We all need help at some point in our careers. We don’t always ask for it; we don’t always know that we need it.
“I don’t believe that an individual necessarily raises his hand and says, ‘I want to be your mentee,’ or that the other individual raises her hand and says, ‘I’m signing up for mentor,’ ” says Sandra Davis, one of this year’s honorees. Nonetheless, as founder and chair of MDA Leadership, a Minneapolis-based leadership development consultancy, Davis has provided professional coaching to numerous executives. But she’s found being a mentor uniquely rewarding.
In contrast to executive coaching, the mentor-mentee relationship often develops over time, often unintentionally, after many casual conversations or informal meetings. What evolves is a relationship, Davis says, where “the mentor sees something in the emerging talent and wants to be of assistance—wants to help, wants to pave the way, wants to introduce that person to something he or she hadn’t seen before, or introduce them to other people.” Put another way, “Mentors open doors for the people whom they’re working with.”
It’s not always a matter of veterans guiding rookies. Susan Marvin had been building a successful career as a sales and marketing executive in her family’s eponymous window and door business. But when Marvin found herself in a leadership situation that was new to her, a friend connected her with Davis. Davis had experience in the area and provided insightful direction through unfamiliar terrain.
Along with Davis, Twin Cities Business is honoring four other Marvelous Mentors this year:
Ann Barkelew, who has been a pioneering executive in the Twin Cities public relations field and taught numerous women PR professionals how to handle difficult situations with calm and skill—and, consequently, helped them climb the ladder.
Pam Borton, the most successful women’s basketball coach in University of Minnesota history—and founder of an executive coaching consultancy—mentored a financial services executive with a long career who was looking for a deeper understanding of herself and her work. Borton helped provide that—and the executive joined her company’s C-suite.
J. Reid Porter helped smooth the rough edges of a talented young manufacturing executive, informally teaching the soft skills he needed along with his business acumen. That mentee has since launched an energy company on whose board Porter serves.
Tim Welsh, who chose a business career over the priesthood, showed a newcomer with a similar faith outlook that the business world—in this case, the Minneapolis office of McKinsey and Co.— can offer spiritual rewards of its own. Welsh also continued to provide guidance after his mentee started his own business.
Twin Cities Business honored these career and life guides at our annual Marvelous Mentors event in August. Whether or not you attended, we hope these five stories of mentorship will, as Davis says, “spark an interest in people to be a mentor and to realize that they actually have that potential” to be a mentor themselves. “They don’t have to wait for someone to ask them. It’s a role they can take on, especially when they’re committed to helping other people be the best they can be.”