Female Mentors: Kris McDonald Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite
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Female Mentors: Kris McDonald Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Female Mentors: Kris McDonald Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Name: Kris McDonald

Title: Vice President of Development

Company: Checker’s Drive-In Restaurants Inc.

Years in Franchising: 7

Number of units: 785

Can you describe the role mentoring has played in your career? I am pleased to report that mentoring still plays a part in my career. I am both a mentor and a mentee. Never too busy to mentor and never too experienced to learn, I adapt and hone my own skill set. Early on in my career, I did a lot of observing. I watched the leaders who exhibited the qualities that I most admired and wanted to emulate—the ones who had personal integrity, chose the hard right over the easy wrong, invested in both the company and its people, and set and met their goals. I made mental notes, asked a lot of questions, and adapted my personal leadership style along the way. As my career progressed, I established mentor/mentee relationships (where I am the mentee) and also found myself at first coaching and then later on mentoring some up-and-coming leaders both within and outside of my organization. These relationships exist today.

Why is mentoring important for female franchise leaders? I think mentoring is important for all leaders—maybe even more so for the men who are having to adapt to an influx of female leadership (smile). In all seriousness, women are still underrepresented in the franchising industry and many times may find they are the only woman in the room. Female mentorship is important both to address the distinct challenges that women face in the workplace (sexism, work-life balance, microaggressions) as well as to build the self-confidence and communication skills necessary to be heard in the work environment.

What are the key elements of a good mentoring relationship? Open and honest communication—this goes both ways. The mentor has to be comfortable giving feedback. The mentee has to be honest with the mentor and be open to hearing feedback. The mentor’s role is not to give the mentee the answer because many times there is no single answer. The mentor is there to first listen and then to ask probing questions, play devil’s advocate, and explore the possible and various outcomes. The mentor needs to challenge the mentee, share their perspective, and help the mentee reach their own decision that is in line with the mentee’s overall objectives and career goals.

What are the benefits of mentoring programs for female leaders looking to advance their careers? Mentoring is a great way to connect with other female leaders who have shared similar experiences. Not only does it help to bounce ideas off of the person for near-term solutions, but it also it helps you navigate and guide your career. My mentor often reminds me of the Jim Rohn quote, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

What should the mentoring process include? Open and honest communication as noted above. More importantly, both parties need to commit to meeting and be present during the allocated time.

How is a mentor different than a coach? Typically, a coach will be focused on a specific goal that needs to be accomplished, and they will help you achieve that one goal. Mentoring is a longer-term relationship that covers various aspects of the person’s career and overall personal development. While a mentor and mentee can focus on a particular goal, they usually do so in the context of how it relates to the bigger picture.

What role did mentoring play in your path to the C-suite? Having a mentor—who is not within the organization and can step back, see the bigger picture, and point out the things that I might be missing—has been invaluable in creating a path for me to feel accomplished both personally and professionally. When you are immersed in the workplace, you need that outside perspective to help you see “the forest for the trees.”

How has what you learned from a mentor helped you navigate difficult career challenges? It is out of those difficult moments that we grow the most. Mentoring helped me understand that I had the ability and the knowledge, which gave me the confidence in my decision-making ability to face challenges tactically and strategically when addressing short- and long-term objectives.

How did mentoring help you in other business relationships? Once you recognize that you are in the people business, especially in the franchise industry, you understand that you can take what you have learned and apply it to all of your business relationships.

In what ways has mentoring helped you build confidence in your decision-making? The confidence comes from two things: 1) having someone help you vet your decision and challenge you as devil’s advocate, and 2) understanding the downstream consequences of that decision so that you anticipate possible roadblocks and the next steps.

In what ways has mentoring helped you set goals and achieve objectives? Mentoring helps to define what those goals and objectives are. Because of time constraints, we often don’t stop and think about what we want to achieve both personally and professionally. Simply defining those goals and writing them down is incredibly powerful. Once you define them, deciding how to get there can seem daunting. Mentoring helps clear that clutter and focus on the important.

What were the three most important things you learned from mentoring? 1) The path to success is never linear; 2) there is no “right” answer, just a well-thought-out course of action; and 2) course correction is an art, not a science. Learn to be nimble.

How can mentoring help the next generation of women on their path to the C-suite? Mentoring is important for all women regardless of their career path, whether it is C-suite, next-level management, or simply a desire to feel fulfilled and successful in their current position. My advice: observe, ask, listen, try, learn, course correct, and repeat.

Published: April 22nd, 2024

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