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Pick a mentor, not a cheerleader, leaders advise

Tuesday, April 21, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Women may need to step outside their company — and their comfort zone — to find a great mentoring match, according to industry leaders who offered their mentoring insights to more than 60 NEW members at the NEW Phoenix spring learning event, April 17, 2015.

"Finding the right mentor goes beyond someone with the right title," according to Melissa Hart, founder and principal consultant at The HumanVantage Group. She was joined by Christy McClendon, president and CEO of New Pathways for Youth; David Neisen, director of advisory services at PetSmart; and Tammy Weinbaum, senior vice president and general manager at American Express, for a panel discussion on nurturing successful mentoring relationships. Jessie Thomas, director of merchandising process improvement and PMO at PetSmart, moderated.

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Before choosing a mentor, decide what skill you want to hone, then ask a trusted third party about whether a potential mentor is a good fit, Weinblum advised.

The role of a mentor is not to give advice and celebrate when the mentee takes it, McClendon said. "The mentor should be reflective in the space and help the mentee develop skills to make decisions beyond the mentoring relationship."

A mentoring relationship is something to be taken seriously by both parties, said Neisen, who said mentors sometimes "use their political capital to help a mentee by attaching their name to the mentee's success."

Having one mentor may not always be the answer, McLendon added. Woman should consider developing a board of advisors, with each mentor being someone who excels at a particular skill set.

When a mentoring relationship is no longer working for either party, ending that relationship can be difficult, the panelists agreed. Their advice: Manage expectations by deciding on a timeframe for the relationship up front.

Organizations represented at the NEW Phoenix event included Frito-Lay North America, Nestlé Purina PetCare, PetSmart, Safeway and Pathways for Youth.

Moderator Jessie Thomas from PetSmart and panelists David Neisen of PetSmart, Melissa Hart of The HumanVantage Group, Tammy Weinbaum of American Express and Christy McClendon of New Pathways for Youth shared mentoring expertise at the NEW Phoenix event.

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