My father always said, “Kathy, just tell me what you’re going to do and then do it.” His words and actions demonstrated commitment and accountability. I expect that from myself—and everyone who works with me. That’s the power my dad had as a mentor. He and my mother insisted I go to college, which I might not have done on my own. As a finance major, I was often the only woman in class, preparing me well for the male-dominated telecommunications business.

I turned down offers from Big 8 accounting firms to move home to San Angelo, TX, to get married. When I joined GTE there, I encountered my most influential professional mentor. Because my boss believed employees needed broad perspective, he reassigned us to new positions every 18 months.
That helped me develop skills and insights for my own career, and shaped my philosophy for selecting and developing people. I also learned to embrace change, to get quickly up to speed on new areas of the business, and to produce results.

I moved functionally, physically, and organizationally in field and headquarters finance assignments, and then stretched with assignments in consumer and enterprise sales and process re-engineering. When I left my native Texas for headquarters in Connecticut, I viewed it as “getting my corporate ticket punched.” It was the best move I ever made, because of the people there who mentored me and influenced my career.

That background—plus a reputation for directness, tenacity and meeting commitments—led me to three assignments running vastly different businesses: our Texas/New Mexico telephone operations (regulated, unionized and structured); GTE Airfone (small and entrepreneurial); and Verizon Information Services (nationwide, competitive print and Internet advertising business going through transformation).

Throughout my career, I’ve learned some important lessons:

  • Honor those who paved your path. Although you may change everything, remember that most of their decisions were right for the time.
  • Like your job and respect your boss; if you don’t, move on.
  • Manage by fact; anecdotes shouldn’t be the basis for decisions that affect your company, customers—or employees.
  • Being a change agent is the top leadership task. It requires facts, follow-through, and helping people see what’s in it for them.
  • And, most important, my daddy’s motto: “Say what you’re going to do, and do it.”