Uplifting Untapped & Overlooked Voices
How Lori Dunn, COO @ Optimus Technologies, views the mentor/mentee relationship and shares advice on how each party can benefit.
Name: Lori Dunn
What She Does: Lori is the COO at Optimus Technologies and a #GirlsClub Mentor. She’s also featured in the book Heels to Deals: How Women are Dominating in Business-to-Business Sales.
Company: Optimus Technologies
How to Connect: THE Lori Dunn’s LinkedIn
What does mentorship mean to you?
Someone to help you navigate difficult situations? Someone to lean on when you’re unsure of a decision? Someone to coach up a specific skill or unblock you from negative thoughts?
There are a ton of ways you can slide and dice mentorship, but we think Lori Dunn has a pretty solid definition:
“A mentor is someone who is with you on a journey of growth.”
Mentors don’t have to fulfill a specific role for a mentee – sometimes you just need a cheerleader who can help you push through a difficult situation, and sometimes you need help developing a certain skill.
At the end of the day, for Lori, mentorship is when a relationship has mutual value.
We dive into what that means, how Lori started down her path as a mentor and mentee, and what you (yes, you!) can do today to start fostering better relationships and personal growth.
Let’s start by defining mentorship. What is it really? What is your goal as a mentor?
You focus on working with individuals that normally don’t have the resources or a platform to help themselves. What made you want to focus on that?
Do you do anything different from other mentors out there (other than who you focus on)?
Tactically, what are you doing to help your mentees?
How can mentees meet you halfway? What can they do to get the most out of the relationship?
Top 3 Takeaways
🐙 For Mentors: Know When to Say No
If you’re someone who likes to help people, you might find it hard to tell someone “no, I can’t take you on as a mentee” or “I don’t have the bandwidth to help you out right now.” But according to Lori – a self-described altruist who loves cheering for and helping people – you have to know your limit. Otherwise, you can’t give everyone the time & attention they need or expect, and burnout becomes a real possibility.
Lori even said that even though she’s been a mentor for many years now, she needs a better system to select who she picks & chooses. It’s not easy!
Otherwise, you start thinking like this.
📣 For Mentees: Be Easy to Root For
Mentorship and growth are two of the biggest perks that new entrants to the workforce look for when applying to jobs. They want to grow, and they want to do it quickly.
But it can’t just be a “take take take” relationship. Mentors might be altruistically motivated to help you, but if you don’t make it easy for them the relationship can start to wane.
Instead of coming to the table with complaints, excuses, and problems, come prepared with solutions. Put as much into the relationship as your mentor does – if not more.
Mentors aren’t “fixers.” They’re guides. Keep that in mind as you build a relationship and manage expectations.
🏊 Know Your Swim Lanes
Not every mentor will have all the experience or knowledge to help you – sometimes it’s beneficial to have a few mentors that specialize in certain areas. Lori is very open about the fact that she has multiple mentors, and she encourages her mentees to do the same.
Don’t think of mentorship as a one-stop shop. The more people you can surround yourself with, the better.
“Makeup to Trucks…and There’s A LOT that Happened in the Middle.”
Not every path is linear (to an outside perspective) – and that’s ok! It’s why having a mentor or two to take that journey with you can be so beneficial. Someone to cheer you on, provide direction/advice, and give an unbiased perspective when things go awry is an invaluable resource.
And as a mentor, having your own “makeup to trucks” journey can serve as a valuable reminder to your mentees that not every path is perfect or clean. Use your own career path and experience as examples to help guide your reps. Above advice, they want to know how you got to where you are. Real world examples are better than “best practices” or “what people expect” type advice.
“I was able to do more with you, because you got extra clear”
Mentorship is a two-way street. Yes, mentors have the ability and experience to support you – but that becomes a lot easier when mentees are very clear about their goals. Clear communication is crucial – and not just in the mentor/mentee relationship. Nearly all relationships benefit when there’s an emphasis on transparency.
It’s easier to set realistic goals. It’s easier to break bad news. It’s easier to help a peer or employee level up.
Lori has a great example of this at the 23:25 mark. She talks about keeping a notebook where she writes down her team’s goals, likes, what excites them, etc.
“If I need you to hit goal ABC, because frankly it’s in your job description, but I do know that J is really important to you…guess what buddy? You’re gonna do J. And I guarantee you, that by doing J, you’re going to be way more excited to fulfill your duties to me and the company.”
Look for win-win scenarios.
Hey listener – AJ here 👋
I think mentorship – either in a formal capacity or in a manager <> SDR capacity – is something that not enough companies are investing in. Gone are the days when reps take jobs because of perks like cold brew on tap or a ping-pong table.
The biggest perk you can offer candidates is access to mentorship, growth, and development opportunities.
It helps clarify career pathways, accelerate the development of key skills, and build a foundation for long-term growth. And who wouldn’t be attracted to an organization that can provide that for their employees?
Mentorship helps improve the reps you already have and attracts future top performers when your current SDRs graduate out of the role.