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You? Mentor the boss? Not so crazy

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

You may not realize it, says executive coach Jenni Prisk, but your boss might love to have you as his or her mentor.

"All the time," Prisk says, "your boss is subliminally asking you: 'Do you think I did the right thing?' 'What would you do if you were me?'

"She's asking for your input all the time."

Learn how to give her the decisive feedback she needs...

Prisk should know: She was an administrative assistant for 26 years.

So, how can you parlay the boss's unstated need for professional and emotional validation into full-fledged partnership, under which she openly asks your opinion on important matters?

Approach the boss about what Prisk calls "360-degree mentoring." Here's what she means:

  • Lay some groundwork by speaking up whenever the boss expresses uncertainty about a decision or a problem.

Example: "This seems like a tough issue for you. Would another person's viewpoint be valuable to you?"

If the boss accepts, give him or her your honest assessment. Stay cautious, though; you don't want to scare the boss away.

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  • Ask the boss to mentor you. This will show that you trust the boss: the first step toward inviting him or her to trust you.

Example: "I've always valued your input and honesty. I'd really like you to mentor me."

  • Suggest that you meet at least twice a month for 30 minutes or so. Use the sessions to ask the boss what he or she thinks you should be learning about the business. Review decisions you've made and problems you've faced since your last meeting.
  • Offer, during one of your mentoring sessions, to act as a "sounding board" for the boss. Hopefully, the boss now sees you as a thoughtful person who's interested in the business's best interests and who brings a valuable set of skills and decision-making abilities to the table.

If so, he or she will jump at your offer.

"In the middle of a busy week," says Prisk, "you're giving the boss time to think. That doubles your value. You'll become much more of a partner."

But if the boss declines, don't hang your head. Instead, look for chances during your one-on-one meetings to gently offer your opinion ... and watch the boss warm to the idea of you being a mentor.

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