing. After all, if there are no benchmarks, you can't be accused of not sticking to them. On the other hand, the lack of specific expectations may be adding to your anxiety about whether you have time for this -- which, by the way, is far from unusual. Notes Beth N. Carvin, whose human resources consulting firm Nobscot designs formal mentoring programs for big companies, "It's very common for people's first reaction to be 'I don't have the time' when they're asked to be mentors."
And no wonder. Bill Rosenthal, CEO of communications coaching company Communispond, says that the most effective mentors do all or most of the things on this checklist:
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While web-based programs may make it easier for companies to offer mentoring opportunities, you still have to do the hard work of building a relationship for it to make a difference. By Stephenie OvermanAug 29, 2011 11:02 AM ET
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