For information on how to start and run a mentoring program, go to Diversity Management.
By Barbara Frankel
What tips from mentors helped successful women get to the top of their organizations? Here’s what they’ve told us in a roundup of stories from DiversityIncBestPractices.com. Please share this story with all your female mentees—and their mentors—as well as your women’s employee-resource-group members.
Tip No. 1: Understand How Others Perceive You
Beth Mooney, Chairman and CEO of KeyCorp (No. 47 in the DiversityInc Top 50): Beth tells a story about a bank where she worked early in her career. “I was trying to change jobs within the bank, which wasn’t really allowed. You were kind of like a serf—you went with the land. I landed in the head of the HR department’s office, and he called me in. He had clearly been told I was breaking china and was trying to change departments.
“I remember he told me: ‘You’re pretty up front about the fact that you want more. People will be nodding and cheering for you as long as you succeed. If you ever stumble, folks will jump sides fast. You will be stunned at how many people will then be pulling against you because you have been so visible about what you are trying to do.’ It was like fatherly advice. He said: ‘Are you comfortable being that out there about what you want? The risk you’re taking is the risk of your own ability. It has to match your ambition.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘I will always take the risk.’
“Mentors are there to give you good and honest advice. That is probably the biggest gift you can get from a good mentor. Is it somebody who will help you look in the mirror and see yourself in ways that other people see you?”
Tip No. 2: Use Different Mentors for Different Kinds of Help
Jimmie Paschall, Executive Vice President, Head of Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion at Wells Fargo (No. 17 in the Top 50), had four peer mentors in her company’s Peer to Peer Network mentoring program for newly hired executives: Cara Peck, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Talent Planning and Development Services; Sherrie Littlejohn, Executive Vice President, Head of Enterprise Architecture & IT Strategy; Alejandro Hernandez, Senior Vice President, International Social Responsibility, who is also involved with the Wells Fargo Foundation; and Michelle Lee, Executive Vice President, Eastern U.S. Regional President.
“They had different backgrounds but they all had a vested interest in how D&I moves forward in the company,” Jimmie says. “I found having the structured time with them was helpful but what was more helpful was having them be flexible and letting me reach out when I needed them.” Jimmie notes that Michelle often called her as she was driving to stores and that the 30-minute weekly conversations were incredibly helpful.
“Wells is a very large system to come into,” Jimmie says. “When you come in at the enterprise level across 85 lines of business, it could be overwhelming. People talk to you like you know all the acronyms and the people. A peer partner can say, ‘Here’s why you should care about this person and connect with them,’ or, ‘You don’t really need to focus on that.’”
Tip No. 3: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Anne Chow, Senior Vice President, Premier Client Group, AT&T Global Services, AT&T (No. 10 in the Top 50), on her mentor pushing her to get out of her comfort zone into a sales position: “In the Asian culture, you are hard-pressed to find parents who say their dream is to have a child be a salesperson.”
But her mentors at AT&T recognized her abilities and the need for sales experience if she wanted to be a senior executive. “I tried for five years to get in and was denied because I hadn’t been in sales before but I was persistent,” she says. “After my first job in sales, I fell in love with it.”
Tip No. 4: Look at Role Models to Focus on What You Can Do
Karole Lloyd, Regional Managing Partner for Southeast at EY (No. 3 in the Top 50): “I totally underestimated the need for people in their 30s and 40s to see that there were women in their leadership who did have the capabilities and weren’t exhausted all the time.”
Lloyd, who has been with the firm for 35 years, cites the Inclusiveness Leadership Program, which pairs high-performing partners with an Americas executive board member for mentoring. She was in the first class in 1996 as a mentee and now is a mentor for another woman partner.
“What I find many times is that our people are so demanding of themselves that we need to help them see what they can achieve,” says Lloyd. She cites a woman, 39, who had worked for EY for 13 years and went on maternity leave. When she came back, she wanted to be a partner but was struggling with “how to do it all.” Lloyd helped her focus on doing her job while at work and not worrying about it when at home. “We told her that 32 hours of you is better than you leaving the firm,” she says. “It’s about helping individuals get over the guilt when the rest of their team is working 60 hours.”