The HBA Southwest Region is starting its first mentoring program. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to provide you with information about the program and perspectives from those who have participated before both as mentees and mentors. A special thank you to Terry Thomas for taking the time to share her experience with us.
If you have not yet met Terry Thomas, you are missing out. Our Southwest Center of Excellence president of engagement is a dynamo. Prior to coming to the Southwest, Terry had served the HBA in multiple volunteer capacities: as a chapter mentor, content review committees for several of the National Conferences, engagement innovations volunteer committee member at conferences and flagship events (such the Woman of the Year (WOTY) and as the president of the Metro chapter serving NJ, NY, CT. This chapter was one of the largest in the U.S. and one that was a leader in innovative programming like Tomorrow's Executive, first-ever HBA WebEx programming, Dine-A-Rounds and Affinity Groups. Terry is a strong supporter of our HBA mentoring program. Terry has served as a mentor in the mentoring program for six years. Below are her insightful responses to my questions.
Pamela: Why did you consider becoming a mentor for the HBA mentoring program?
Terry: My desire to be a mentor stemmed from wanting to give back. As a more senior professional, I was not aware of the benefits early on in my career. I wish someone had clued me in at that time. Much later in my career, I learned the value of having mentors, champions and advocate. I at times pause thinking had I known these insights as I was developing my career what additional levels would I have achieved. I hope to give back to other career-minded women.
Pamela: What were your expectations of the program?
Terry: Our Metro HBA mentoring program was very well organized and participants were given a solid structure to execute and maximize the experience for the mentors and mentees. Those program tenants are still in place today. In reviewing the program format, I believed the program would be successful.
Pamela: Had you participated as a mentee in the program prior to becoming a mentor?
Terry: No, I began as a mentor. In these programs, the mentor is paired with a partner. You are co-mentors. This was an unexpected benefit of the program getting to know another senior level individual within our industry working out consultative approaches to our mentee's challenges. I now continue to have those individuals as part of my close circle. While we don’t talk daily or even monthly, it’s a relationship whereby you can call the fellow mentor and pick right up where you left off.
Pamela: Talk to me about the small group with a mentor format. As a mentor, what did you appreciate about this format? What value did you feel the mentees received from this format?
Terry: The small group mentor format was perfect. It enabled the group to establish trust with not only the mentors but with their fellow mentees. Trust is a big element in the program. Mentees were talking about personal challenges and ways to manage themselves in new unknown business experiences. The goals of each mentee from the program varied. The small group format enables the mentees to have one-on-one time to express their needs and get their needs addressed. After each circle meeting, either in-person or virtual, the mentee selected a task/challenge to achieve prior to the next meeting. This could be creating a conversation with an SVP who she met in the company elevator each morning; how to request/secure highly visible projects; or how to deal with employees you've inherited when you took over a department (who wanted your job). As you can see, the individual mentoring circles are very customized for the mentee. The program is designed so the mentee gains true value and creates new long-term contacts within the industry.
Pamela: What did you learn through the experience of being a mentor?
Terry: What I learned through the experience of being a mentor is wherever the mentee is in their career they've "bumped" into some challenges where they need guidance. These are smart men and women who of course have looked for answers on their own but now need the brain surge of not just the mentor but their fellow mentees.
Pamela: Did you have any “Aha” moments?
Terry: My "Aha" moment was in my first circle experience. It was that the partner mentees added just as much value as the mentors. The level of trust and openness the program structure provides is unbeatable. In some of my circles, it took two to three weeks to have this trust established as each mentee came to their "Aha" moment and became vested. Circles vary, some hitting that intimate stride early on.
Pamela: What qualities or experiences do you think a mentor should have?
Terry: Mentors should have excellent listening skills, be non-judgmental, a seasoned facilitator and the ability to share their own learnings (successes or failures) if it is pertinent to the discussions.
Additional skills that are valuable:
- have been a senior leader and part of an organization’s senior staff or senior strategy group
- have worked in both a heavily matrixed organization and/or new start-up or small organization
- have had direct reports
- have managed P&L for departments or divisions
The program is designed to match mentees based on what they want to get out of the program. Mentors are matched by means of their background and experience. This program design element, matching, is to augment and facilitate the goals of the mentees. Mentors need to remember it's the mentee's time and help give guidance as needed. It about the mentee.
Pamela: If someone was considering becoming a mentor, what would you tell them?
Terry: It requires time and dedication to the circle. But it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in your career. Just do it. Register today.
Thank you, Terry for sharing your insights with us. I appreciate the coaching and mentoring you have provided for me over the time we have known each other. We can all learn from each other.
So, do we have your interest piqued about participating in an HBA mentoring program? This program offers HBA members a venue to connect with fellow HBA members to set career goals, tackle workplace challenges and take real steps to make a difference in your lives, careers and the industry more broadly. Here is some more information you may find helpful. Learn more and register today.