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This blog was inspired by a recent conversation with my friend and colleague Geeta Jain of MentorW, as a part of MentorW’s Journey UPHill: Looking Back & Beyond conversation series with women leaders from around the world.


Mentors have played a vital role in my career development. I was fortunate to have hugely influential mentors throughout my career; each with different mentoring styles, but perfect for the time and place I was in. In my current chapter of my career as an advisor and non-executive director, I am committed to paying it forward for the leaders of tomorrow. Reflecting on my impactful mentors makes me a better mentor for others.


In my experience, an effective mentor does these things:


Acts as a confidant.

It is crucial that your mentor is someone you trust. You need to feel safe and comfortable to talk about any challenge, issue, or development with them at any time. Trust that they have your back, especially when things feel uncertain.


Asks the right questions.

A mentor should not tell you what to do. Instead, they should be skilled at asking questions that lead you to making the best decision for yourself. A past mentor of mine, the late Bob Griffith, approached our relationship in a way that inspired me to be open-minded by asking thoughtful questions, and it was truly impactful as I navigated a new career path.


Realizes your potential.

One of my favorite mentoring stories is when a former CEO, respected author, and critical mentor of mine, Hubert Joly, told an audience of five hundred people that I was like a turtle. Hubert explained that a turtle only makes progress by sticking its neck out and that I, too, stuck my neck out and took risks to move things forward. He helped me realize that my risk taking, curiosity, and comfort in difficult and uncomfortable situations was my superpower.


Mentors often see things in you that you simply cannot see in yourself. There were several times in my career where my mentor’s confidence in me gave me confidence in myself to take the promotion or make the next career move.


Listens attentively.

The most influential mentors should make you feel like you are the most important person in the room. Throughout my career, I’ve learned the importance of attentive listening in all aspects of leadership, but especially in mentor relationships. True listening makes people feel understood, seen, and validated.


Provides a different perspective.

Your mentor should not be exactly like you. My first mentor was the Vice President for Development at Northwestern University, the late Allin Proudfoot. He had a profound impact on my love of the art of fundraising and the gift of building personal relationships and trust. He mentored me by experience and brought me into meetings, experiences, and presentations that I otherwise would not have been a part of. He pushed me out of my comfort zone to grow and seek out new and different opportunities.



I recently discovered this graphic by Addy Osmani about mentoring, coaching, and sponsorship that I find very insightful. I strongly believe it is the responsibility of successful leaders to provide these services for others. My friend Ace Callwood made a crucial point about scalability, “While I may only be able to coach or mentor a handful of people at any given time, I can keep a growing list of sponsors whose names I can put forward for consideration for various roles or opportunities. Especially when I'm at the table and they may not be.”

I have been so fortunate to have incredible mentors throughout my career and am honored to support the next generation of leaders.


Share your stories of coaching, mentorship, or sponsorship in the comments! How do you plan to pay it forward in your career and make an impact?

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This blog was inspired by a recent conversation with my friend and colleague Geeta Jain of MentorW as a part of their Journey UPHill: Looking Back & Beyond conversation series with women leaders from around the world.


I’ve always been a curious person who wanted to learn and do more. When I was taking the first steps of my career, I was lucky enough to be taken in by advocates and mentors who fueled my curiosity and brought me into meetings, conversations, and experiences I otherwise would not have been a part of. That curiosity allowed me to thrive in new and different environments and became a key part of my personal brand. In my 30+ years of leadership, I never stopped learning and wondering about what makes a high-performing team and exploring ways we could all do better. I wasn’t afraid to make changes and try new things in pursuit of the strongest and most impactful leaders and teams. When it was time for me to move to another opportunity, I was confident that I had developed excellent teams and leaders that would continue to thrive on their own. Eventually, I’d find myself wanting to give back in a different way, leading me to my current portfolio career as an advisor and non-executive director.



I’ve learned a lot about what makes a successful leader over the years, but there are a few key lessons that have kept me grounded. I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll do the same for you!

Find balance.

Building a career should not feel like a battle between your personal and professional life. I’ve learned that you can’t be an impactful leader if you don’t show up as your whole self. An effective leader knows what’s best for their personal journey and is not afraid to make changes as needed.

Embrace your journey.

Your journey is unique to you. Sometimes growth means taking a demotion or switching directions. Often, I think young leaders feel like they have something to prove, that their next step always needs to be up. However, I believe that sometimes the best learnings happen across (or laterally). This shows versatility, agility, and a willingness to be uncomfortable and learn something new.  

Know your audience.

There were many times in my career when I was the only woman in the room. That often resulted in me overpreparing and feeling like I needed to be the boldest and loudest to ensure my voice was heard. Through executive coaching, mentorship, and lots of trial and error, I learned that sometimes you need to use your voice in a different way, and the key to that is knowing your audience. Take the time to consider how your message will be heard by the people in the room, not just from a professional mindset, but also culturally and demographically.

And listen first. Listening is one of the most critical skills of every successful leader. Being truly present and listening carefully shows deep respect for everyone in the room and all voices.

Trust yourself.

I remember questioning if I was the right leader for each chapter of my career. It’s easy to doubt yourself when faced with something different and new. But I’ve learned you must be willing to take the risk, especially when it’s uncomfortable. To say yes, even if you’re not exactly sure where you’re going. Trust that you’re the right person for the job, and others will too.

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Recently I had a wonderful conversation with my friend and former colleague Geeta Jain of MentorW about the importance of having a personal brand. Here I reflect on my own brand and how it evolved over time and helped shape my career.



Defining a Brand

When I think about my personal brand, I consider what people around me can count on and have counted on me for throughout my career. It’s that list of skills, characteristics, and behaviors that allow me to excel at certain tasks and challenges, that define my values, and make me reliable and trustworthy. It’s how I position myself professionally and what has guided my success.


When I transitioned from a full-time executive career to an advisory and non-executive portfolio career a few years ago, my personal brand became increasingly important. No longer was I defined by my C-suite executive title, but instead by the skills and attributes I gained throughout my 30+ years of leadership.


My brand has evolved throughout the years, but what has always stayed with me is my ability to thrive in new and uncomfortable environments. It’s my deep desire to build high performing teams that are results driven and focused on customer success. I’ve learned what makes a high-performance team and am not afraid of making substantial changes to create new, stronger teams. A signature of my work has been managing myself out of a job, and moving to the next opportunity, while the team continues to flourish on their own.


Because my mentors, leaders, and colleagues understood my personal brand throughout my career, they sought me out for opportunities that they knew I would excel at, sometimes before I even did. And they were right! A strong personal brand instills faith in others that you’re the right person for the job.



Sticking to your Brand

It’s important to note that a personal brand is not stagnant and linear. Personal brands evolve and change as priorities and roles change. And sometimes aligning with your brand means making the hard decision to leave a role or a team that isn’t the right fit for you.


I always go back to the “why”. Your personal brand must be deeply tied to the “why” of your work. Start by figuring out what’s important to you, why you’re getting out of bed every day, and the impact you’d like to have. Reflect on your values and what you want to be held accountable for and let that move you toward success.

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