Mentors can come into your life in unpredictable ways. My mentor and adviser of 25 years was someone I worked for at the beginning of my career. He was also someone I disliked. Over time, though, I gained intense admiration and respect for him and now proudly call him my friend. He taught me many invaluable lessons that I continue to live by and pass on to the future generation of leaders.
One lesson he taught me was to make my own impressions. You gain valuable insight from spending time in the ranks with your employees, getting feedback and understanding their point of view and opinions, not just from management’s perspective. Another lesson was to never be the highest-level person with bad news. When times get tough surround yourself with many people of different viewpoints to achieve creative ideas and approaches. Sharing challenges up and across the organization helps build support, resources and focus to resolve difficult problems.
During my rise to the executive suite I have encountered challenges both personally and professionally that have helped me gain the essential perspective, skills and balance needed to be an effective employee at the office and wife and mother at home. The philosophy I subscribe to is to accept gifts in unusual packages. What may seem like a bad situation often turns into a positive outcome. It’s all about attitude.
My professional goal was to run a business and I committed myself to that objective early on. The path was not always straight or predictable. I started a family and confronted two serious medical issues along the way. These gifts taught me important lessons of responsibility and conviction. The advice I give aspiring leaders is to have a solid plan of what you want to accomplish, but be flexible to the dynamic nature of a professional career and life events. Rather than designing a master plan to perfection, prepare plans B and C. Adjusting to competition, but prioritizing and handling crisis events unemotionally, is the foremost role of a leader.
I’m fortunate to work in such an environment at Northrop Grumman that supports mentoring, encourages professional development and embraces diversity. I advocate for every employee to take responsibility for their own career and life path and seek opportunities to grow as an individual, step outside your comfort zone and balance your personal and professional life.