“Leaving the Nest” a sampling from a new book forthcoming
by Noelle Andressen, Rubans Rouges Dance, Artistic Director
Copyright 2016 photo below: Brendan Bonney
In the world of art, business, and science there are the spoken and unspoken relationships that are behind some of the greatest presentations to the universe. They the Mentors and Proteges of our society. These relationships can be intentionally situated, arranged and guided. Other times it is something that develops seemingly super-naturally without a stringent set of rules and other over-seers being involved.
The goal is to work towards guiding, usually a younger person, in developing either themselves in skill, or their artistry, hypothesis, business or company endeavors. This relationship is a special one, or should be as it goes beyond an internship. It should be built around trust without ulterior motives from either protege or mentor and both parties need to respect one another.
These relationships can be and often are beautiful in nature and intent; while others can be rough around the edges and feel more like “iron sharpening iron”. Sometimes heart tangles can occur between mentor and their protege and/or apprentice.
The growing pains are very real and can hurt both parties. Please know, that it isn’t easy for either party to release the relationship and let the other grow. Not that you have to let each other “go”; but you have to respect and love the other enough to let them be all they were created to be. The mentor can see their protege as their child, and the protege see their mentor as a parent.
I personally have had some of the most incredible relationships from this type of situation being both a mentor and protege. An aspect I’d like to focus on for this essay is the “leaving the nest” or “transitioning” part of the growth that happens in this type of relationship.
Here are some guidelines for this special time of transition to help both mentor and protege minimize the possible hurdles that can occur towards the end of this type of relationship.
Knowing the Signs
When to Leave the Nest and Let Them Leave
We were all children at one time and had to leave our homes and walk in life out from under our parent’s care. Leaving is a part of becoming an adult and growing up. This same process is a part of the life-cycle for a mentor-protege relationship.
When is it over?
If you notice you and your protege clashing or butting heads frequently, please consider evaluating if you may have a “rebellious teen” on your hands. If that’s the case, and you adore the person you are training up, take the time to lay out how you like to work and guide. Don’t keep things under your hat, express yourself specifically without any form of passive-aggressive discipline. Being up front about your policies will build trust.
How to Leave or Let Them Leave
Several times I have had that fated lunch meeting or sofa chat where my mentor said, “What are some prospects that you’ve been looking into?” OR when I have had a protege, I have said, “I have some people for you to meet.”
If you have been mentoring someone for a few years, you may have to consider and face the reality that the nurturing aspect is coming to an end and a new relationship will develop. Consider carefully your protege. Don’t just dump them. Lovingly guide them to a place of completion and acceptance. Never do anything in haste, or anger. Speak truthfully but gently with respect.
This will help both of you adjust to a new aspect of your relationship and keep it growing healthily.
- Invite your protege to a special lunch. If it’s an intimate relationship, keep it intimate. A patio setting may be appropriate.
- Present this in a positive light by sharing some of your colleagues and professional connections.
- Incorporate them in a project on a colleague level as a bridge for them to cross over into.
- They may not be ready to leave, be respectful of this. If they’re not ready, you both need to work out a plan to make them ready.
- Never go back on your commitment. Nothing in this world is easy or easily attained, don’t underestimate your protege and who or what they may know.
For the protege, if you are feeling “controlled” or feel as if you’re being smothered, please consider that you may have grown past the point of where this relationship can take you. It can feel similar to the angst and anxiety as a late teenager wanting to live their own lives.
Yearning to get out into the world and show them what you’ve got is natural. There is a proper way to do this and be grateful and gracious for someone who has freely given to you.
- Ask for a meeting, or if the relationship is more intimate, a home setting.
- Gently bring up the fact that you’ve been noticing changes in the relationship and inquire if they’ve been experiencing it too.
- Gifts of appreciation are appropriate.
- Talk about the positive aspects of what was accomplished.
- Never use any of your mentor’s connections or contacts as springboard to leave to. It is tacky and a social faux pas (miss-stepping). Get permission or better still, wait for them to introduce you and give their blessings. This can feel like a betrayal, please heed this warning and proceed carefully.
Keep in Mind
My biggest plea for the mentors of this world to keep in mind: Your protege will some day be your colleague. That means they will work with you on your level and they may even surpass you and your accomplishments. If your personality tends towards envy or jealousy in any way, I strongly suggest you either heal that character trait in yourself or do not mentor. You will only damage another human being. If they succeed past your accomplishments be proud and happy for them. They are the result of your hard work.
My biggest plea for the protege: Do not ever act as though you know it all. One day you too will have a protege and will understand how self-sacrificing your mentor was to teach and help you. Respect them. They also have important contacts and connections in the world that can help you further your goals.Your mentor is more likely to help you if you show proper respect.
For both: Never under any circumstances entertain abuse or use. Protect one another and show kindness.
Both of you should progress onward with positive memories and a good feeling about what you both have accomplished.
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