By Amy Beth Miller, editor of The Organized Executive
Neither announcement was a shock, but coming on the same day they made me think about the stars in every field, the people who have had outstanding careers.
Entertainment icon Dick Clark passed away the same day that Pat Summit stepped down as the head coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols basketball team. Clark, credited with launching the careers of pop icons for 30 years, died of a heart attack at age 82. Summit, who has won more NCAA games than any other coach, had announced last year that she has early onset dementia and now will serve as “coach emeritus.”
Perhaps your organization has its own legends, a senior leader who started her career as a secretary or a project manager who launched a product that changed your industry. As a new manager, this is an ideal time for you to reach out to those people and learn from them directly.
Whether you are attending a conference where the keynote speaker is someone you have long admired or you pass an executive in the hallway everyday whom you would love to have as a mentor, it is up to you to make the first move.
Study the person’s background thoroughly and distill what you would like to learn to a few specific questions. Then send a handwritten note, call or approach the person directly to state your case. Explain why you admire the person, what type of advice you are seeking and how much time you would like. Example: “I’ve heard many times from other people how you turned around a struggling department. As a new manager I am having difficulty getting my team to work together. I’d love to take you to lunch next week to discuss my plan and get your advice for fine-tuning it.”
Don’t be intimidated by the person’s status. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to connect now, that person may be gone when you finally think you are ready to reach out.
Whom would your ideal mentor be?