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Women possess qualities that make them excellent mentors for other women.
In an age when you can find the answer to almost any question with an Internet search, some might find the concept of mentoring old-fashioned. But learning directly from those who have overcome challenges similar to the ones you are facing has great value. Women, in particular, thrive in mentoring relationships because they are natural collaborators. Given the many hurdles women encounter during their careers, it is the responsibility of those who have cleared the obstacles to help women who have just left the starting blocks.
Simply put, mentoring is a game changer. It makes a difference to the person receiving guidance and is often equally fulfilling for the mentor.
Being a mentor to women is a priority for me. I am the founder and chief executive officer of a multimillion-dollar company, and I didn’t reach this level of achievement by going it alone. I’ve always understood the importance of seeking out great mentors and then guiding other women who want to learn.
Along my journey, I have learned what makes mentoring effective.
Defy the stereotype. The stereotype that women would rather compete with one another than collaborate is far from reality. Almost every day I’m struck by what women can achieve when they work together. When you are connected to other strong women who support, relate to and care about your journey, you will be nurtured, empowered, inspired and fired up. The next time a project arises, think about a high-potential woman who would gain from the experience, bring her into the fold and serve as her mentor.
Speak up. People who generate ideas and engage in constructive discussions become irreplaceable. Unfortunately, women tend not to speak up at work. Be an outspoken contributor, bring new ideas to the table, and encourage participation and engagement from all employees—especially women who have valuable insights but who aren’t vocal. Mentor women on your team to identify their special skills and traits. Then, find opportunities for them to use those abilities in ways that highlight their leadership potential.
Teach them to demand respect.Women who don’t stand their ground become vulnerable. Teach your network of women to be unafraid of demanding respect. When I’m up against someone who is close-minded to my ideas or who responds negatively, I will walk away, regroup and role-play the scenario with someone I trust. I anticipate every objection and prepare myself mentally.
Be this person of trust for women in your organization or network. Help them work through the objections to their plans and articulate solutions. With this preparation, those women will command respect. If you have learned other ways to handle conflict in your organization, share it with other women.
Model positive behaviors. Sometimes, the best way to mentor is simply to model the right behaviors. When women on the rise see you engage (or not engage) in a certain behavior, they will know it’s acceptable for them to do the same.
Mentoring works well for women because we excel at connecting and collaborating to solve problems. The process provides sanity, support and brilliant solutions. When we come together and engage in conversation, we raise new questions and think of possibilities at a collective level that we would not have considered on our own.
In business—and in life in general—the best long-term strategy isn’t to get ahead and stay ahead; it’s to partner with others so that everyone has an incentive to win. When you give other women advice, encouragement, a few minutes of your time or a sought-after opportunity, you will enjoy valuable returns.
Vickie L. Milazzo is owner of Vickie Milazzo Institute, an education company certifying legal nurses in Houston, and author of
Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011).
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