How To

How to mentor a promising employee or entrepreneur

Women’s Tennis Association chairwoman and CEO Stacey Allaster shares her secrets for helping others get ahead in their careers

Women’s Tennis Association chairwoman and CEO Stacey Allaster

Women’s Tennis Association chairwoman and CEO Stacey Allaster. (Julian Finney/Getty)

Stacey Allaster, chairwoman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, says it’s all about asking the right questions, then standing back. Here’s her four-step guide to mentorship success:

1. Make a game plan

“My first job is to hear what the other person has to say and what she needs. What I work on most is helping people figure out not just their professional goals but also their personal goals. That’s what you have to identify if you really want to get ahead. Someone might say she wants to have a kid. Well, there are physiological dimensions to that—Mother Nature doesn’t run on the same calendar as our professional lives do. Then you have to ask, “If that’s your goal, what does six months from now look like? What does a year look like? What are the missing links to achieving your goals?”

2. Bring in reinforcements

“I always tell everyone you’re 100% responsible for yourself, but at the same time, you’d better figure out who’s going to support you in reaching your goals. I’m part of a group through World Presidents’ Organization that keeps me on track. I dedicate half a day each month to it, and it gives me a clean lens on my life. When I’m not sure about something, the group helps me figure out what I need to get going. I try to make sure the women I mentor have their own networks.”

3. Tailor your approach

“I give whatever other support is helpful. It might be a phone call; or when I’m in Canada, I’ll get together with them. If I see something online that’s helpful, I’ll flip it to them. I’ve also had people shadow me in meetings during the U.S. Open. I really customize what I do with each person. Everyone has unique needs and questions.”

4. Take every call you can

“I’ve done a lot of formal mentoring through the Women’s Executive Network, and then there’s the informal stuff: People call me up all the time and ask if we can chat. I had a young girl from India reach out via LinkedIn the other day, and my assistant said to me, “Stacey, you don’t have time for this.” But I can absolutely take 15 or 20 minutes to share what I’ve learned. We need more women in leadership positions.”