Category Archives: women-in-business

How to start a mentor relationship (guest blog)

In my work as a career coach, I find there are several helpful resources that very few people take advantage of.

Mentorship definitely falls on this list. It’s really a shame. Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially.

And—added bonus—mentors are amazing people. When you take the time to develop a strong mentorship relationship, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, but you also end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner. In short, there’s no downside.

Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, you may have questions about how it all works. Well, that’s what I’m here for!! Please allow me to offer some insights.

What Exactly Is a Mentor?

A mentor is a more experienced (typically older) professional in your field who offers you career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point-of-view. Pretty simple, huh?

Why Should I Bother?

As mentioned above, mentorship offers a host of amazing benefits. A good mentor is wise and willing to share his or her knowledge and experiences in order to help you succeed. It’s like having a wonderful trusted ally to go to whenever you’re feeling unsure or in need of support. They can help you set and achieve career goals, make smart business decisions, overcome workplace challenges, learn new skills or simply offer an outside perspective when you’re facing frustrations at work. The benefits are truly endless.

When Should I Get a Mentor?

Mentors are helpful regardless of where you are in your career. Whether you’re fresh out of college or a few years from retirement, there are always others who have “been there, done that” from whom you can learn. So no matter who you are, I always say, “NOW is a great time to start.”

If/when you’re more experienced, you may want to BE a mentor. Please do so!! It’s an incredibly fulfilling experience and I believe that mentors learn just as much as those they assist. But I encourage everyone to also find a mentor of your own. As humans, we’re always learning and evolving, and even the most experienced professional doesn’t know everything.

More than likely, the mentorship relationships of experienced professionals will not look the same as those who are entry-level or mid-career. You may have a mentor who is closer in age and experience—or even someone who is your junior! As long as the person has qualities and knowledge you can learn from, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Who Should Be My Mentor?

This is a big question and I recommend you take some time to think it over carefully. The choice of person makes a big difference in the success of the relationship and, ultimately, in YOUR success. Look for someone you respect professionally and someone who has a career you’d like to emulate. That doesn’t mean you want to follow in their footsteps exactly; you’re just looking for a person who has had success in your field (or even a similar one) and someone who embodies the professional characteristics you’re working to achieve.

Of course, you also need to find someone who is willing to be a mentor, is eager to share knowledge, will be open and honest with you, will have time to dedicate to you (though how much is flexible) and is trustworthy. You’ll be potentially sharing a lot of sensitive information so this last point is essential.

Lastly, I recommend that you look for someone you like on a personal level, not just a professional one. You should look forward to spending time with your mentor. The conversations should be pleasant, engaging and inspiring.

How Does the Mentorship Relationship Work?

Establish specifics around your relationship in whatever way works best for both you and your mentor. It can be a formal arrangement, an informal one or something in the middle. No matter what, it has to work for both of you. To get started, I recommend that you, as the mentee, come up with your “ideal” relationship. Share the information with your mentor and make sure you leave it open for discussion. Find out how much time they are willing to invest and build a schedule based on that.

For example, my first mentorship relationship was rather informal. My mentor and I would meet via phone about once a month (usually for an hour) and in between these conversations, we would communicate via email. I would send work to him when I needed a quick critique. He would send me links of articles to read when he stumbled upon something I might learn from.

When I was facing a challenge, I’d check in with him for a little guidance and reassurance that I was doing the right thing. A few times a year, he’d UPS me a book. It was an easy relationship for both of us to keep up with, but I got tremendous benefit from it.

The key to success is simply defining the relationship from the beginning. Make it an open dialogue. Ask for what you want and need from your mentor, be willing to compromise, and listen closely to make sure there is agreement. Be sure to clarify your expectations (specifically around things like confidentiality). You don’t want there to be any confusion.

Lastly, let your mentor know that you see this as an ongoing process. If, at any time, the relationship isn’t working for either one of you, the details can and should be reviewed and revised. This doesn’t have to be stressful like a contract negotiation. Remember, it’s supposed to be a fun, growth experience!

