When walking through the airport, pulling your luggage behind you, the people mover can be a welcome sight. The prospect of having to trudge from one end of the terminal to the other can be daunting. Especially after a delayed flight, that moving walkway can mean the difference between missing or making the next flight.
We have the same needs in our careers. Whether we are just starting out or have been out there a while, having a helping hand can make the path from Point A to Point B a little easier. In my experience, mentor-protégé relationships provide people with the support and guidance to achieve their goals faster. That relationship can act as a people mover in your quest to achieve your goals.
Mentor-protege relationships are mutually beneficial associations. For a mentor/manager, it is valuable to have a protégé/employee that you can count on to take over some of your tasks. Then you are free to do the things needed to grow your career. For the protégé/employee, it is helpful to have someone watching out for them, showing them the ropes, and giving them opportunities to grow. Each helps the other, and they are better able to take on new opportunities.
Unfortunately, most of the career-based mentor-protege relationships lack the communication and trust needed to build the career people mover. The mentor and protégé are put together by corporate programs or are forced together in some other way.
More common, the manager-employee relationship rarely forms into a mentor-protégé relationship because people feel uncomfortable with the concept. Managers fear the appearance of favoritism. Managers may also feel uncomfortable with male-female relationships, fearful that the relationship may be labeled as inappropriate.
I have been a mentor and a protégé to both men and women. Keeping interactions transparent and not giving protégés unfair advantages can mitigate the cries of favoritism or impropriety.
An example of one of my experiences happened with a mentor outside of my reporting structure. I applied for a promotion but did not get it. The person who did get it was more qualified. My mentor did not pull strings to put me in a position for which I was not qualified. He went through what qualifications I needed and gave me the opportunities to get the required experience. When the next opportunity came around, I was more prepared. The guidance is the people mover. It is not a free ride to the top.
In our social media, email, and instant message-driven world, collaboration is suffering. We are becoming more isolated from our managers, peers, and employees.
This lack of personal interaction is detrimental to the manager, the employee, and the company. You cannot have thriving relationships through email and text messages. It takes personal, one-on-one interaction to have the proper communication and to build trust. Allowing mentor-protégé relationships to form can compensate for the shortfalls of other interactions and help keep employees engaged.
As the career paths meander, relationships change. Mentors and protégés can find themselves in different places or as peers. That is natural and part of the process. The mentor-protégé relationship will evolve into something else, and it is time to find new mentors or protégés.
Whether you are a seasoned manager or a new college graduate, you can benefit as both a mentor and a protégé. We all need guidance to grow, and we all have something to share. An Executive Vice President can learn from the CEO, and the recent college grad can show an intern some tricks. These are healthy relationships to have and can help you outside of your job too. From spiritual direction to fitness training, having a mentor or protégé will benefit you and your associate.
Learn what you need to learn and pass your experience on to others. Just as the people mover gets you to your destination faster, the mentor-protégé relationship makes it easier for everyone to succeed.
To learn more about Chad and his book, “Late Bloomer, It’s not too late to succeed!”