How Managers Can Mentor: Leaving the Gate Open for Protégés

A man working at a computer and a woman standing looking at the computer
Share This Post:
Rate this post

In management, mentorship serves as a cornerstone for nurturing talent and fostering professional growth. Mentoring managers play a vital role as guides, providing support, guidance, and valuable opportunities for protégés to unlock their potential.

In this insightful article, we will explore the concept of mentorship and delve into its profound impact on protégés’ contentment, learning, and innovation. Leading the way is Chip Bell, a renowned expert in mentorship management and the founder of the Chip Bell Group. Together, we will uncover the significance of “leaving the gate open” and how mentors can empower their protégés to reach new heights and drive organizational success.

Don’t miss this intriguing
webinar from HRDQ-U

Don’t miss this intriguing webinar from HRDQ-U

Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning

Mentorship Management: Driving Success Through Empowered Protégés

Within the vast landscape of management styles, mentorship stands tall as a vital ingredient for success. A mentorship manager assumes the role of a trusted guide, providing a nurturing environment that facilitates growth and development. By offering support, guidance, and valuable opportunities, mentorship managers empower protégés to tap into their full potential and thrive in their professional journeys.

Four women talking together

The impact of mentorship extends beyond individual growth; it positively influences the entire organization. When leaders mentor protégés as partners and empower them to take ownership of their work, protégés respond by embracing challenges, driving positive change, and delivering excellence. As managers with a mentorship style are able to remove barriers and foster a culture of trust, responsibility, and recognition, protégés become motivated to excel and actively contribute to the organization’s success.

Contented Cows and Contented Protégés

A cow staring straight ahead

In 1907, Carnation, one of the largest milk-product companies, introduced the tagline “Milk from Contented Cows” for its condensed milk product. This sparked curiosity about what made a cow “content.”

My dad suggested it probably meant milk from a cow had a sense of freedom and not being confined to a specific location.

When our cows did escape our gates, “Someone left the gate open,” was the usual explanation for those rare occasions when they would wander into the woods. When this group of cows went for an early morning hiatus, my father’s directive to me or my brother was to go retrieve “the contented cows.”

The freedom of roaming outside our farm carried challenges for the “contented cows,” such as exposure to fast cars and unscrupulous farmers, they seemed to overlook the benefits of water, shelter, and sustenance within our fields.

The concept of freedom and contentment are similarly linked. When leaders and mentors “leave the gate open” giving protégés the freedom to explore, experiment, and risk, their contentment results in greater learning and enhanced innovation. Empowerment does not mean unlimited license; it means responsible freedom. There is no place in organizations for reckless actions or foolhardy performance.

When mentors treat protégés like partners, protégés respond by acting like owners who are eager to take care of the organization. They embrace challenge and change instead of acting like an entitled victim when a part of the realities of business challenges. And they deliver excellence when barbed wire fences are removed – those barriers of purposeless learning, the threat of retribution for error, or the perception of no reward for responsible risk-taking. If you are a business leader and mentor, leave the gate open and become an obvious champion of contented protégés!

The Concept of Contentment and Freedom: Two Dynamics of Mentorship Management

Just as contented cows thrive when granted the freedom to roam, protégés flourish when given the opportunity to explore, experiment, and take calculated risks. Managers acting as mentors create an environment of responsible freedom and enable protégés to learn and innovate at a higher level. Contentment arises when protégés feel trusted, valued, and empowered to make a difference. This approach encourages a sense of ownership, leading to enhanced commitment and dedication.

Two women and two men walking in pairs outside an office

When it comes to enabling the growth and success of protégés, mentorship managers should bear in mind two key aspects that ensure the adoption of best practices:

1. The Partnership Dynamic

Effective mentorship entails treating protégés as partners rather than subordinates. By embracing protégés as equals, mentors cultivate a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility. This shift in perspective motivates protégés to take care of the organization, embracing challenges, and seeking out opportunities for growth. When mentors establish a foundation of trust and respect, protégés become invested in their own success and the success of the organization as a whole.

2. Remove Barriers and Foster Excellence

Just as cows face potential dangers outside the secure confines of their pastures, protégés encounter barriers within organizations that hinder their growth. Barbed wire fences symbolize purposeless learning, fear of retribution for mistakes, and a lack of recognition for responsible risk-taking. Mentorship managers must actively dismantle these barriers, creating an environment that nurtures protégés’ growth and encourages them to strive for excellence. By eliminating these hindrances, mentors empower protégés to unleash their full potential.

A few managers as mentors best practices:

To become an exceptional mentorship manager, one must adopt certain best practices:

  • Building Trust: Establish a foundation of trust with protégés by actively listening, providing constructive feedback, and demonstrating genuine care and support.
  • Encouraging Independence: Grant protégés the freedom to make decisions, take ownership of projects and develop their problem-solving skills.
  • Fostering Learning Opportunities: Create a learning-rich environment by providing access to resources, encouraging networking, and promoting continuous development.
  • Recognizing Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate protégés’ accomplishments to foster a sense of pride and motivation.
  • Emphasizing Accountability: Instill a sense of responsibility in protégés, helping them understand the impact of their actions and decisions on their personal growth and the organization.


Mentorship managers have a significant role in shaping the success of protégés and organizations alike. By “leaving the gate open” and empowering protégés to explore, experiment, and take responsible risks, mentors foster contentment, learning, and innovation. By removing the barriers that hinder growth and embracing a partnership dynamic, mentors pave the way for protégés to excel and contribute to the organization’s success. Through effective mentorship, protégés become empowered leaders, eager to make a difference and drive positive change. Embrace the role of a mentorship manager and unlock the potential within your protégés today!

Headshot of Chip Bell
Chip Bell

Chip Bell is the founder of The Chip Bell Group . Chip is a well-known consultant and a sought-after speaker. He is the author and co-author of several best-selling books including, The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative ServiceTake Their Breath AwayMagnetic ServiceService MagicCustomers as PartnersManagers as Mentors, and Managing Knock Your Socks off Service. Chip’s articles have appeared in professional journals such as Leadership ExcellenceLeader to Leader MagazineT+D Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Harvard Management Update. He has appeared on several major networks, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, and Businessweek. Chip holds graduate degrees in organizational psychology and human resource development from Vanderbilt University and The George Washington University.

Connect with Chip on LinkedIn.

Recommended Webinar
Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning

Unlock the power and skills of management mentoring to enhance your leadership skills and help your business gain a sustainable advantage.

HRDQ-U Webinar | Managers as Mentors
More HRDQ-U Blog Posts

Human Resources: Then and Now
We read so much about putting the “human” back in Human Resources.

Conversational coaching is challenging because it involves the transfer of mental thoughts f
Related Topics
Career development
Career Development
Business coaching webinar
Creativity and innovation skills training
Creativity and Innovation
Webinar customer service
Customer Service
How Managers Can Mentor: Leaving the Gate Open for Protégés
Decision Making
Diversity and inclusion webinars
Diversity and Inclusion
How Managers Can Mentor: Leaving the Gate Open for Protégés
PM webinars
Project Management
Log In