What’s In It For Them?

You’re probably reading all of this thinking, “I get why I should want a mentor. But what’s in it for the them?” Good question. And the answer is different for everyone.

Some mentors simply believe in the person they are helping and want to see him or her succeed, and that alone is worth the time and energy. Others look at mentorship as a way of leaving a legacy. As a mentor, you get to pass your wisdom down to the next generation. You have the power to make a huge difference in your industry, your company and even the world.

In truth, some mentors just like the challenge. They like to talk about what they know and their experiences. It’s fun when someone looks up to you. It kind of feeds the ego.

So there are all kinds of reasons mentors do what they do. It’s a win-win situation.

I hope I’ve inspired you to start a mentorship relationship today. And if I failed to address an important question, please post it in the comments below. I’ll be happy to continue chatting about this!!

Guest blog by Chrissy Scivicque  on Forbes 
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How Leadership really begins with Mothers

In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day, I was reflecting on how much of my late mom’s advice in my early twenties was akin to a mentor’s advice in business:

1)  Build yourself a career that you can always rely on or fall back on in hard times

(translation:  build your own career and don’t just rely on a husband for the rest of your life – stand on your own two feet, on your own merits)


2) Always treat others with respect, whether they are the janitor, the vice president or the kid down the street (translation:  everyone contributes in our society in their own way and deserves dignity)

3) Learn impeccable manners and etiquette.  This will support you in many stressful situations (translation:  Okay, Mom, when you said “eat everything on your plate”, I don’t think you were thinking about the fried silkworms and scorpions I had to eat during a joint venture negotiation in China!  But yes, those good manners will imply class, grace and confidence in difficult situations)

4) Never be late (translation:  if you are late, you send a message to others that you do not value their time)

5) Learn to golf (translation:  meet the guys in business on their own turf, where they are comfortable, and  improve your business relationships)

6) Dress upward, to what you aspire to  (translation: your dress code will influence how people perceive you)

7) Give back to the community by volunteering when you can (translation:  you are blessed with good fortune, volunteering will give you personal satisfaction, help you learn new skills, aid others and increase your business reputation)

8) Take the high road in all situations (translation:  your reputation is based on your behavior in the worst of situations; behave with integrity and ensure you are always held in high regard)

See some interesting parallels between life and business here?    Thank your own Mom if you still have the opportunity to do so.  

This post is in memory of my own  mother who passed away from diabetes related illness 13 years ago – Thanks, Mom –  some of your advice has made a difference!

5 Key Ingredients for Success — in Sports and Business

The following tips come from a sports coach at Shelby High School in Montana, Ray Wanty.  Ray distilled his learning and coaching of successful athletes into 5 key elements.  I think these 5 key elements apply equally to business, and even to overall personal success.  Consider them and see if you agree:

The Level of  Our Success is Dependent on…

1. The Daily Habits We Create
     – am I creating good habits? 
     – am I getting rid of bad habits?
     – do I add new habits regularly that keep me growing and developing?
     … my daily habits become the core expression of who I am

2. Our Most Dominant Thoughts
     – my thoughts drive my feelings, which drive my behavior
     – positive thoughts will keep me upbeat
     – I need to control and focus the “channels” in my brain
     … my thoughts eventually become my beliefs and my behavior and my destiny

3. How Well We Serve Others
     – my interaction with others builds my own network and support system
     – my service to others builds my esteem and credibility
     … my behavior in my community establishes my reputation and esteem

4. The Amount of Sincere Gratitude You Show
     – my sincerity and gratitude provide opportunity for leadership
     – my sincerity and gratitude allow me to fully enjoy my successes
     … my sincerity and gratitude will build and strengthen my relationships

5. The Level of Commitment Towards Your Passion (Singleness of Purpose)
     – Commitment to my passion helps me remain focused on the end goal
     – Commitment to my passion heps me fend of distractions
     – Commitment to my passion increases my speed of success
     … Commitment and Singleness of Purpose is the ingredient that links my thoughts, behaviors, support systems and relationships together to attain success

>Business Introductions – add value to your own business network

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Building a network of business contacts takes time and patience.  One great way to expand your network is to add “introductions” to your regular routine. 

