My mentors and the people I have enjoyed mentoring share a few key characteristics. They tend to be flexible, openminded, and, perhaps most important, they are able to recognize talent and truly appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of others.
In my field—information technology—change is a constant, so flexibility is essential. New technologies replace existing ones, and evolving business requirements demand new technologies. As chief information officer, I support every segment of the corporation, and each segment has its specific needs. Understanding those needs requires the ability to listen, to look at things from diverse angles and to be open-minded enough to learn from both the compliments and the criticisms.
For that reason I work hard to build a team of smart people who have diverse experiences. I make it a point to acknowledge individual contributions. I believe that by acknowledging talent, a leader can rally people to appreciate each other. That is a big step toward creating a team that leverages the abilities of each member and enables everyone to work just that much smarter.
In general, I try to surround myself with people I can learn from. Sometimes that person is a rung or two above me on the corporate ladder, but not always. I look for people who have expertise I don’t have; who can teach me no matter where they fit in the corporate hierarchy; and who have the confidence and the personal skills to question me in a way that helps me understand their concern.
Not all of my mentors come from inside the company. Sometimes, an outside “sounding board” helps me make better decisions because that person’s input is unbiased by internal issues and comes from a unique perspective.
When I think of what has been most rewarding in my 25-year career, I think of the people I’ve touched along the way and those who have touched me. One of the things I am most proud of is the small group of talented, smart—and fun—people I have met over the years who have remained friends and mentors no matter where I have worked. In the end, no one makes it in the corporate world on his or her own. Others contribute to your success. If you ignore that, you just make it that much tougher on yourself—and a lot less fu