Don't worry, you’re not wasting your mentor’s time.

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You’ve probably heard me reference the concept of a Manager Voltron before: picture a crew of people who support you as you grow, where they each bring a facet of what an imaginary ideal manager for you would be. (I coined the term in reference to the 1980s television show about heroes that join forces to create a giant super robot. Bring all the management forces you need together!)

When I introduce the concept of a Manager Voltron during my Mentoring, Coaching, and Sponsoring workshop, someone usually asks a variation of this question:

But what if you don’t have anything to give them in return? I feel so bad asking folks I respect for their mentorship, or sponsorship, or a space to vent, without being able to give back to them. I don’t want to waste their time.

I get it—the people you want to add to your Manager Voltron crew are people who you look up to, who have tons of experience, whose time you don’t want to waste!

This question always reminds me of a time at Etsy when I met the new CFO—a total baller, a trailblazer, a person who was in wall-to-wall Very Important Meetings—and held back from asking her for mentorship. In fact, I can even think of people who I’ve hesitated to reach out to recently, who I admire so deeply that I don’t want to bug them!

But the other week, I posted this tweet in a thread about the anniversary of my self-paced video program launch:

I also wanted to showcase these 12 guest stars. Each has shaped who I am as a manager.

An orange bingo card titled 'Manager Voltron' that shows 12 white rectangles with names filled in each. Has more experience than I do: Paloma Medina. Is a great coach: Jen Schenkel. Has power and wants to help me grow: John Allspaw. Works in a different field/discipline: Duretti Hirpa. Is good at rallying and aligning others: Jason Wong. Has a skill set I want to learn: Courteney Ervin. Has excellent communication skills: Julie Schechter. Is the kind of leader I admire: Dan Na. Is a great teacher: Catt Small. Effectively sets strategy: Yvette Pasqua. Makes me feel heard/seen: David Yee. Is a fresh set of eyes in this environment: Jill Wetzler.

(I used the prompts from my Manager Voltron bingo card to make this!)

I didn’t tag these folks or mention them directly in the tweet, so to my surprise, they started quoting it with their own takes. Their replies reminded me of how Manager Voltron relationships are deeply symbiotic:

What an illustrious managerial team! Lara really filling in my own Voltron slot for “feeling seen” here, as she always does for me—often when I need it most.David Yee

🤯🤯🤯 Lara as my first manager at a “big” tech company was one of the biggest lucky breaks of my career. So much of how I think about treating people with integrity and equity is crafted by her example. Read her books, take her video courses. They will challenge and grow you.Dan Na

Wow so so honored to be part of this Voltron crew ❤️ @lara_hogan is part of my Voltron because she’s a master at thinking in systems and frameworks and coaching others to do so themselves.Yvette Pasqua

Remember, you always have something to give to your Voltron crewmates. It might be something you don’t even realize you’re giving.

Your perspective, advice, and gut checks are valuable. Your feedback can open up someone’s eyes to new possibilities. Even just giving someone a space to vent can be a game-changer. So, don’t discount how much you can give back to your Manager Voltron, too.

Keep in mind that these relationships will continue to evolve as you each grow and learn. Even if you can’t imagine how you could help them today, I guarantee you can be a help to them in the future. And above all else, telling someone what they’ve done that’s made you, or your work, better is a gift.

So don’t hesitate: invite at least one person you admire to your Voltron today. You can use this free bingo card for inspiration!

—Lara


Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.