Mentoring benefits: Connections, advice and hard work matters

Jewel Cooper, left, and Stacy Klann got to know each other through mentoring. Kahn credits Cooper with guiding her through Harrisburg's banking community. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Jewel Cooper didn’t mince words when she met Stacy Klann for the first time.

Amy Spangler

And that’s exactly why Klann appreciates her.

Cooper, who Klann calls Harrisburg’s “unofficial mayor,” works with BB&T. She’s the senior vice president for new business development for the capital region, topping off 30 years’ experience in the local financial services industry.

Cooper serves or has served on local boards, including the United Way, Dixon University Center and the YWCA. She was a past president of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg. She volunteers, she’s active in the business community. Toss her name around other community banking leaders and they have either known of or have likely heard about Cooper.

Klann needed a good mentor. She moved to the Harrisburg area in 2009 after working retail banking and treasury management at National City Bank in Cleveland. Klann was struggling with her business footing locally.

She was introduced to Cooper through a mutual business acquaintance, Frank Fischer, a senior vice president at Members 1st FCU, and the two women agreed to an initial meeting a few years ago.

Cooper wasn’t convinced she wanted to help Klann at first. Time being the biggest factor. Cooper actively mentors a handful of men and women, including colleagues, community partners and those who have been displaced in the workforce.

Amy Spangler

“I still remember my first meeting with Jewel,” Klann said. “She said, ‘You’ve been in Harrisburg for three years and I have no idea who you are. What are you doing in the community?’”

Klann grabbed a pen and notepad. “What do I need to do?”

“(Cooper) gave me homework. She would agree to meet with me quarterly as a mentor, but I needed to complete the homework after each meeting,” Klann said. “And I knew she meant it.”

The mentorship and friendship blossomed between the two. And now they are colleagues and friends.

Klann is a business services officer within BB&T’s Commercial Lending Group.

“Stacy is strategic, persistent and focused,” Cooper said. “She has a great personality and is able to sift through a lot of information and simplify it. This is truly a gift and is very much valued in our business.”

Why mentoring?

So why does mentoring matter? Who has the time to commit to a mentoring relationship?

You don’t need a formal company mentoring program to benefit from mentorship, said Claudia Williams, owner of The Human Zone, a consulting service in the greater Harrisburg area.

“Find those people on your own. Who’s inside (the company) that can help me with this? Who’s outside that can help me with this in my network?” Williams said.”These are not things that have to take a lot of time, 10-15 minutes a day, maybe 30 minutes a week.”

Cooper and Klann agreed to give Central Penn Business Journal an inside peek into their mentoring relationship — a kind of how-to for what worked for them.

Here are the highlights:

Q: What convinced you that you would/should work together in this mentor relationship?

Cooper: Stacy has a great attitude. She seeks out brutally honest feedback. This is sometimes very hard because it’s not always positive stuff. She is very self critical and is always looking for ways to improve and be a better banker and community leader.

Klann: I was most impressed with Jewel’s ability to provide direct and honest feedback in a way that is genuine and sincere.

Q: Why is mentoring important?

Klann: We all have our own perceptions about ourselves, which may or may not be the way that others perceive us.  Establishing strong mentors provides a sounding board in a safe environment that allows the mentee to be completely vulnerable. This ultimately results in a more self-aware state of mind and the ability to better achieve your goals.

Cooper: I have been fortunate to have many mentors over the years … some formal, some informal.  Without their guidance and candid feedback (in a loving and kind way), I would not have been able to enjoy the personal and professional success I have had.
Q: Does the mentoring approach differ between men and women?

Cooper: Honestly, the approach is the same. I have a process that was shared with me by Nancy Dering who owned a strategic planning company in our market and was a local leadership guru. She also does personal and professional coaching. Years ago, she mentored me. She is a great role model and when I get into a quandary I often ask myself “What would Nancy do?”

Klann: I believe that anyone who is truly open to the mentoring process and is willing to accept critical feedback should approach the process in the same way.  I’m not sure that it happens enough of the time.

Q. Cooper’s top advice for Klann?

— Be open to accepting constructive and sometimes critical feedback. Self-awareness is a powerful thing and is often the first step to becoming your personal best.
— Get involved in the community. It’s a great way to gain valuable experience in developing and refining your leadership skills and at the same time, make a difference in the lives of others.
— Stay Positive. Nobody wants to be around a “Debbie Downer.”  The only constant is change, especially in our business, embrace it and be a part of the solution. If not, you will be a part of the problem!

Q. What top advice has Klann taken with her?

— If you’re going to be successful as a banker in Harrisburg, you need to start by giving back to the community.
— Be open to critical feedback and, more importantly, be willing to make changes.    
— Read the book “Strength Finders” to understand the core competencies of who you are, and almost more importantly, who you’re not.”

More about “Strength Finders”

Cooper is a strong believer in the assessment tool that “Strength Finders” provides. She’s used the book’s teachings to help turn around companies that she has worked with. She credits the book with how she helps to mentor.

Here’s her take:

“I ask the folks who I work with to take several assessments to help me determine how they are wired. This in turn helps us determine what type of work they are best suited for.  

Long story, made short, (Strength Finders) ranks all of our strengths and talents in order from 1-34. The top 10 define ‘who we are’ (and the) things that we are really good at and come naturally.

The bottom 10 define ‘who we are not’ (and the) things that we are not good at.

Many times I am meeting with people who want to advance in their career and have a more balanced and rewarding personal life.

What we often discover is that their work sucks the life out of them because they are not using their top 10 strengths on a regular basis.  

Instead, they are in positions that utilize their bottom 10.  This is not a good place to be.”



Cathy Hirko
Cathy Hirko is Associate Publisher/Editorial Director for the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business. Email her at chirko@bridgetowermedia.com.

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