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essieness's avatar

Is it appropriate to go to a top level manager in your company whom you admire and ask them to mentor you?

Asked by essieness (7693points) April 5th, 2010

My boss’s boss has taken a liking to me and I like her as well. I admire her attitude towards work and life along with her successes. This woman is amazing at what she does. She says she sees leadership qualities in me and wants to “groom” me to move up within the company. I see her as sort of a mother(ish) figure who has a lot of insight to share with me about the job. She has an open door policy and is friendly with all my colleagues. But, is it cool to go to her and say something along the lines of, “Hey, I admire you and want to learn more from you”? Surely she has enough to do managing our office.

I also realized after proofreading this question that it comes off as totally creepy, but I swear, it’s not!

Hoping to get some advice from some of you with more experience in the corporate world… or working for the man. However you like to put it ;)

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11 Answers

phillis's avatar

I would say it depends a lot on how asutute your abilities are to read people. In and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is the various reactions of all the players, including your boss, you must consider. You have to understand, and be willing to accept, the possible fallout before making your final decision. If it’s worth it to you, then hell, yeah, I’d go for it!

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You needn’t be so direct. Doing so might have the opposite effect. Using “The Office” as a metaphor, be a Jim, not a Dwight.

This person will take you under their wing if they desire to. If you want this person to teach you, demonstrate your passion to learn.

It might not be inappropriate to ask to be mentored, but the capacity for an awkward moment is completely off the chats.

Play it off legit.

If you go to them with “I want you to be my mentor” that really puts them on the spot and it makes you appear needy.

essieness's avatar

Both great answers, thank you.

Jeruba's avatar

If I were in your place and thinking along those lines, here’s what I think I would do. I would stop by Jane’s office in a friendly way when her door is open and see if she’s free to talk for a minute—or just ask casually, when you see her getting coffee or getting off the elevator (but not in the rest room), if she could spare you a moment in the next day or two, and get yourself invited in.

Once settled in Jane’s guest chair (“Is it all right if I close the door?”), I would say something like this: “I keep hearing that one of the best things for a young person to do if she is interested in advancement in her profession is to find a mentor. Do you agree with that advice, and how would you advise me to do that? I don’t know how to go about it.”

If she is actually a potential match for you, she won’t turn this question away. (If she does, forget it, she’s not going to be much of a guide for you.) And now she is already mentoring you before even signing up for it!

Consider asking her about her own experience: “Did you find that a mentor was able to help you along early in your career?”

So then, at some point in the conversation she is almost certain to ask you if you have someone in mind. You know what to say then, right? And if she doesn’t ask you this (how could she help it?), you can lead the way with “How would you suggest that I approach the person I have in mind?”—and then approach her right then and there with what she has just told you to do.

Before you leave, ask Jane what’s the best way to let your manager know of your new relationship. Assume that your manager will know you’re in Jane’s office almost as soon as you sit down. Your manager is pretty likely to feel threatened by this, thinking you are going over his or her head with something. Jane will know what to do about this, so let her handle it.

Jane may also realize that if she is mentoring you, it will affect your relationship with your present manager on an ongoing basis. Let Jane solve that problem; make sure she knows you are aware of the delicacy of that, and ask for her help with it.

anartist's avatar

Do you get along with your immediate boss? If you don’t this could be construed as undermining his or her authority as you develop a working relationship with your boss’s superior. And the superior would probably not want to do anything to undermine her direct subordinate. If you develop “special” working relationship with this woman it should be transparent and not cause problems for others.

Cruiser's avatar

One small detail you should be very careful with…your boss. You are considering going above him no matter how innocent and one whiff that you are contacting their boss for what ever reason…that may not bode well for you or them.

What ever you do be professional. Ask only appropriate professional questions if you do. Always put yourself in their shoes to see how the question might be perceived coming from a rising star such as yourself. Good luck.

Kayak8's avatar

I was actually in a similar situation. I went to my boss and indicated an interest in mentorship on some specific areas (this was not a global request). She found a person (excellent choice) to mentor me in those areas that were not her strong suit and made the introductions necessary. This worked very well.

I would just encourage you to pick one or two things on which you are requesting mentoring. The question is “Would you mentor me on x?” rather than “Would you be my mentor?” It is a whole lot less creepy and it indicates that you have a sense of direction and self-awareness.

Exhausted's avatar

Can you not observe her methods and just ask questions about the things you want to learn in your day to day associations? Wouldn’t that accomplish the same thing without making it a commited effort? She has already indicated she sees potential in you and wants to groom you for advancement. In a sense, hasn’t she already said she wants to mentor you? By you going to her and asking her to do this, aren’t you appearing a little insecure and wanting reassurance that she is thinks you are worth grooming? I think if you just continue to do what you have done that impressed her in the first place, what you want to happen will occur without you bringing it to her attention.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If you have an HR dept, ask them if it is appropriate. Different companies have different policies. You may have to switch departments so your mentor is not your boss.

windex's avatar

Ohhhhhhhhhhh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
I did something similar, he/she quit a month later.
: (

essieness's avatar

@Exhausted That was my thought, actually.

@all Thank you for the great, insightful, answers! For those concerned about going over my boss’s head, our office has an open environment and this woman (my boss’s boss) is very interactive with all of the employees. So, I don’t think it would be threatening for him if I chose to sort of follow in her footsteps. Our culture is very much that of finding what works for you and reaching out to more tenured colleagues for assistance if you feel it will help you grow. Mentoring is encouraged. I don’t get the feeling that it really matters where that insight comes from (high or low ranks) as long as it helps you grow professionally.

For now, I think I will take the backseat approach. Show her that I am eager to learn and willing to accept the coaching I need to become more successful, and let her mentor me as see sees fit. Maybe when I’ve grown more in my position and get to know her a little better, I’ll reach out to her as a mentor.

What a great resource I have here in all of you! Thanks!!

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