I believe we’re all products of our life experiences, both good and bad. My career has been shaped the same way, by the people who came into my working life for better or for worse. It’s these informal mentors, managers and coworkers who’ve provided me with the best lessons on what to do and what not to do as I made my way in the business world. Here are some messages that I’ve found particularly helpful.
Communicate again, again and again. One of my favorite supervisors had this practice, and his staff always knew where he stood on issues and always felt included. His methods made an impression on me, and I strive to emulate them today, using town halls, newsletters and social media.
Never let boundaries define you. Early in my career, one manager stressed the importance of learning the business side of business while another encouraged me to learn about winning new business. In taking their advice, I gained essential business development and operations knowledge, information that served me well as I took on progressively challenging roles.
As I moved in and out of other roles, I saw other leaders doing what needed to be done. I resolved to follow in their footsteps by always pitching in to get the job done, no matter what the task. Learning to delve into new fields and pinch-hit in a variety of roles allowed me to become a well-rounded and value-focused employee.
Treat people the way you want to be treated. I once worked for a man who often shouted at his employees in anger. Another leader I knew admired a bookshelf I had in my office; then promptly ordered it removed for his own use. After these negative experiences, I vowed that I’d always be respectful to people, no matter the situation.
Spend part of each day mentoring. No one taught me this, but this is how I’m able to pass on the good lessons I’ve received from my informal mentors. For example, I send out a “thought piece” to my managers once a month, using an article on leadership as a topic, and I also serve as an informal mentor in our company’s Women in Leadership program.
I’ve been fortunate to work for Northrop Grumman for more than 20 years now, a company that values people, diversity and life-long learning. In keeping with those standards, I encourage all employees to be open to the informal mentors in their lives, to take advice from the unexpected teacher and to learn from the positive and negative lessons.