Karen Mitchell Shares Her Insights on the Power of Positive Coaching

“It’s so important to seek out mentors and knowledge from those who have come before you, and I don’t think I would be where I am today, both professionally and personally, without each and every mentor who helped me along the way.” –Lauren Bush, entrepreneur

Karen Mitchell has had a long career in the nonprofit sector. Since graduating from college, she has held leadership roles with several area charitable agencies, including the Crisis Pregnancy Center and the United Way of Sumner County.

Since 2007, Karen has served as the vice president of resource development for Volunteer State Community College where she also serves as executive director for the school’s nonprofit scholarship foundation. In her dual roles, she oversees the college’s many fundraising activities.

“I really enjoy fundraising for the college and the foundation,” Karen says. “It’s not about asking for money; it’s about the achieving the end result. It is so satisfying to be able to articulate our goals to prospective donors and to get them to buy into our vision.”

Along with her executive positions at Vol State, Karen is also an entrepreneur who owns and operates the Hendersonville Salt Med Spa in conjunction with her husband, Glen, and her daughter, Sarah.

Despite the demands of her career, Karen is also heavily involved in community activities. She is currently a member of the Gallatin, Hendersonville, Goodlettsville and Mount Juliet Chambers of Commerce as well as the Hendersonville Morning Rotary Club. Karen also teaches Sunday school classes and sings in her church’s choir.

Given her full schedule, it is easy to wonder how Karen is able to fulfill all of her responsibilities. However, she has a ready answer to this question.

“Mentors,” Karen says. “Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have many wonderful mentors in my life who have guided me through tough decisions and who have taught me how to balance the work vs. life equation.”

Two of her most notable mentors are Regina Bartlett, CEO of TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center; and Brenda Payne, former president/CEO of the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce. Both of these individuals are well-known leaders throughout Hendersonville and Sumner County.

“Several years ago, I participated in a training program that required me to reach out to someone whom I admired for advice,” Karen says. “I immediately reached out to Regina, and she was happy to share her wisdom with me.”

Brenda has also been a source of wise counsel for Karen. Along with her former Hendersonville Chamber role, Brenda also filled the same position at Vol State that Karen currently holds.

“Brenda helped me through my transition to Vol State,” Karen says. “I couldn’t have done this job without her guidance and support.”

As a beneficiary of sage advisers, Karen has learned the importance of becoming a mentor herself.

“I have been so blessed by my mentors,” she says. “The best thing that I can do to show my appreciation is to serve as a mentor myself.”

Today, Karen counsels a number of young people, including her daughter and various youth groups at church. However, she is particularly passionate about mentoring the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

“I love to encourage and advise young executive directors of nonprofits,” Karen says. “They represent the future of charitable organizations.”

As part of her mentoring process, Karen provides several tips for getting the most out of a mentor-mentee relationship.

1. Finding a mentor can be organic, and it can happen naturally. Many mentor-mentee relationships develop between friends and acquaintances of like minds. Look to your current circle of friends first to see if there is someone you already know who would be willing to mentor you.

2. Many times, the best mentor-mentee relationships occur when both parties come from different walks of life, e.g., different personalities, different backgrounds and professions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that you admire but may not know to see if they would be interested in being your mentor. Give them a call and invite them to lunch.

3. The best mentor-mentee relationships are bidirectional and mutually beneficial. Quite often, mentors find that they learn at least as much from their mentees as they give back in return, resulting in a true win-win situation.

4. The best mentor-mentee relationships provide more than professional counseling connections; they can blossom into lifelong friendships. Many times, mentors are willing to share their life experiences with their mentees to help them resolve personal as well as professional dilemmas.

5. Wise mentors remind their proteges that there is more to life than striving for goals. They encourage their mentees to remember to enjoy the moment. While accomplishing goals is notable, it is just as important to find joy in the journey.