1) Utilize business cards – when you meet someone interesting, ask for their card and jot a comment or two on the back regarding the conversation / issue / opportunity:

 

USE BUSINESS CARDS TO STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS



2) expand your electronic contact list, add new business cards into natural groupings (by interest, business opportunity, etc).  Make notes of issues, interests and possible introductions where possible
3) use a business card scanner to easily enter your business contact information electronically.  Technology has made these card readers easily accessible and useable for very reasonable prices at office supply stores.
4) when you meet someone who would benefit from an introduction to another contact, ask their permission to provide an introduction — note the “introduction” opportunity on the back of their business card to jog your memory later.

5) link up two or more individuals who may have a mutual benefit by email:

   “Joe, I met Suzie Cue, who is an entrepreneur in the same business you are.  She has some interesting marketing ideas that you might also benefit from.  Suzie, I have known Joe Shmoe for 10 years and he runs a great small business in XYZ community.  I think you two would enjoy meeting over coffee to discuss common business interests.  Please consider this an introduction to both of you.  your emails are as follows:
I have made an effort to facilitate at least 2 or 3 introduction per month.  Over the years, I have had many thank you’s from those folks I have introduced – and some great stories of new opportunities and alliances formed.   What a great feeling to know you have positively impacted other businesses in your circle of colleagues!

Accelerate your Career: 4-eye’d Employee (pt4: the 4-eye’d employee)

The following is based on a presentation made to the UBCO (University of British Columbia Okanagan) female business students affiliated with the Sauder School of Business on January 28, 2011. (Presenters: Meryle Corbett, CMA,FCMA CFO of Kelowna Flightcraft Group of Companies; and Paulette Rennie, President of ValleyFirst Credit Union)

What strategies will make YOU successful in business? A group of C-suite executives agreed that the key to a rising business career includes four main characteristics. They are described below in our series, “The 4-eyed employee” :
So what are we talking about? The first “eye” or “I” attribute is the underlying foundation for business success:
The second “eye” or “I” attribute is the secret to longevity in your career:
The third “eye” or “I” attribute is the driver of where and how far you go:
The fourth “eye” or “I” attribute is the attribute that will accelerate your accomplishments:
INTUITION
This is the magic ingredient that makes careers soar!  Even though you can be intelligent, of the highest integrity and a great worker with lots of initiative, sometimes it’s a combination of luck, timing and “street smarts” that will make your career take off.
a) Read body language and get to know your customer / boss / client
One great style assessment tool is the DISC model:  Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance.    Are you task-oriented, needing a high level of control over your world?  Are you a relationship-based consensus builder?  Are you an analyzer preferring routine activity?  are you most comfortable with rules and regulations and heavy structure?    Do you have problems relating to peers because their style is different than yours?  Do you have problems with team members  or subordinates “clashing”?
The DISC assessment tool enables individuals to view their leadership and business style in a comparative way to others, and offers solutions to help them leverage their own styles to work most effectively with others.  Learning how to read your audience can enable higher levels of success.
b) Use your right-brain creative side as well as your left-brain logic.
The ability to look at an issue from all angles will give you an advantage to help you find innovative solutions.  A great technique is to use the six thinking hats.
c) Listen to your inner voice.
In thirty years of business, my little voice has never been wrong.  I have ignored it on occasion (to avoid a conflict, or because I was too busy to deal with a small detail) — always with some measure of regret.  Your instinct will develop over the years and “fine tune” your gut feel of situations – there is an intuitive capability that remains just under the surface of our everyday thinking, if we only work on utilizing it.