Almost every week we hear of another chamber in the West looking for a new CEO. It’s a trend—for many reasons—that I don’t see slowing down anytime soon.
With all of this turnover and the number of new additions to our W.A.C.E. “tribe,” I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of having good mentors to help you succeed in the often-crazy business called chamber work.
Having someone that you can turn to who understands this business, will listen, share experiences, and, if asked, dispense advice is important if you’re really going to survive and thrive as a chamber CEO.
Let’s face it, you’re often the only person who does what you do in your town and maybe even in your county. As a result, this can sometimes be a lonely business. Selecting a mentor and being able to talk to someone who truly understands what you’re going through and whom you trust, isn’t always an easy order to fill.
As I say often—CHOOSE WISELY. From my experience, it’s also highly likely that the best person to be your mentor probably isn’t your next door neighbor.
Ask any long-term chamber executive (aka tribal elder) how they survived all those years, and it won’t take long for them to refer to their mentors and the sage advice that they received. The stories and quotes often flow with an ease that is seldom matched because the relationships meant so much, made a huge difference and had such a lasting impact.
I strongly believe that a good mentor must also be an excellent “truth teller,” who is willing to tell you what you NEED to hear, even if you’re not going to like what you hear.
The W.A.C.E. annual conference is a great time to start building relationships and seeking out those folks who could end up being your “phone-a-friend” lifelines and mentors throughout your career.
I’ve had several mentors over the years. These folks and their frank guidance have “saved my bacon” more than a few times; in some cases, all they did was listen; in others, they talked me through an issue, often by just asking questions.
I believe that asking for help (early…not when your ship is about to sink) is a sign of strength.
My hope is that you’ll all get a little bit stronger in 2019 with a little help from your friends.
Dave Kilby is the president and CEO of W.A.C.E., and executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber.