Monday, March 26, 2007

The Best Mentoring Session I Ever Had

The best mentoring session I ever had did not happen in a classroom, but in the office of my boss. While I am a big advocate of classroom education -- as demonstrated by Mak University at Makovsky, as well as teleconference participatory sessions and special university course work -- there is really nothing better than a one-on-one session with a mentor who genuinely has something to teach.

A mentor, as I see it, is a faithful counselor who has a deep interest in teaching you an important technique or strategy and in developing your skills, overall. While it is ideal if that person is the individual you report to, it can be anyone who has a sincere interest in helping you get better at what you do, and thereby furthering your career.

My "best mentoring session" involved my boss inviting me into his office for what turned out to be a two-hour discussion on how to write a corporate position paper. This happened while I was being groomed as an Account Supervisor at the firm at which I spent nearly ten years before starting Makovsky + Company. The discussion took place while in the midst of my third draft of the piece. Intended to develop coverage in the business press, the position paper attempted to tell the story of the client company through its leadership and show how the chairman built it into a Fortune 500 organization through strategic acquisitions. Both the chairman's personality and that of his top management had to come through.

I remember the session so vividly because it was not just my boss espousing a collection of principles, but illustrating each principle he espoused, through examples. We actually rewrote sections jointly, on-the-spot, flipped paragraphs from one place to another and discussed the best way to describe key developments. It was a can-do, working-together environment in which he built my confidence and skills. And he took what amounted to almost an afternoon of time to do it.

The one-on-one approach told me I was very important to that organization, and that my boss deeply cared about my development. There were many position papers after that one which produced great media results. But that one was one of my standouts in terms of client satisfaction, media results and mastery. Perhaps unwittingly, he also taught me a lesson in management and education.

Today there is an award given annually in my boss's name at the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America: The Phil Dorf Mentoring Award.

Technorati Tags: mentoring, mentor, corporate position paper, Public Relations Society of America, prsany, Phil Dorf, public relations, communications, business


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