If you ask today’s top business leaders how they ascended into positions of organizational power, you will often hear them say that they didn’t get there on their own. First, they’ll likely acknowledge all of the people who worked with them. And then they’ll say they had executive mentors along the way.
The first and best mentor I ever had was Julius Gwin. While working in the IT department at Delta Air Lines, I was approached by Julius about starting up an investor relations department for the company. It was when investor relations was just emerging, and Julius, who was controller of the company at the time, offered me the opportunity to be a pioneer. Little did I know that he would be instrumental in giving me “big picture” business experience and shaping my career.
I am so very grateful for the executive mentoring I have received throughout the years. A good mentor will shape your path to the top. Mentors take many forms, but the key is to find someone who appreciates your ambition and allows you the space to grow.
Mentors recognize your gifts, even when you don’t, and help you understand and develop them
As John C. Maxwell says, “A mentor is someone with a head full of experience and heart full of generosity that brings those things together in your life.”
John has discussed previously the impact mentors have had on his own life — offering a poignant example of how no one gets to the top alone. We often need someone outside of ourselves to offer the wisdom of their own experiences to get us through crucial moments, or help us take the leap into a new opportunity.
Mentors act as our compass. Julius selected me — with no financial education or background — to start up a critical program for a publicly traded company. While I did not have the relative experience, Julius saw in me what he could not teach: Drive. Passion. Resilience. He assured me that he would “teach me the numbers,” and did just that. Together, we went on to build the airline industry’s top investor relations program.
Mentors increase your confidence, and open your eyes to all possibilities
Executive mentoring is a multi-faceted endeavor. It is sharing experiences, listening, encouraging and asking thought-provoking questions. But it’s also about helping someone to see blind spots and having tough conversations.
Mentors are important throughout all stages of a person’s life. Even if you manage your own team, have made executive partner, or run your own company, it is nevertheless important that you not only mentor, but have one of your own. Running a business can be a lonely task, and we all need a person we trust to brainstorm new ideas with, or to offer us a new perspective.
John knows no one gets to the top alone, which is why our company offers executive coaching, a program designed to help you accelerate learning, improve critical thinking skills, augment your interaction within a team and increase self-awareness. I urge you to come grow with us, and then integrate John’s principles into your organization.
Having someone to question your motives for your actions is invaluable because it provides the reality check we rarely give ourselves. This is a process that our coachesyour mentor will instill in you, so that you gradually recognize and act on opportunities yourself to become a more well-rounded and successful leader.
Becoming a mentor means that your success doesn’t end with you.
Because of Julius, I make it my responsibility to pay it forward — to mentor others to help them realize their full potential. My own career progression took a lot of unexpected turns that led me to great places and experiences, so I try to help others make good decisions and consider alternate paths as part of their own career journey.
At times, you may be approached about becoming someone’s mentor, but often you will need to find someone you admire, someone who may be a little rough around the edges but whose core values would allow them to excel with the right guidance.
It is a bonus that I grow myself through the process of mentoring others. I’ve benefitted from each experience in ways that have broadened my own perspective and helped me stay in touch with the needs of the up-and-coming leaders of our businesses and communities. I owe my career to Julius. I hope one day others might say the same of me.