Taking a Protége

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April 2, 2019 by phicks2012

While this definitely won’t interest everyone, my hobby is historical reenactment. I’ve been happily doing that in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) for 30 years, wearing “funny clothes” (aka historical garb) and attending events with hundreds of other garb-wearing folks my mother’s more judgmental and sanctimonious friends considered to be (at best) weirdos. Most of them (NOT meaning my mother’s more unpleasant friends, by  the way) are nice, fun people who simply like history (in particular the Middle Ages), and want to belong to a culture where honor and courtesy still actually matter. But that’s another story.

Not everyone in the SCA lives up to the professed ideals, of course, and we all have our weaknesses and flaws, but mostly we do try to do so, and to reward those who most succeed with awards and titles. One of the highest of these honors is a Peerage (Knight (Heavy Fighting, or Sword & Shield), Laurel (Arts & Sciences), Pelican (Service), and Master of Defense (Rapier Fighting)), and those who have been elevated to one of these Peerages are expected to take on promising Associates (Squires, Apprentices, Protéges, and Provosts) to train.

A lot of people aspire to be taken as Associates to Peers — most because they want to learn, and to perfect their skills, and to connect to a mentor able to help them do so — but some because they crave the fringe benefits and social or power advantages they perceive as coming along with the positions, and see them as “titles”. As a result, Peers generally try to be very careful in their selection of Associates/Students — though not all succeed.

People ask me all the time what I, as a Pelican (or Service Peer), look for in a Protége. As a result, I’ve given this a lot of thought.

I look for active, enthusiastic people who are service-oriented, who are natural leaders, who do what they do because they enjoy it, and who do it well. I look for good communication skills, a good attitude, and a good work ethic. I look for people who keep their word and follow through on what they say they’re going to do if at all possible. I look for people who, when they do screw up, take responsibility for it and learn from it. Finally, because I need to work long term with these people, I look for people with personalities I enjoy, and with a good sense of humor. If they have other talents in the Arts & Sciences or in Martial activities, that’s a plus too.

I do NOT want (as my Protéges) people who only drift along waiting to be told what to do and never take personal initiative, or people who are only willing to take on high-profile tasks that they expect will earn them awards or attention from highly ranked people, or people who claim credit for the efforts of others or blame others for their personal failures. I do not want people who do not follow through on their commitments, or people with merit badge mentalities and a checklist, or people with a poor work ethic. I do not want people who do not respond to calls and emails, or who are constantly offending other people because they lack rudimentary communications skills and simple tact. Also, I do not want people who are chronic whiners, are thin-skinned and constantly taking offense, or who are aggressively hostile. If I find out that a candidate is only nice to people of high rank (i.e. people who theoretically can help them to advance their personal agenda) and is dismissive or rude to anyone they perceive as inferior or of no use to their advancement goals, I will mark them off of my list instantly.

I want Protéges who can network and work well together as well as with me. I want Proteges who will encourage and challenge one another, and volunteer (or at least willingly agree) to help one another. A little good-natured competition is fine, but I do not want anyone inclined to sabotage or back-stabbing. I will avoid like the plague people prone to spreading unsubstantiated rumors, or to jumping on social media to troll or to bully, or who deliberately indulge in nasty power politics. Further, I will not select a person who refuses to support the infrastructure of their own local SCA group — unless this is absolutely unavoidable.

Unavoidable, to me, means that the local group meetings and activities are too far away geographically from either their work or their home to be at all practical, or the local group is simply toxic.

A digression here. There are some few local SCA groups that have been taken over by people who are on personal power-trips. These people might or might not be Peers (and yes, there are bad Peers) or former Royals (often transplants from another kingdom) who move in to a small, struggling group, invite all of the promising or like-minded folk into their households, and then proceed to exclude everyone else. They may exert unusual control over their own people, to the extent of telling them what events they must, or can, or cannot go to, and who they can or cannot be friends with. If they have the power, they may only allow their friends to be branch Officers, or to be Event Stewards or Feast Stewards. They may only recommend their adherents for awards, and they frequently make anyone not in their camp feel unwelcomed and unwanted. Such a group is hard to belong to, so that does have to be taking into considerations.

Back on topic, I have made errors in the past, and admit it, but I also have avoided making a few truly horrible mistakes because I tend to listen to people whose judgment I trust. If an existing Protége tells me that someone would make an excellent candidate, I tend to check it out. If an existing Protége warns me that there are problems with a potential candidate, I look into that too.

Human Nature is such that people tend to behave better around people they perceive as having power, authority or influence, so they may very well act differently (more friendly, polite, temperate, helpful, etc.) around those people than they do around people they see as “nobodies”. As a result, a Peer might not see the negative side because those folks make a point of being very nice indeed around that Peer. However, there will always be those who DO see the negative side because they HAVE been slighted, condescended to, ignored, shoved aside, or have watched the person take credit for work he or she did not do.

So, put simply, I watch, listen, and do research because I do not wish to assume responsibility for a toxic Protége, or for a Protége who simply does not really have the talent, ability, work ethic, drive, or natural bent to ever become (in my opinion) a Pelican.

So if you are reading this, are in the SCA, and are offended because I have not asked you to take my belt (that’s a tradition), be aware that you can be my friend without becoming my Protége. I do not take Protéges based simply upon friendship. I have to see the performance and the potential, have to believe that you will listen to me and learn from me, and have to feel that you will work well with my other Protéges.

End of discussion. 😉

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phicks2012

phicks2012

I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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