My parents were my first mentors. They instilled in me a drive to excel, a strong work ethic and the self-confidence to take intelligent risks without fear of failure.
My father was a teacher who worked summers as a realtor. When I was 10 years old, he took me to the real estate office where I met his boss, an African American woman who made a big impression on me. I immediately saw an image of what I wanted to do when I grew up—it would require that I wear a nice suit and carry a briefcase!
While I refined my aspirations considerably over the next decade, the image of Mrs. Madison stayed with me. African American women in business were scarce in those days, so I didn’t have many role models who looked like me. In turn, I have come to appreciate that today I have the ability to inspire others in the same way.
They say that when the pupil is ready the teacher will appear. I have found that to be true and have always opened myself up to the idea of learning. Mentors have appeared at just the right time throughout my career.
Early in my career I learned that I could achieve greater results by embracing my inexperience. With the help of more experienced people in the organization, I adopted an “ask, don’t tell” approach that helped me build a strong, cohesive, high-performing team by drawing on the knowledge and experience of the employees in the group.
When I joined Honeywell in 1999, I found a demanding, performance-driven organization that suits my personal manage- ment style. I also found passionate, knowledgeable mentors who helped me negotiate the twists and turns of a complex, global company that touches the lives of millions of people.
Today, as head of Honeywell’s $4.6 billion global Transportation Systems business, I often find myself in the position of paying back all the great mentors I’ve had in my career by sharing what I’ve learned with the next generation of Honeywell leaders.
My advice is consistent. First, deliver results and do so with integrity. Be a person of your word. Find bright and successful people to be a part of your team, making sure they complement your weaknesses. And never, ever stop learning.