Thursday, February 14, 2008

How to Be a Good Mentee/Protégé:

When you talk to people about mentoring, most conversations focus on the mentor. However, for any relationship to be successful, it takes effort on the part of both people. So, just finding a great mentor is only the start. You also need to understand what you need to do to be a good protégé. (I prefer that word to mentee, so I’ll be sticking with it for the rest of this post.)

I’ve been talking to lots of women who are actively involved in mentoring to get their perspectives on what makes a good protégé. The number one requirement is to know what you want to get out of the relationship. Almost everyone I talked to has had the experience of having a new protégé show up and expecting that the mentor will drive the relationship.

So, step one is to define what you want from a mentor. This needs to be very clear in your own mind before you find your mentor because you want to choose a mentor who can help you attain your goals. The more specific the goal is, the more successful you are likely to be. A goal of “I want to be promoted” is a specific goal, however, a goal of “getting feedback on opportunities available for someone with my background and skill set”, will provide a better framework for discussions. While, it’s good to have goals that will stretch you, try to avoid “solving world hunger” types of goals.

Now that you have a goal and a mentor, it’s important to set mutual expectations for your relationship. How often will you meet? What kinds of interactions will you have outside of your formal meetings? What kind of communication style works best for you? Do you want someone who will be “brutally honest” or do you prefer a softer approach? What communication tools work well for both of you – e-mail, phone calls, etc.?

Another requirement mentioned by mentors is the protégés need to be open to feedback. People who are resistant to constructive feedback won’t derive much benefit from a mentor. It’s not just about listening to the feedback, you also have to be willing to make changes in response to the feedback.

Finally, all good relationships should provide benefit to both parties. If you are luck enough to have a good mentor, think about what you can do to give back to your mentor. Pass on an interesting article or recommend a good book. Or just offer a heartfelt thank you. Everyone likes to know that she is appreciated.

On another note, in response to my own challenge, I do have some examples of famous women mentors and protégés:

  • Audrey Hepburn mentored Elizabeth Taylor
  • Warren Buffet mentored Katharine Graham (chairman of the Washington Post)
  • Bob Metcalf (founder of 3COM) mentored Beth Marcus (President of Glow Dog Inc.)

I'll keep looking and post more examples as I find them. Please add to my list.

1 comment:

Women Mentoring said...

That's very true. I believe both parties need to know what each of them wants and how they can come away from it. women mentoring has helped me with situations as well too