Recently the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) had the opportunity to interview Kimberli Green, Vice President Business Development for America First Credit Union, about her experience as a mentor. Green is a past graduate of WLI’s Political Development Series and also an active leader in her community. 

What experience have you had as a mentor?

“Most recently I have worked as a Mentor to other Credit Union professionals in the Marketing/Business Development field. This last individual I had the opportunity to work with lived in Michigan and was working as a Community Event Specialist. We scheduled monthly calls where we would discuss topics such as strategic planning, leadership, podcasts or book recommendations.”

How did your interactions with her go? I imagine that might have been complicated with both of you in different states.

“She would come to each meeting with an agenda prepared as the mentee – which meant a lot to me. She was vested in the process, very engaged and that told me she valued my time as much as I valued hers. She’d talk through scenarios she was dealing with in her current role. And I shared my story of moving up through the ranks in the Credit Union over the last 20 years – what went well and what I wish I’d done differently. I gave advice on proposals or how to approach her leadership team with concerns.  And we always spent a few minutes of each call getting to know one another and sharing life interests.” 

What obstacle(s) did you have to overcome?

“Living in two different states was our challenge. I wish I could’ve taken her for coffee and shared the same room space together – we had to work hard to create quick synergy and a culture of trust working so far apart and having never met. We did this by taking time to get to know one another on each call and found shared interests – even being thousands of miles away and different generations between the two of us.”  

What support has your company provided?

America First has always been great to support mentoring. I’ve had many mentors internally in my career over the last 20 years, both officially and unofficially. I have been able to take part in several different mentoring/mentee programs sometimes during work hours, but most often before or after work by my choice. Credit Unions in general have a philosophy of people helping people. It’s a unique group where many Credit Unions join forces to learn from one another. Even though we are competition, our culture sparks synergy across the board. A win for one Credit Union can be a win for all – including the people who work within. I attend conferences annually, serve on different committees where Credit Unions across the country gather to share mindset, strategy and experiences.”

What advice would you give to others?

“Get involved! Some of my best experiences have been the relationships cultivated by doing so. I’ve found such reward from giving back of my time and attention.  I can think of many times over the years I just needed someone to talk to with no strings…not my direct leadership, not my peers. I needed someone unbiased. Being able to share my situations with and lean on their expertise or experience with this person and a safe environment is key. To me, it’s never too late to be a mentor OR a mentee. Don’t be afraid to ask or to step into circles outside your own for a different perspective. You’ll be surprised at all you gain.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“One of my favorite quotes about mentoring is ‘the key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are – not to make them more like you.’ That’s not always easy and this helps keep me in line and remember my goal isn’t to make them like me, but to help them along their own path through my experiences.”