Tag Archives: mentoring

Modern mentoring

Foster’s mentoring maven, Susan Canfield, discusses how the time-honored practice has evolved, and how you can get involved

Mentoring is having its moment.

An ancient concept, the powerful exchange between expert and apprentice is experiencing a surge in the public consciousness. Mentoring is a buzzword in business. Columnists hold forth on its virtues. And formal programs proliferate at b-schools.

Canfield_Author_ColorThe Foster School’s MBA Mentor Program was one of the first, and it’s still one of the best. The long-time director of this national model of mentoring, Susan Canfield, has become a nationally recognized authority on the subject. We asked the author of Mentoring Moments: Inspiring Stories from Eight Business Leaders and MBAs to enlighten us on mentoring beyond business school.

What’s new to learn about the ancient art of mentoring?

Susan Canfield: Plenty! Mentoring has evolved in recent years. Traditionally, people viewed themselves as either a mentor or a mentee. Today we recognize that we can be both at the same time and throughout our lives. It was once assumed that a mentor must be more senior and experienced than the mentee. In fact a mentor can be anyone from whom you can learn. In the past it was common for the mentor to choose the mentee and structure and drive the relationship. Now we know it is better if the mentee chooses the mentor and drives the relationship. Finally, mentoring used to be seen more as a formal, ongoing relationship. Today we know it need only last as long as it is useful and may be based solely on observation.

I titled my book Mentoring Moments because, after many years observing mentoring relationships and conducting interviews on the subject, I learned that mentoring moments can come from formal programs and one-time meetings. They can come from family, friends, colleagues and even people we hardly know.  They can come from hearing wise words and seeing wisdom in action. In fact they often come when we least expect them and most often need them.

What do you think accounts for the growing interest in mentoring?

A number of factors. People are seeking ways to accelerate their learning as they navigate more frequent career changes and face life’s challenges. Baby Boomers are arriving at a time in their lives when they want to give back. Universities are finding mentor programs attract prospective students, enrich their students’ academic experience, and provide them with career insights and connections. And businesses are seeing evidence that mentoring brings bottom-line benefits and addresses the issue of knowledge transfer before those Boomers walk out the door.

What are the hottest mentoring trends?

There are several. In reverse mentoring, younger recruits provide senior staff fresh perspectives and feedback—and maybe even a few tips on social media. Group mentoring, a trend we’ve pioneered at Foster, is an efficient alternative to one-on-one one relationships. And our experiments with speed mentoring have received unexpectedly rave reviews from both participating students and mentors. When a mentee prepares ahead and comes with specific questions, you’d be surprised at how valuable a short, focused meeting can be.

Mentor graphic-editWho should seek a mentor? Only the young and inexperienced?

We can all benefit from a mentor—or many mentors—throughout life. It’s a relationship that enhances our learning and growth, no matter what age. And, if we’re lucky, mentors inspire us as well.

My vibrant, still-learning 94-year-old mother has a number of informal mentors. One is Grace, a 99-year-old friend who travels, has an active social life and gets up early to swim every morning. Grace is an informal mentor and inspiration to my mother in how to continue aging with grit and gusto.

Stewart Parker (MBA 1981), a Foster MBA Mentor who founded Targeted Genetics, says that you can get along without mentors, but it may be harder to fully realize your opportunities and potential. Mentors make it easier to have perspective and a healthy approach to life.

How do you find a mentor?

We can seek mentors in formal programs (at work, school or community organizations) or create them informally on our own.

Formal mentoring programs in companies, for example, can run the gamut from being available to all employees to only being offered to select, high-potential managers. Increasingly mentor programs have become more widely available because of growing evidence that they help attract and retain talent, contribute to employee engagement, enhance training opportunities, and support leadership and diversity initiatives.

Informal mentoring opportunities are all around us and are often there just for the asking. If you are open, curious, and eager to learn, then it is natural to seek conversations with people you want to learn from. Avoid starting with “will you be my mentor?” Instead, ask for advice or feedback about a specific question or problem. One conversation over a cup of coffee may be sufficient. However, if you would like to meet again, you may eventually use the word “mentor.” Or maybe not.

At Foster, we encourage our MBAs to take advantage of our formal MBA Mentor Program and seek informal mentoring opportunities as well. Better yet, I recommend creating a mentoring network consisting of diverse people with unique experiences, skills and perspectives that can be your guides in different parts and stages of your life. This dynamic approach might include a combination of ongoing mentors and others who move in and out of your life as your interests and needs change.

How does a dynamic approach work?

Chris Howard and Richard Tait.
Chris Howard and Richard Tait.

A great example is Chris Howard (MBA 2007), founder of Fuel Capital, a San Francisco venture firm. As an incoming MBA student, Chris immediately impressed me with his networking savvy. He knew the power of creating a mentoring network—including faculty, staff, peers, alumni and members of the business community—that he called his “board of advisors.” He was very intentional about what he wanted to learn and finding people he wanted to learn from.

Along with this fluid board of advisors, Chris took full advantage of our formal mentor program and chose Richard Tait, co-founder of Cranium and founder of Golazo, as his mentor. Both Chris and Richard were seeking a goes-both-ways mentoring relationship, and they clicked immediately. Eight years later, they’re still learning from each other and regularly return to Foster to speak on their powerful mentoring relationship.

Chris would be the first to admit that all of these relationships helped him turn a pre-MBA career in advertising into a successful second act in venture capital.

What do exceptional mentees contribute to a great relationship?

Great mentees take initiative and maintain contact with their mentor. They know what they want to learn and they actively drive the relationship. They prepare for meetings. They are honest about challenges at work and in life, and are open to feedback. They respect their mentor’s time. They express appreciation and lend mentors a hand when they can. They create a network of mentoring relationships. They pay it forward and seek opportunities to mentor as well.

In short, great mentees are hungry to learn and appreciative of all the wisdom they can observe, hear and absorb.

Who should be a mentor? And why?

Anyone who wants to facilitate the professional and personal development of another should consider mentoring, not only for the sake of the mentee but also for their own growth and opportunity.

Studies from the pioneering corporate mentoring program at Sun Microsystems found that mentors are 20 percent more likely to receive a raise, and six times more likely to be promoted. And, according to several longitudinal studies cited in George E. Vaillant’s Aging Well, those who mentor—seeking to better the world not only for themselves but for others—effectively triple their chances of being joyful in their 70s.

Outside of formal programs, how do you go about offering mentorship?

The short answer is: be someone people want to learn from.

In fact, you may already be mentoring and not even know it. Many of the senior executives I interviewed for my book mentioned learning great lessons from their bosses and leaders by simply observing their actions and behavior. In addition, these executives were encouraged to stretch and grow professionally by someone who believed in them. In many of these situations, the word “mentor” was never used.

How can you become an exceptional mentor?

Exceptional mentors see the relationship as a two-way street. They create an atmosphere of trust. They genuinely enjoy mentoring. They listen deeply and ask insightful questions. They give honest feedback. They are vulnerable and willing to share their own setbacks and how they overcame them. They see abilities in mentees they may not see in themselves. They discuss and help mentees set goals. They facilitate connections. They provide role modeling for work and life. They inspire mentees to be their best selves.

We may not all be born with the mentor gene but we can certainly strengthen our mentoring muscles with guidance, good role models, practice, and a genuine desire to get better. I have seen this among our MBA mentors, many of whom have been guiding and inspiring our students for a decade or more.

Read more about the Foster’s MBA Mentor Program, an internationally-renowned model of modern mentoring.

Learn more about mentoring at Foster or how to purchase Canfield’s book.

Mentors do matter

Students at Lavin Entrepreneurial Action ProgramTake just a minute and ask yourself: Who’s the person who has played the most influential role in your career?  Chances are it was someone who listened to your ideas and gave you feedback—but left the real decision up to you. Or someone who encouraged you just at that point when you were about to give up on your plan. Or someone who made a few key introductions that opened a huge door for your start-up.  A mentor. And mentors REALLY matter when you’re a young entrepreneur.

The Center’s Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, named for Alberto Culver’s Leonard Lavin, admits freshmen to an “honors program” in entrepreneurship. No, it’s not based on the students’ GPA or SAT scores, but rather on their level of entrepreneurial drive. Many of these students started their first companies in high school, and most them are already thinking about their next start-up.

Part of the Lavin Program’s promise is matching the students with entrepreneurial mentors, and CIE’s 28-person Advisory Board volunteered to be the “first line of mentors.” At the Center’s winter board meeting, director Connie Bourassa-Shaw moderated a discussion on mentoring, which elicited comments and stories from both board members and students. The group then began “mentor speed-dating,” with 10-minute intervals for striking up new conversations.  “I’d expected the students to be a little reticent, a little shy,” said Lisa Hjorten, the founder of Informia, “but there was none of that. The Lavin students had business cards ready to hand out. And had come to the meeting knowing which of us they wanted to meet. I never could have done that as a sophomore!”

There are now 20 mentor-student pairings going forward, with more on the way. Read more about the Lavin Program.

