5 Strategies – Reluctant Proteges

Five Strategies to Increase a Reluctant Protege’s Use of a Mentor’s Advice, by Barry Sweeny, 2001


What do mentors need to know and be able to do to when their protégé does not value or use the mentor’s experience and advice?

Some people just seem to have to learn things their own, often hard, way. When a protégé would rather show what they already know and can do and will not defer to the wisdom and experience of the mentor, trial and error learning is the result, and that is the slowest, most difficult way to learn.

When this is what’s happening for the protégé, what can a mentor do?

The 5 strategies for addressing or even avoiding this problem are:

  1. Use a developmental model (like the CBAM Stages of Concern) to assess the stage of development/ concern that the protégé is on. Then, adapt the focus of the mentoring to target the issues and needs at that level. – Or…
  2. Present the protégé a “menu” from research of typical needs of novices. Ask which of these are a need for the protégé and then aim mentoring at those targets.
  3. If you are not aware of any protégé needs, consider whether you have been a good listener as a mentor. Perhaps, ask the protégé if you have been a good listener, or when the protégé has felt you did a good job of listening to them. Anyway, BE a good listener and try to ascertain where the protégé “is”developmentally as a learner and, therefore, what they are ready to learn.
  4. Use the Gordon model of cognitive development The bottom level suggests why the protégé’s reluctance may be happening and what the mentor can do to change the situation to gain protégé growth.
  5. Model vulnerability and candidly present the concern that, “I fear I am not doing a good job as your mentor” and seek ways in which you could be more helpful to protégé.