Mentoring Tips for Businesswomen

bizwomen-mentoring - CopyA few years ago I had the pleasure to meet a huge crowd of women and fellow mentors for the Charlotte Business Journal’s first BizWomen Mentoring Monday.  Along with 9,000 women in 40 other cities, more than 300 women in Charlotte packed in to get five minutes of advice from a round-robin of 58 mentors.  Since the questions and advice are still relevant, I’m republishing some of the highlights:

Q. I work with kids and we want to connect to the startup community in Charlotte.  How do I start?

A. Contact Packard Place and Queen City Forward and consider getting startup founders to mentor your kids.  It’s a great way for founders to wear the mentoring shoe on the other foot and give back to the community.

Q.  A man in my office asks me to get coffee and treats me like a little girl.  What do I do?

A.   Look around and see how he treats others in the office.  He may treat all junior employees the same way, in which case you may have to overlook his paternalism as harmless as long as it is not over the top. If you feel you are being treated differently, read Crucial Conversations to prepare for a delicate but effective approach.Crucial Conversations

Q. I have a new job leading an Annual Fund campaign and feel out of my element. Any advice?

A.  Don’t reinvent the wheel!  Lots of folks in Charlotte have experience running successful annual fund campaigns for non-profits. Reach out to folks who have worked in development, using LinkedIn, AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) or your personal connections.

Q. My boss is bullying me.  I’ve never experienced anything like this, and my attempts to discuss it with him have been dismissed.  Have you ever dealt with this?

A. Oh yes!  And it’s not easy.  Best to address this before the pattern sets in.  Try not to over-react or get emotional, and be in control of your own boundaries.  Also try to understand his point of view as far as the feedback or message he is trying to send. Read Crucial Conversations and Boundaries.  If he’s just an ass, you should find another job if you can.  You don’t have to put up with a bully and it is not your job to fix him.

Q. My restaurant business is going well and customers keep asking me to expand to other neighborhoods.  We have good cash flow and no debt, but an expansion would require more capital.  How do I approach expansion?

A.  In two minutes, my advice is to talk to your customers – a lot – then assess your location options and consider just one for a pilot expansion.  Keep your expenses to a minimum, such as a six month lease on the new space.

Q.  I’ve just moved into my first non-profit role and the culture seems very different from the corporate world.  Am I imagining this?

A. You are right – you are in a very different culture.  Become an anthropologist studying the people, their reactions and approaches and make your internal relations at least a third of your job until you get your bearings.

Please chime in with the advice you would offer!

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