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Mentors, mentees and mentoring

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When I think about excellent mentors in the business world, I think of Debbie Laskey, who has mentored many people during her career. Laskey is passionate about mentoring. So, she's an ideal person to answer the following five questions about mentoring:

  • But, first a little background, Laskey has a BA Degree in Political Science and an MBA Degree with a concentration in Marketing and International Management. She began her career in law and accounting, but after graduate school, she transitioned into marketing.

Her diverse marketing experience ranges from the high-tech industry to the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France to the non-profit industry to the insurance industry.

1. Why do you enjoy being a mentor?

Since I have been in the workplace for nearly two decades, I have had the opportunity to learn from a number of individuals. Some were supervisors, some were executives, some were co-workers, and some were employees who reported to me. However, the mentorship relationship is different than those relationships. As a mentor, I have been able to share what I’ve learned with individuals (mentees) who are at the beginning stages of building a business. They have an insatiable appetite for suggestions and always appreciate ideas – even if they don’t apply them immediately. Mentees have no agenda and no time for unnecessary drama. While they may question suggestions, most of the time, they have an open mind, and this characteristic often leads to long-term success.

2. Before a mentee enters into a mentoring engagement what should he/she ask himself/herself?

Before a mentee enters into a mentorship engagement, he or she must write down five objectives and a realistic timeframe. Is one objective to finalize a business plan or marketing plan? Is one objective to determine how to build a database of leads? Is one objective how to develop strategic partnerships? Whatever the objectives are, the mentee must know what they are before the mentorship begins– or the mentorship will fail before it even begins. And, how long should the mentor and mentee continue to dialogue? Three months? Six months? It is critical to set a timeframe so that the mentor can stagger the talking points and action items.

3. What type of person makes an effective mentor?

The art of being an effective mentor is dependent on five things. First, a mentor must make a time commitment to the mentee, so he or she needs to have time available. Second, a mentor must be able to communicate easily and clearly. Third, a mentor must be knowledgeable in a myriad of areas. Fourth, a mentor must be a problem-solver. And fifth, a mentor must like the role of cheerleader. While it might make sense to have a mentor in the same industry, that’s not always the best solution if you can find a multi-dimensional business leader.

4. Of all the mentors you have had in your life, what did you like most about the one who you believe was a good mentor to you?

My most important mentor has been my father. He demonstrated an amazing work ethic, and that dedication has been part of my professional life since my first job. He also taught me the importance of client service (aka, customer service), and the importance of returning phone calls and emails as soon as possible. Also, since my father was a CPA, he was always reading about new tax laws, so he taught me at an early age to stay up-to-date on my industry and trends.

5. If you can't find a mentor within your workplace, where are good places to find a mentor?

Network with your contacts through social media. Post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ that you’re looking for a mentor. In addition, check out MicroMentor.com. This site offers a variety of mentorship connections. Lastly, once you’ve benefited from your mentorship, pay it forward. Be a mentor to someone else!

In the words of John Crosby: “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

Laskey's areas of expertise include marketing, branding, social media, employee engagement, and customer experiences. Follow Debbie on Twitter @DebbieLaskeyMBA and on her blog.

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