This article is written by two chamber executives from the Texas coast who have shared many years together in the same
By Shelly Stuart, IOM
President & CEO
Portland Chamber of Commerce
Walking into my new chamber of commerce wasn’t scary at all because I knew I was prepared. I was ready to take on this new role. After all, I had been preparing for this opportunity my entire career, and I had learned from a mentor who was one of the best in the business.
Here are a few tips if you are seeking to identify a mentor:
Choose your mentor carefully
After attending our state’s “Chamber Basics” Conference back in the early 2000s, attendees were encouraged to find someone in the industry to help us tackle tough situations. This would be my “phone call away” person, and my “I need advice” person. As I started thinking about who could serve as my mentor in this great big world of chambers, it occurred to me I was very lucky.
I was already working for someone who would make the perfect mentor for me. I asked my president and CEO if she would be my mentor. She immediately agreed, and that began our many years of working, agreeing, disagreeing, developing and growing together.
Establish rapport and set expectations
Your mentor needs to be someone who has already paved the road ahead of you, can answer almost any question that might arise, and is always just a phone call away. In a mentor-mentee relationship, it is equally important to be open to learning from someone who has tried it all, knows what will work, and what may not be the best idea. After all, a mentor is someone who has more experience, a greater skill
Prepare to be pushed
A mentor isn’t just someone who will give you career advice or help you see things in a different light. Yes, these are important parts of the mentor’s role, but he or she must also hold you accountable. It’s a give-and-take relationship. Expect your mentor to push you far beyond what you believed you could achieve. The right mentor will
Don’t put it off
Why wait? Act now. If you are new to the chamber world, I can tell you from personal experience that it is definitely worth your time to seek a mentor who has been in the industry for a long time. A mentor who has experienced a lot of situations—similar in nature to what you will face—is an invaluable opportunity from which to learn and build your confidence. To help us through our crazy world of chamber and association management, the road is much easier with a mentor. It will be, by far, one of the best decisions you ever make.
By Diane Probst, CCE
President & CEO
Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce
Looking back through my years in the chamber world, so many situations, encounters and learning experiences come to mind. Not all are difficult, but some stand out as teachable moments. Those difficult situations are the ones that cultivate great principled leaders who are able to withstand the test of time. Those leaders generally have a calling to share their findings.
The following are four key points of a principled leader fulfilling his or her role as a mentor:
Guide the answer
More often than not, your mentee knows the answer to the difficult problem or situation. They just need to verbalize it and obtain affirmation from a mentor. For example, in the first month Shelly was at her new job, her board chairman went off script at a luncheon attended by more than 200 people and offended an influential person. She was faced with a decision that seemed very difficult at the time, but when she verbalized what she thought needed to happen, it became clear to her the direction she needed to go.
Enjoy it. It’s refreshing!
Let’s be honest … the day-to-day issues in the chamber profession can wear you down. There is nothing more encouraging than when you are on the other end of the phone call with your mentee and you are just talking through a situation. It helps ease those difficult situations and it affirms actions taken. Some days, it’s a pure and simple refreshing boost. Those trying times we might have experienced seem smaller and smaller when we verbalize and affirm the mentee’s answers. It’s refreshing to witness this interchange and see the mentee grow and develop. This type of interchange re-charges a mentor, “refreshing” his or her day.
Encourage professional development
It’s essential to e
Share a dream
Someday, my mentee and I will co-author a book together called “Chamber Leadership Programs.” We have already created the content outline. We have assigned each other chapters, and we will soon put it all together. My dream is to share a book signing experience with her and watch her glow in the accomplishment. Being a mentor is rewarding. It is a vital component in every chamber exec’s career. It is a necessity for success and total professional fulfillment, much like the wealthy individual who feels “whole” only after sharing his or her wealth.
About the authors:
Shelly Stuart is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management program. She was the vice president of operations at the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce for 13 years and is known for her work in elevating the Leadership Aransas County Program, the Youth Leadership and Alumni Program to new levels. She is a two-time class adviser at the Arizona State University Campus. Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Probst is a certified chamber executive and is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management program. In 2008 she served as board chair of the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives. She served as a board member of the Texas Travel Industry Association. Probst has held numerous other chamber positions and roles in the state. She is the author of “Chamberology: The Art of Running a Chamber of Commerce.” Her second book, “When the Storm Comes,” is co-authored with her daughter. It is about the lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Category 4 storm that devastated the communities she serves. Probst can be reached at email@example.com.