My first boss set the bar really high on what a boss should be like. She gave me space to be me, led intuitively, and corrected me when I needed it.
While she’s a solid performer and has had a successful career as a business journalist, she’s also made the transition into the corporate world in an equally successful manner.
She means a lot to me because she was more than a boss. She was a mentor. She doesn’t have the tag of a ‘Life Coach’ or a ‘mentor’, and yet she’s been more than that to me in this lifetime.
Here’s my point: mentors aren’t people who come with a title. They’re people around you, within you, and almost always show up in the people you’d least expect.
In the span of my career, I’ve had many mentors, and I’m in touch with all of them. So, here’s a list of the things I found most useful in my career and life.
- Be teachable – My Pastor told me this when I was 16-years-old, and I applied it to every area of my life. From school to work to even having juniors report to me.
- Read. Read. – My journalism professor was someone who constantly encouraged us to read, and he threw various kinds of reading material at us.
- Master your weaknesses – I often joked about how I am incorrigible at geography. My first job was a business journalist, and that meant travelling all across the city. To overcome that, my first boss taught me to call the office I had an interview with beforehand, learn how to get there without asking the PR professional, and always budget to be early by 30 minutes. More than a decade ago, this was a simple piece of advice, but employed across my career, this has held me in good stead.
- Be alert on your emails – This was from a dear boss who expected us to know everything regarding any email even if were marked in CC. It was quite a learning because a simple trait like this moved you in the high performer zone.
- Manic Mondays – Avoid them like the plague. Either get organized on a Sunday night or early Monday morning, but have your To-do list ready so that you’re ahead of your deliverables, and not the other way around.
- MOMs – Always have crystal clear MOMs when you have too many stakeholders or you have a shaky campaign, where the stakeholder expects everything, and yet gives you no material to begin work on.
- Assume positive intent – This is something Indra Nooyi said she learned from her father. In the corporate world, there’s always a joke about how you should have everything written in an email so you are covered at all times.
More often than not, when you work across multiple teams, you can find that this does help. However, it also leads to another conundrum, where teams always plan for the worst possible stakeholder, and then work backwards on their approach.
What if we assumed positive intent at the beginning of any relationships with stakeholders? Would that help bridge relationships instead of being en garde?
- When in doubt, lighten up, laugh at yourself or crack a joke – We work with human beings, and it helps to be kind as you really never know what battle someone is facing. I’ve found time and time again when you are humble and kind, it opens up a real dialogue that helps strengthen relationships, and, in turn, unleashes innovation.
These are a few things I’ve picked up over the years, and some were my own learnings, which I try to pass on to folks in my team.
What’s been your favorite learning from a mentor? Do let me know in the comments section.
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