Mentor program connects students to work world

Repurposed from a 2007 newsletter from the Certificate of International Studies in Business

CISB 2007 mentor photoFifteen Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students received support and advice from professionals in the business world this year through the pilot Business Mentoring Connections Program. Mentors from Microsoft, Boeing, SanMar, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG, Accenture, Expeditors, Washington Mutual, Tran Law Firm, Ballard Travel and Cruise Consultants, and Lowell Elementary School shared their expertise and offered career guidance while benefiting from the chance to practice their coaching skills.

“The program does a great job of connecting education to the work world,” according to one student. Mentors were equally enthusiastic, saying, “this kind of program develops skills that are crucial to managers: listening, patience and developing the overall person rather than just focusing on their potential job”, and “we have worked a lot on professionalism, networking and communication skills; these are key aspects of transitioning successfully into the business world.”

Business School alumna Margaret Xu, ’03, will join Nishika de Rosairo in co-managing the program in 2008. CISB alumna and co-founder of BMeC, Anne Sackville-West, ‘03, will be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and will stay involved with the program in an advisory capacity.

Associate Dean Steve Sefcik says, “we’re thrilled to have the involvement of dedicated mentors who care so much about helping our CISB students succeed.” The program will continue in 2007-2008, thanks to the support of the UW Business School Undergraduate Program office.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Alumni mentoring

Life as a college student can be fraught with uncertainty about the future. And who better to understand the angst of a student than a former one?

AlumniMentoring

It was that empathy with the mental mindset of the undergrad that prompted two former Foster students to launch a mentoring program.

“A student’s life is so brittle,” Nishika de Rosairo says. “They are at the point where even the most confident harbor insecurities about their careers and life in general. But having a mentor to aspire to, or who can just help guide them through that process, is an incredible advantage.”

With this in mind, de Rosairo and Anne Sackville-West (BA 2002) launched a mentorship program in 2006 for undergraduate students working toward the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB). Anne has since moved away, and now Brian Wright helps Nishika run the program.

The program matches students with a young professional, someone who can still recall what it’s like to be an undergrad. “Most mentors have graduated within the past one to seven years so they’re more connected to what it’s like to be a student and enter the corporate world–a world quite different from what the students know,” says Nishika.

Each mentor takes a student under his or her wing for a year, providing counsel on career and life development. The benefits for the student are obvious: confidence, information, support, insight and more. And the mentor benefits too.

Mentoring improves leadership skills, and “today’s business world is demanding leaders who are well rounded and equipped to develop our talent of the future,” says Nishika.

Mentors also learn important skills such as effective listening and questioning, and how to provide constructive feedback. “For a lot of us, the hardest thing is to learn how to manage and develop people. Mentoring gives us an opportunity to improve our people management skills,” says Margaret.

Mentoring also keeps alumni connected to Foster, a prestigious business school. It provides an opportunity to network with other young professionals with similar interests. And mentoring is a fulfilling way to give back to Foster, to help nurture the next generation of business leaders while nurturing one’s own career development.  For more information, contact CISB at cisb@uw.edu.

Read an excerpt from Mentoring Moments

Mentor Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, and John Sheppard, Foster Evening MBA Program alumnus and Director of REI Adventures and Outdoor School share a laugh during a mentoring moment. Read an excerpt from author Susan Canfield's interview with Jewell below.
Mentor Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, and John Sheppard, Foster Evening MBA Program alumnus and Director of REI Adventures and Outdoor School share a laugh during a mentoring moment. Read an excerpt from author Susan Canfield’s interview with Jewell below.

The following excerpt is taken from an interview with Sally Jewell, CEO of REI.  REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Founded in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers seeking quality equipment, REI operates retail stores nationwide, two online stores, and an adventure travel company, REI Adventures. REI employs nearly 10,000 people and was ranked 12th in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2009.

Susan Canfield:  Let’s begin by talking about your definition of mentoring.

Sally Jewell: To me, mentoring is something that actually happens every single day, and it goes both ways. Even if the person I’m talking to is 15 years old, I very much believe relationships are two-way and you gain as much as you give.

As a parent, for example, you have opportunities to mentor your kids and their friends. I had been in banking for 19 years and had just gone to REI as an employee. While I knew a fair amount about business, I really didn’t know anything about retailing and fashion. I don’t consider myself in any way to be fashion-forward. So as I talked to young people, I was able to ask them about what they did in their spare time, what they think is cool.

Susan Canfield: You volunteered for the MBA Mentor Program a few years ago. Do you recall why you chose to participate?

