You don’t get far in business these days without creating strong relationships with colleagues. Over the years, I have experienced a number of long-term mentoring relationships and I’ve gained much—both from having a mentor and from being one. When I asked some of my colleagues recently about what they valued most about our mentoring relationship, four words arose again and again—trust, openness, consistency, and honesty.
Trust. This is the foundation that every strong relationship starts with—trust that confidences will be maintained, trust that advice will be compassionate but realistic, and trust that you will “be there” for each other. It is not something that is bestowed due to position or power—but rather it is earned over time. Trust can be risky at times, but is necessary to build strong relationships.
Openness. Getting others to open up starts with being transparent about your own experiences. You must be willing to talk about your successes and your failures. It’s not always easy, but this kind of sharing often provides the most valuable lessons.
Consistency. It is important to consistently work from a sound base of ethics and core beliefs—without wavering. Regardless of the external business environment or internal political situation, you need to stand up for what you believe in and take the time for what is most important.
Honesty. This isn’t just about telling the truth; it’s about being who you are. A young engineer from Brazil told me that one of the most important things she learned from me was not to be afraid to be feminine in a male-dominated industry. When my business team traveled to her site in the mid-1990s, she was shocked when I arrived in an outfit with ruffles and “pink lipstick.” She realized, then, that becoming an effective leader didn’t require adopting a masculine leader stereotype—but instead came from delivering results, assertiveness, listening to others, and being true to yourself.
I’m proud that I have been able to be a role model for many women and men over the years. Throughout my career, I have learned from my mentors, and those I mentor, to stay focused on four key success factors—delivering results, building a diverse network of people, being a visionary leader, and enjoying what you do.