The Best Protégé
Updated: Jan 16
January is mentorship month.
Tomorrow, a new episode of the Lead to Soar podcast will drop and the topic is Mentorship 101. In this episode, I interview Michelle Redfern and the story she tells at the end is the part that stands out to me the most.
Understandably, Michelle is a sought after mentor. She is a high powered woman that has held multiple executive positions, she is visible, and she speaks with energy. When she comes in, she commands the room.
So, what does it take for a potential protégé or mentee to get the attention of a high powered person, like Michelle?
I will break down what I heard from Michelle. But don't take my word for it; check out episode 9 of the Lead to Soar podcast.
Setting: The (at the time potential) protégé approached Michelle after Michelle had given a talk to a large group. She waited until others had the chance to speak with Michelle after this event before taking up any of her time.
The initial approach: The mentee approached with something like this, "I'd like to explore the opportunity for you to be my mentor and see how it might work. I've already reached out to your assistant to get some time in your diary (calendar) for an introductory call. I will come to that meeting prepared to discuss in detail the areas where I believe I need to be mentored. In the meantime, I am sending you the items that explain more about who I am (CV and career summary). My gaps are ____, ____, ___, and I believe you are my ideal mentor because I see __, __, and ___ in you."
Explaining how you (the mentee) will do the leg work: "I'd like to propose meeting once per month for # months. I will make the entire process seamless for you by arranging times to meet through your assistant, and I will come to you at your office at the agreed times. I will do the work of writing down what we talk about and following through on any work you assign me and providing appropriate progress updates. All I need is for you to help me."
And then, the protégé followed through entirely on that leg work.
In our discussion, Michelle described how this is the best mentee she's ever had. Michelle only had to show up and be great for her. She only had to show up and help her.
This story, this description of a protégé taking the reins to make the process both clear and seamless for the mentor is the best example and formula I've heard, specifically for approaching a high-powered individual.
Remember, people want to help, but high powered people are busy. They are busy and many people want their time. The first step you can take toward building a relationship with such a person is being mindful of that reality.