Women’s Leadership Forum: Mentoring Relationships
You may be in a mentor/mentee relationship without even realizing it. Seafair’s Adam Cook said, “How many of you have someone in your circle that you ask the hard questions; you look up to, you want to be? OK. You all have mentors. A mentor is not necessarily defined. It’s very much organic. That’s how all of us became mentors and mentees to each other.”
And if you don’t have a mentor, what are you waiting for? Moderator / Pollstar Associate Editor Deborah Speer got the panel going with a definition of mentoring and asking the panelists to discuss what social capital means to them.
Mentoring is especially important in the music industry because it is so relationship-based. “It’s not just what you know but about who you know,”
He offered a few tips, encouraging mentors/mentees to be good listeners and be honest with one another. Kleinberger echoed that, saying, “There’s a certain level of intimacy, you can trust that person with anything they’re going to share. Even if you don’t like what they’re going to say, they will always give you that honest feedback.”
She and Maureen Andersen, of International Ticketing Association, first connected years ago when Kleinberger called up Anderson to ask about the true cost of selling a ticket. “In a mentor/mentee … there’s something you want emotionally or spiritually or intellectually. With Jane and I, it goes back and forth. It can happen in the same conversation, which it happened twice over here in the car,” Anderson said. “We call each other to be [our] higher self. We have a lot of history and time together … We know where the hot buttons are, which ones to push. … We respectfully and kindly give each other the respect of telling each other the truth. … When you get these true relationships, the best gift we can give each other is that honesty and mirror each other.”
Over the past 20 years their relationship has taken many forms, including employer/employee. At one point Kleinberger had to fire Andersen, but Kleinberger gave her advance warning and even negotiated her exit package.
“Jane knew that she was throwing me out of the nest but she knew I would be OK and was backup for the next steps that would be to come,” Andersen said.
To Bedier, “The best mentor relationship is when someone sees in you [something] that people don’t even see in themselves yet.”
A perfect example of this was Cook’s “Kim story.” He shared an anecdote about a regional conference he and Bedier attended early in his career where he didn’t know a soul. During the business luncheon there was an announcement about needing someone to be the communication chair. Kim volunteered, “Adam Cook will do it!”
“If you have a person that’s not working in a position, if you’re a counselor, a mentor, mentee – trust your gut,” Hodges said. “Get it out on the table. Be honest. Get to it. Otherwise you’re wasting their time, as well as your own.”
Kromer cautioned that you have to be aware if the mentee is just using you.
She said, “Make sure that mentee is looking for you to further their career, not just get tickets to a show.”
And there’s always something to learn. “I’ve had mentors I called the anti-mentors – people I’ve been around that teach me what I don’t want to be,” Bedier said.
Although mentoring that’s set up via a corporate/formal setting or through a mentoring app can work, it all depends on whether there’s chemistry. The relationship has to grow naturally. Kleinberger encouraged attendees who are looking for a mentor to go up to someone in the industry you admire – it doesn’t have to be your company – and began asking them questions and starting that dialog.
“If it’s meant to be, you’ll get a connection and a spark. … Just go up and say, ‘Hey. I really admire you. Do you have any advice?’ It may go somewhere, it may not,” Kleinberger said.
During the Q&A portion of the panel, someone in the audience asked for advice about how to ask a mentor to help you get a job when you don’t feel like you have much to offer.
“One of the things was when I was being mentored by Jane, I emulated her, I listened to the way she said things, I watched her in a room,” Andersen said. Another attendee wanted to know that when it comes to conferences like Pollstar Live!, what makes for a meaningful follow-up with a potential mentor?
There was agreement among the panelists that you should take the time to write a handwritten note, rather than an email. Cook added that you should be specific in your comments and go beyond a generic message saying, “That was so wonderful.”
Kleinberger suggested adding a tchotchke to the letter to get your potential mentor’s attention.
“For instance, if I was going to follow up with Kim Bedier, I would send her a note and look for a toy manatee. And say, ‘It’s so funny. Whenever I hear mentee, I think of manatee too.’ That way, the next time you see her, you’re like, ‘Hi. How was that manatee I sent you?’ … When you connect with them in the way they remember you … then you have the ability to have another meaningful conversation.
“The other thing is, don’t be discouraged. I know there’s plenty of follow-up emails that you don’t get a response from me. We still appreciate getting those, we just maybe can’t answer all of those. You have to figure out how do you stand out? But don’t let the lack of response discourage you from continuing to put that foot one in front of the other, because one of those [connections] is going to stick. One of them will make a difference.”