Testosterone may be taking a large share of the blame for Wall Street’s mess, but in cable some women still seek advice from men on how to succeed. As a curveball in this women’s issue, we profile three male mentors who’ve helped women rise in the executive ranks. Ironically some of their advice sounds surprisingly, dare we say it, feminine. The bottom line — mentoring is all about relationships, listening and communication.
Brad Dusto, Comcast
Brad Dusto, President of Comcast’s 6-state West Division, learned about the importance of mentoring people other than white males after launching a pay-per-view service in New Orleans many years ago.
"I was selecting the movies. Quite frankly, they were doing terribly." So Dusto assembled a cross-section of the workforce to view movie trailers.
"The first thing they chose was The Color Purple," he recalls. After that he let his employees select the movies, and the service fared much better. At the same time, Dusto recognized a broader lesson: "You need to hear the voices of the communities you serve. I realized our management teams had to represent all facets of the people we serve."
Dusto also realized that it’s difficult for employees in the ranks to gain the "big picture" perspective needed in management. Mentoring has become a way for him to teach that. To provide the big picture, he developed boot camps tailored to each mentee’s strengths and weaknesses.
Cathy Kilstrom, an SVP in customer care at Comcast, says Dusto sets the tone for the organization.
"He’s helped many women find their voices and a seat at the table and at the same time elevate their position," Kilstrom says. "He is a great listener" and was supportive of her tenure as president of WICT’s Rocky Mountain chapter. "He believes that was an investment for the future."
Dwight Duke, Cisco
Dwight Duke, Corporate SVP and President of Transition Network Systems at Cisco, credits his mother for much of his business acumen and appreciation of mentoring.
Advice from his mother "that really continues to stick with me is that the decisions you make and the way you behave creates your character."
More from Mother: Be very sensitive about how you are perceived; carry yourself in a way that brings energy to your organization; and care about people.
The first thing about mentoring is "you’ve got to listen…and you’ve got to get to know the person a little bit," says Duke, who’s based in greater Atlanta.
One of Duke’s success stories is Sherita Caesar, now a VP at Comcast, but who worked for Duke at Scientific-Atlanta. At a time when customers typically were not willing to pay for extra services, she was trying to launch a service business. This required no less than a change in organizational culture. "Dwight reminded me that sometimes cultures are slow to change,"
"I was really challenged about how I was going to tee up this opportunity with the customer," Caesar says. "Dwight kept insisting on [explaining] what’s in it for them. It’s about relationship-building with the customer."
Says Caesar: "I can be a little bit of a bull in a china shop when it comes to initiatives." Duke "encouraged [me to focus on] communicating." It worked.
Jim McCaffrey, TBS
If only all male bosses were like Jim McCaffrey, EVP of Operations & Strategy at TBS. Well, we can dream.
A few years ago, Michelle McGuire, a senior director at TBS, approached McCaffrey with a plan to give 100 women the chance to advance their careers by joining WICT.
"It was supposed to be an hour-long meeting because I thought I was going to have to give him the hard sell," McGuire recalls. "Right away he said, ‘Great, I don’t see why not.’" Currently Atlanta-based McCaffrey underwrites membership for more than 500 employees in the Atlanta chapter of WICT. The national headquarters of WICT is located just outside of Washington, D.C.
For McCaffrey, mentoring is finding talented employees and helping them reach their potential. Mentoring women brings a broader range of perspectives into leadership.
"At that intersection you get the highest probability of success. That’s where you get the best thinking." It’s also about math. "Nobody’s getting 30 shares anymore. It’s all about aggregating smaller and smaller audiences. How are you going to reach them if you don’t understand the shoes they’re standing in?"
McCaffrey mentors six employees in a formal program. He mentors informally as a matter of routine. "It allows me to understand what people are thinking and what the challenges are…The information flows both ways."