I attribute my success, in large part, to past and current mentors. As a leader, I believe it is my responsibility to mentor others.
After graduating from law school in 1974, I joined a large Philadelphia law firm. There, one of the very few female lawyers at the firm became my first mentor. When she saw me carrying my files home in a shopping bag, she told me to buy a briefcase. She taught me how to dress and how to be comfortable in a male environment.
Other senior lawyers in the firm also became mentors. They taught me how to be an advocate and gave me challenging and high-profile assignments. They gave me client responsibilities and helped me to become a partner.
I continue to have mentors at work and in professional organizations to this day. I joined PNC in 1989. Since that time, I have had many opportunities to mentor employees at several levels of the organization. Four years ago, I served as a formal mentor and sponsor for an African-American Employee Resource Group at PNC. Although I was different from the group’s members, I had the opportunity to facilitate conversation and networking, and we all learned a great deal from each other. The group’s diversity was one of its strengths. Because we came from varied backgrounds, we provided different perspectives that ultimately led to recommendations to improve our company.
Mentoring has many facets. Mentors can give critical feedback, trumpet the achievements of others and open doors for the people they mentor. Mentors can guide people through political minefields, coach people on building cooperative relationships and counsel them on balancing career and family. Mentors also can teach people that it is OK to take reasonable professional risks and to fail and learn lessons through these efforts.
As my experiences show, good mentors can be very different from you, and successful mentoring can be informal or formal. Mentoring is one of a leader’s most important roles. I would not be where I am today without mentors who guided me, looked out for me, challenged me and gave me opportunities. Similarly, one of my greatest professional rewards has been watching people whom I have mentored move up in their careers and achieve great things.