Insights & Intuition for December 2022: How do you go about mentoring someone new to your industry or company?

Four regional business leaders answer a question from Prairie Business.

Insights & Intuition
Insights & Intuition
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Every month Prairie Business asks business leaders in the region a question and they give their insight and perspective. The question we asked for December 2022 is, "How do you go about mentoring someone new to your industry or company?" Below are the responses from four exemplary business professionals.

Deneen K.J. Axtman, SVP Chief Operating Officer at Cornerstone Bank in Fargo, N.D.

Mentoring has played a significant role in my career and life – both as a mentee and a mentor. When I was new to banking, people took time to advise and train me, providing invaluable experiences and guidance. Because of the impact that it had on me, I feel it’s important that I do the same for others.

Mentoring, whether in your company or industry, starts with building a trusted relationship developed by learning about the other’s role, successes, frustrations, and what’s important to them outside of work. Dialogue in the form of questions on situations, learning, challenges, and accomplishments create the opportunity for informal mentoring to take place. As the relationship builds, it becomes easier to reach out to each other for advice or learning.

At Cornerstone, we have a formal mentorship program, which I have participated in; but I also feel that informal mentoring and peer mentoring are just as important. For me, the best way to foster a mentoring relationship is to set aside specific time and be prepared with questions/learning/situations to discuss. Both formal and informal mentoring with those new to the industry or the company create the potential for making better decisions, gaining new perspectives, and growing skills.

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Deneen Axtman
Scott Thuen


Steve Dusek, President & CEO of Dakota Business Lending in Fargo, N.D.

Our industry can be complex and learning all the nuances and rules takes time and patience. We have a pretty robust onboarding process where each new staff person spends time with various team members in all aspects of the process.

We utilize several different means to ensure that a new member has the best chance for success. This individualized mentoring can be small groups, individual one on ones, and various huddles or team meetings that are open for discussion and questions as well as supporting new members.

We also have a national peer group made up of seven similar organizations that gather periodically for training and networking. These over 60 people also become a resource for newer team members to reach out for anything that may be needed.

Finally, we communicate consistently and regularly, always looking for adjustments or changes to make improvements in the mentoring process.

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Steve Dusek

Travis Mackey, Senior Process Engineer at WCCO Belting in Wahpeton, N.D.

Most people don’t know much about rubber when they join the WCCO Belting (Continental) team in Wahpeton, so we approach training and mentoring from multiple angles starting on day one. We coordinate training rotations on the production floor for all new employees so they can learn our manufacturing processes. This is the most valuable way for people to build relationships while becoming familiar with our equipment and products. It’s also unique in that mentoring is in the hands of our production team veterans out of the gate. This gives new employees additional opportunities to build connections and creates surplus outlets for asking questions and sharing ideas to help them acclimate.

My goal as a supervisor and mentor to new employees, many of whom are engineers that are young in their careers, is to create an environment where they feel safe and supported. From engagement in our continuous improvement process to team building, I strive to build new employees up so they can stand confidently on their own two feet – that’s the goal of a mentor. I want them to grow enough to be able to join WCCO full-time or continue to build on their success in a career elsewhere.

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Travis Mackey


Michael Toy, Chief Operating & Strategy Officer at First International Bank & Trust in Fargo, N.D.

A true mentorship is a mutual relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Both parties should benefit. For someone who is new to our company, it is first and foremost about a successful onboarding and welcoming process. As the mentor, it is about discovery and learning about each other, personally and professionally. When a new employee is acclimating to the company, it is about making them feel welcome and more importantly, comfortable, safe, and free to ask questions.

It's not just about the big things like the company’s mission and values. It’s about the small things as well. Introducing and taking on a mentee to your organization is critical to the success of the new team member and is a real opportunity for the mentor as well. You have to be genuine and look at it as an opportunity. Sincerely care and intently listen. Be sure to be completely honest and authentically promote your culture. Let them know who you are and what you stand for. And do your best to be accessible. Bottom line, take the time and take it seriously … be authentic.

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Michael Toy

Related Topics: BUSINESS
Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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