I’ve given several speeches lately about leadership as a result of the book launching this August (Learning to Lead – available now!). Most of them are interactive, and there are often “how” questions when I share the story of developing a relationship with my firm’s managing partner.
She didn’t office in the same city as I did, but I made a point to set an appointment with her when I went work in her office for a few days or week. Now a dear friend, mentor, and reason I wrote the book, she commented to me that I was one of the few women that went out of their way to seek her advice and develop a connection. The men, on the other hand, lined up outside her door, she shared.
I don’t believe mentor relationships can be forced. Mary and I naturally had a chemistry and connected with our similar passion for developing and advancing women in the profession. But had I never set up that meeting, we would have never developed a bond. Not every first meeting will grow into a mentor relationship, but women seeking guidance and allies in their new, or current, place of employment have to be proactive to forge those connections.
So what do you say?
If you’d like to set up an initial meeting with the leadership in your firm, your division, your company, or your agency, then you might first check to see if they’re interested in beginning a dialogue. Some leaders are truly invested in developing their people and would agree to take some time out to visit with you about how to maximize your potential. When I set my meeting, I simply sent an email that noted I would be in town and asked if she had 10 minutes to visit about my development at the firm. Her assistant set up a time while I was there and I came prepared. I studied what she did, how long she had been with the firm, what her roles had been, what her activities were in the community, and so forth. I also came armed with three simple questions knowing that I had minimal time and she might only have time for one.
* I’m new here – what do you think are the things I should know to succeed?
* Is there anything you need, by way of support from smaller offices or women attorneys, that I could assist with?
* What relationships or opportunities should I focus on in the next two years to be well-regarded and promoted?
We ended up talking longer than 10 minutes and, after that, we met every time that we both were in the same town. She even flew into Houston to headline a business development event that I created and hosted. Not every meeting ends with such a positive spin, but you won’t know unless you try.
How about you? Do you have a mentor or sponsor? What did you do to develop the relationship?