It tall begins with your core values. Without that foundation, you’re bound to find yourself in trouble. I learned this lesson from one of my first mentors, who counseled me to truly define my core beliefs and values. She said I’d need to because I was going to “see things that would make my hair stand on end”so I would need to know when to stand firm. And, when to walk away.

Today, as my career moves forward and I find myself in the role of mentor, I share these secrets to success:

  1. PERFORMANCE COUNTS.If you don’t deliver results, the rest of the lessons don’t matter.Obviously, early in your career, individual performance is critical. As you progress to positions of greater authority, you still have to deliver, but you need to figure out how to do it through others.
  2. RELATIONSHIPS AND RESPECT COUNT.They take time to establish, but the effort you expend will pay off. Clearly, your boss and your employees areimportant relationships. But don’t forget your colleagues and your peers. Their trust and respect is very difficult to rebuild if you lose it. Conversely, these people will be your sounding board, will help you navigate company politics, and might be your boss (or employee) someday. Also, remember to get to know the administrative assistants: they know what’s really happening in the company and can help (or not) facilitate interaction with their bosses.
  3. This lesson is specific to women:THE FILTER USED TO JUDGE YOU IS NARROWER than the one used to judge your male colleagues. You need to speak up, but not talk too much. Your communication must be confident, assertive and passionate, but not aggressive. You need to know all the answers, but don’t ask others the hard questions if you think they don’t know the answers. Yes, this still happening in 2005. It’s not intentional. You can’t change it. But you do need to understand it, get over it, and then focus on lessons 1 and 2. This last lesson remains the most important—because it takes you right back to the first two. Performance counts. Relationships count.

As you go out into the world, remember to focus on doing the right things and building relationships. The rest will fall into place.

And don’t forget to have a life along the way.