Sally Jewell:  I have always prioritized my time for students over other requests because the leverage is so much better. I remember as a student the impact of having a glimpse into the real world.

Susan Canfield:
  John Sheppard, a graduate of the evening MBA Program and director of REI Adventures and Outdoor School, considers you an inspiring role model. What do you value in him?

Sally Jewel:  His ability to think strategically. What John did very capably in his first year or so, as manager of REI Adventures, was dig in and understand what the barriers are to people participating in outdoor recreation. What’s the purpose of REI Adventures? And how can we use REI Adventures to help people overcome the gaps they feel in terms of their skills or confidence? He presented to our management team a strategy that still sticks in my mind and which I quote from fairly often.

John is both a strategist and a pragmatist. He has a good financial head on his shoulders, and he recognizes that for a business line to be sustainable it also must be economical. REI Outdoor School, which John initiated, is a money-losing operation for us.

But, if you look at a bigger picture in terms of its influence on the ability of people to become life-long outdoor participants, then the economic picture changes. John is very good at saying, “We need to pace growth in this business not only from an economic standpoint, but also from a quality standpoint so that we’re delivering safe, well-executed outdoor schools.”

Susan Canfield:
What lessons do you most want to pass on to young people today?

Sally Jewell:  If there is one word, I guess it would be “respect.” It is respecting everyone you interact with, regardless of pedigree, education level, or background, because the chances are pretty good you’ve got a lot to learn from them.

The reality in business and in life is that people who have been around the block, even if they have never been to college or finished high school, have tremendous wisdom that we can all learn from. These are things especially important to tell MBAs and lawyers, people with degrees that sometimes give them an air of superiority.

I also tell young people to stand up for what they believe in and try to encourage them to align with an organization where they feel they can make a difference.

The other thing I would say is that it is important to give back. Working your tail off is very common in the early years in business, but don’t forget to broaden your horizons and give back as well, because it’s the breadth and depth of your perspectives that’s really going to shape your contributions and success long-term.

Interested in reading more? Order your copy of Mentoring Moments from the UW Bookstore now.

Mentoring Moments explores the transformative nature of mentoring relationships

Susan Canfield

Can you be both a mentor and a mentee at the same time? Is mentoring a formal relationship, or does it evolve organically? What does great mentoring look like?

Susan Canfield, director of the MBA Mentor Program at the Foster School of Business, recently published Mentoring Moments (March 2009) to explore these questions. To get at the heart of meaningful mentorship, Susan delves into eight mentor/mentee relationships across divergent industries, company sizes and personalities.

Mentoring Moments not only examines the ways in which mentoring can be transformative for both mentor and mentee, it also serves as a map toward changing trends in the way mentoring happens. For example:

Traditional view of mentoring Evolving view of mentoring
You are either a mentor or a mentee You are both at the same time
A mentor must be more senior than the mentee A mentor is anyone from whom you can learn
The mentor structures and drives the relationship The mentee drives the relationship
Mentoring is a formal relationship Mentoring is often organic and may be based solely on observation

What’s Inside?

Mentoring Moments features interviews with the following pairs of mentors and their mentees:

Richard Tait, Co-founder, Cranium; chief boomboom, boomboom brands and
Chris Howard, MBA 2007

Mike Mondello, President & CEO, SeaBear Company and
Heidi Otto, MBA 2007

Lynn Parker, Principal & Co-founder, Parker LePla and
Nicole Pargoff, MBA 2008

Alan Frazier, Founder & Managing Partner, Frazier Healthcare & Technology Ventures and Lisa Meyr, MBA 2008

Tom Giordano, Former VP Marketing, Philips Medical Systems and
Maria Gerea, MBA 2004

Stewart Parker, Founder & Former CEO, Targeted Genetics and
Eric Keeler, MBA 2001

Phyllis Campbell, President & CEO, The Seattle Foundation and
Rebecca Lovell, MBA 2006

Sally Jewell, CEO, REI; University of Washington Board of Regents and
John Sheppard, MBA 2001

Read an excerpt from Canfield’s interview with mentor Sally Jewell, CEO of REI.

Order your copy today. All proceeds from book sales support the Foster School of Business.

KPLU’s Bellamy Pailthorp recently interviewed Susan Canfield about Mentoring Moments. Listen to the interview.

For more information contact Susan Canfield at susancan@uw.edu or 206-616-8609.

Leaders Fueling Leaders: The Gift of Mentorship

A cup of coffee. A conversation. Two Starbucks leaders offer their views on the value of encouragement—a veritable “she said, he said” perspective on the power of mentoring and being mentored.

