I have had several wonderful mentors throughout my life and career. My mother, my first mentor, taught me that I could be or do anything once I received an education.

My first professional mentor, Sandee Alexander, taught me to invest in myself, to be responsible for my financial security, and to never give up. I met Sandee after interviewing for six different positions at IBM and being rejected for all of them. I ultimately landed a role as a part-time assistant for a regional manager. Sandee offered me advice on professional appearance, how to invest (Prince Charming might not have a bank account), and she gave me my first constructive feedback.

I will never forget the first time Sandee sat me in her office and gave me some difficult criticisms. She later expressed surprise that I hadn’t broken down in tears. But I realized that if I wanted to improve I needed feedback, the good and the bad. Fortunately, Sandee was also terrific at sharing positive feedback. What you don’t say is almost as important as what you do say, so use your voice wisely. David Ching, the CIO at Safeway and my long-term mentor and friend, has coached me on knowing when to use my voice, how to condense my message, and when to be silent.

Learn to really listen to other people. Ask thought-provoking questions. be open to new ideas. Give other people credit for their ideas and projects and you’ll be viewed as a team player and a promoter of others’ success.

Never fear responsibility and accountability. Seek opportunities to make a difference. One of my favorite books is The Leadership Pipeline, by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel. The authors discuss one of our greatest responsibilities: how to develop future leaders.

Work for a company that you believe in. When you believe in your company’s products or services, your passion shines through. I am fortunate to work at Safeway, a company that is committed to acquiring quality people and products and delivering world-class service.

Finally, take care of yourself and always be willing to learn. you need energy as a leader and will be a happier role model. Continually develop the skills needed to improve yourself and your career.