I am often asked why I have spent so much time over the years meeting with and mentoring MBA candidates from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. For 33 years I looked forward each fall to meeting my new MBA mentee. However, in the fall of 2018 I made the decision to limit my mentoring to those I had been working with over the years and who were well along the path of their career journey.
It was almost by accident that I got involved in the Cox MBA program in 1985. At that time, I was a partner in the Dallas office of the international accounting firm of Arthur Young. Our office managing partner volunteered me to attend a meeting at SMU where they were explaining their Associate Board program.
I was chosen since he had asked for a volunteer at a recent partner meeting and no one had stepped forward. Since I missed that partner meeting, he strongly suggested it would be a good idea for me to attend the meeting at SMU and get involved! I thought this was somewhat ironic since I had never set foot on the SMU campus and was a business school graduate from Creighton, a Catholic university in Omaha, lead by Jesuits!
Following the meeting at SMU, I volunteered to become a mentor and began a journey that became one of the highlights of my life.
After spending time as a mentor with more than 130 MBA candidates over the last three decades I have learned a great deal . . . about the process of mentoring and about those who have allowed me to help . . . and about myself from the many conversations I have had with my mentees.
Each mentee has been unique with their own talents, story, and dreams. I have learned to listen, ask questions and share some thoughts. I have challenged, cheered and pushed my mentees along their journey. I have witnessed incredible growth . . . . . theirs and mine.
I often encounter other executives and professionals who are interested in mentoring those working towards their business degrees. Some of the questions they ask and my comments follow:
- Why would I want to become a mentor?
- It is your chance each year to give back and help others develop their careers in memory of all those who mentored and helped you along your own journey.
- It is a meaningful way for you to stay engaged with the university.
- SMU has helped me stay engaged with the Dallas/Fort Worth business community through their many outreach programs.
- . . . . and I always look forward to the opportunities to continue to be with other mentors . . . many have become and remain good friends.
- What have you learned from your mentees?
- I have heard the stories of their lives, dreams, and goals.
- I have learned how they are taking advantage of the many resources available to them through the university. I sometimes suggest addition resources I know about.
- I have learned about what they are learning and experiencing . . . and I also learn what they are not learning and which may be very important for them in the months and years ahead . . . .
- What kind of advice do you have for mentors trying to help students?
- Get to know your mentee . . . . . their talents, their story, their dreams, their challenges, and their goals
- Spend time with them. . . . share your story: your talents, your dreams, your values, and the relevant lessons you have learned along the way . . . focus on the lessons you learned and don’t bore them with the details.
- Help them dream about the future and encourage them to chart a path to guide their journey.
- Help them develop action plans to move them through their MBA program and prepare for the changes possible in their careers after they have their new degree.
- Gain their commitments to complete their action plans and set specific dates for each commitment.
- Schedule follow up meetings with them.
- Gain their permission to help hold them accountable for completing their action plans . . . . . and be prepared to help them identify and move through barriers.
- And last but most importantly . . . . . help celebrate their successes.
And finally be prepared to continue helping them way beyond their MBA program. This will happen when they are facing future career transitions and when they are facing challenges where a trusted adviser just might offer a thought or two that might make a difference.