Early in her career, Michelle Gass (MBA 1999), now Starbucks executive vice president of marketing and category, received validation and encouragement from Howard Behar, Foster Fritzky Chair in Leadership and Starbucks past president, to grow and flourish as a leader, support she credits with helping her identify and develop her natural leadership style. Read their conversation below:

How did Howard Behar validate you as a leader early in your career?

Gass: I had the fortune to work directly for Howard when he returned from retirement to the role of President of Starbucks North America.  I had always heard many stories about Howard and his leadership of people, but until then had not benefited from it directly.  I will always remember one of my first one-on-one meetings with him. As I was readying to give him a full report on all my business topics, he stopped me and said he would prefer to use the time to talk about me; my leadership, my aspirations, my fears.  He told me he believed in me, that I could someday rise to very senior levels of leadership in the company, and that he wanted to work with me to help me get there.  I remember being quite surprised; I had never even considered or believed that I could be a high-level executive, never mind one for one of the most revered companies and brands in the world.  But through the work we did together Howard helped me develop my own leadership agenda; how I could lead in a way that was natural to who I was, and one that could have a positive impact on both the people I was leading and the business results I was driving. Howard is known throughout Starbucks for the following saying: “People don’t care how much you know…They want to know how much you care.” He walked the talk, and I got to follow in those steps.

What’s your perspective on mentoring Michelle Gass?

Behar: Most of the time mentoring is just about encouragement….with someone like Michelle I really was never going to teach her anything about her specific job….what I could add was encouragement.  I believed in her and I always let her know that I thought she had what it took to be a great leader.  Most of what we need from mentors is just someone who believes in us and gives us the courage and support to take on greater challenges.  It is amazing what people can accomplish if they know that there is someone that they can be totally honest with and that they can trust to look out for their best interests.  Michelle had all of the innate skills so my main job was just to make sure she did not doubt herself.  I knew without a doubt that one day she would have a very senior role in the company and I let her know that almost every day……guess I was pretty clairvoyant.

How has having a good mentor helped you succeed as a leader?

Gass: It starts with someone believing in you. People can achieve results far greater than they would have thought possible if someone is there encouraging and reassuring, through the good and tough times. Howard did that for me, as have other mentors that I have worked with over the years. Mentors also impart little gems along the way that you go back to as you mature as a leader. I remember one day Howard asked me if I came to work willing to risk my job to stand up for my convictions.  I was taken aback; of course I didn’t want to lose my job!  But over the years, as I have faced dozens of complex decisions and issues, I hear Howard’s voice in the back of my head with that question, and it has never served me wrong.

How did being mentored in your career impact your mentoring others?

Behar: I had great mentors all of my life. Sometimes they found me other times I found them. I was so interested in learning that I was relentless in looking for people that could not only help me grow my business skills but more importantly my human skills. The truth is that without all of the wonderful coaches I had along the way I would not have had the opportunities that have come my way. By the way, many people think that mentors need to be older, wiser, more experienced etc then we are, but that is not true at all.  Some of the best coaching I have had has come from peers and direct reports particularly people that were younger then I was. They always had a different perspective than I had and they were always challenging my beliefs. It is so important that we learn from everyone, not just those who are in more senior positions. At the end of the day, each of has a responsibility to help others whenever we can—just like Karma—you get what you give. It is amazing how much you can learn about yourself just by coaching others.

CISB mentor program connects students to work world

CISB 2007 mentor photoFifteen CISB students received support and advice from professionals in the business world this year through the pilot Business Mentoring Connections Program. Mentors from Microsoft, Boeing, SanMar, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG, Accenture, Expeditors, Washington Mutual, Tran Law Firm, Ballard Travel and Cruise Consultants, and Lowell Elementary School shared their expertise and offered career guidance while benefiting from the chance to practice their coaching skills.

“The program does a great job of connecting education to the work world,” according to one student. Mentors were equally enthusiastic, saying, “this kind of program develops skills that are crucial to managers: listening, patience and developing the overall person rather than just focusing on their potential job”, and “we have worked a lot on professionalism, networking and communication skills; these are key aspects of transitioning successfully into the business world.”

Business School alumna Margaret Xu, ’03, will join Nishika de Rosairo in co-managing the program in 2008. CISB alumna and co-founder of BMeC, Anne Sackville-West, ‘03, will be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and will stay involved with the program in an advisory capacity.

Associate Dean Steve Sefcik says, “we’re thrilled to have the involvement of dedicated mentors who care so much about helping our CISB students succeed.” The program will continue in 2007-2008, thanks to the support of the UW Business School Undergraduate Program office.