Eight Mentoring Gifts to Start the Year

 The Unlimited Power of Mentoring Is in Us All.

A few weeks ago, Forbes released their inaugural list of 50 Women Over 50.  Given Forbes’ long history of list-making, your first question may be, “Why did this one take so long!?” But that will soon give way to admiration for the remarkable women you’ll meet, and what they have meant to people across society and the world. 

As you read their interviews, it’s clear that each honoree sees mentoring as a powerful force throughout their ground-breaking careers and lives. In these times, with the pressure of rapidly changing technologies, with career paths and priorities undergoing major pivots, the need for dynamic leadership and mentoring is greater than ever.

As an innovator in cloud security, Concourse Labs recently asked women leaders of our organization about the most meaningful advice they’ve gotten from mentors in their careers. We asked about lessons and guidance they received and what it meant to them in their professional lives. You will find their answers both inspiring and as warming as a hot cup of coffee on a cold January day.

What would you tell your early career self if you had a chance to mentor her?

The women in leadership roles at Concourse all said that mentoring has played an important role throughout their careers. So the first question we asked was, What would you tell your early career self if you had a chance to mentor her?

Feedback Is a Gift

Lisa Wood, VP, Engineering

Be confident! You are smart, you work hard, you are enough. On those difficult days, when it feels like you did not accomplish anything, ask yourself, “Did I do the best I could?” If the answer is “yes”, then you did enough. If the answer is “no”, let it go and do better tomorrow. 

Take feedback as a gift, even when it is difficult to hear. Get past the sting and decide if the giver is trying to help or hurt you. If they have your best interests at heart, figure out what to do with the feedback and turn it into value. If the feedback is unfair, don’t internalize it. Put it aside and don’t dwell.  

Also, give feedback freely, as a gift to those you work with. You can’t expect a team member to change or improve if you are not giving them open, frank, actionable feedback. They can’t read your mind. 

Always Be Learning

Sara Snowden, Director, Product Management

As someone once said, fail fast and fail hard. My early career self was too wrapped up in striving for perfection and delivering wins. Failing can be just as impactful, if you take time to decouple the reasons why something failed and apply these lessons to your next challenge. Learning should be constant, and those lessons can help you continually improve so you are better equipped to drive successes.

Own your voice — don’t be afraid to ask questions or share a differing opinion. It’s okay to break from the mold. To highlight your contributions and accomplishments without trepidation. Being your most authentic self will only bring more value to your team, organization, and self.

The Multiplier Effect of Relationships

Tamara McCarthy, VP, Strategic Alliances

Build a network of trusted advisors that you respect, can collaborate with, and help each other grow. In my early career, I learned from the “school of hard knocks” because I didn’t want others to see me as inexperienced. And I certainly was not willing to be vulnerable. I believe it resembles the “imposter syndrome” today.  But later, I realized that if I surrounded myself with individuals I respected and trusted, that the experience and expertise we each gained through coaching each other, brainstorming and solving problems created a multiplier effect in our careers. The aphorism a “rising tide raises all boats” in the context of working and growing together truly applies because everyone in the network is rewarded with multiple perspectives, significant knowledge, and, sometimes, deep friendships that can help accelerate your career.

Develop New Strengths

Merry Beekman, Sr. Director, Marketing

To my early career self, I would say that she will find most assignments — to use a well-worn analogy — are like a box of chocolates. Some things are going to look very appealing and play to your strengths and passions. Some things you’re going to bite into and have a surprising experience. Others in the box are going to look unappealing and you will want to pass. Before choosing how you will apply your efforts, take time to assess the situation, the team, and the goals. Ask yourself: What strengths can I bring to this project? What do I need to learn that can help the team? How can I expand my circle of influence?   

For instance, I have developed strengths in planning and execution, and that is often why I’m selected for a project or role. I’m also a learner, so I gain positive energy from digging into data and the market. For the past three years, I’ve been deep into the cloud and cybersecurity. At first, I may not understand the technical discussions, but as I continue to invest time in expanding my knowledge and asking questions, I’m able to grow and bring more relevant information and influence to the team.

What guidance did you get in your career from mentors?

Next, we asked, What guidance did you get in your career from mentors? They answered by sharing stories of how mentors have unleashed the power they have within themselves. Sometimes it shows in clever ways, like in the shoes they wear, or in a fun motto like ‘Semper Gumby’ that stays with them forever.

Do the Right Thing

Lisa Wood, VP, Engineering

A funny bit of advice I received from a mentor and friend in sales, and has held true…when trying to sell or negotiate with someone, look at their shoes. How a person buys shoes is an indicator of their buying pattern. Are they cheap, looking for the best deal? Or are they willing to pay for quality?

And the best advice from my father…I can’t remember if he ever said it, but he modeled it. Always do the right thing, even if it is not the easiest thing. You will never regret doing the right thing. 

Integrity and Flexibility

Sara Snowden, Director, Product Management

Don’t let pressure change your moral ground. I once worked on an initiative and was feeling the heat to take a few shortcuts to deliver a successful initiative with a swiftly approaching deadline. My mentor told me to not compromise my morals to make others happy. We win together, or we don’t, but getting there with your integrity intact is the most important part.  

‘Semper Gumby’ was a fun motto a mentor once ingrained in me. It means we must always be flexible. We need to embrace change and understand that business is fluid, with priorities constantly shifting. Being nimble enough to pivot as needed (even when I’m inclined to finish what I’ve started) has opened my career to new paths and opportunities.

The Power of Responsibility

Tamara McCarthy, VP, Strategic Alliances

I was told by an early mentor, who was also my first sales manager, “You have two ears and one mouth so use them in proportion.” Great advice, especially in a sales role. How can you possibly uncover your prospects’ problems, understand their pain, and create a meaningful solution if you do all the talking? This advice, to have meaningful conversations instead of monopolizing discussions, goes a long way, both personally and professionally.

“Don’t let anyone take your power” was another great bit of advice. I remember complaining to my coach about a toxic situation I was dealing with and how this person made me feel incredibly incompetent. My coach said, “Take back your power,” because someone can only take your power from you if you allow it. The lesson I learned is that I must take responsibility for the way I think, feel, and act. Honestly, when you exercise control, that is incredibly powerful. 

Goals Matter

Merry Beekman, Sr. Director, Marketing

Recently, a mentor said to me, “You have a lot of activity, but what are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals?” These questions were met with my silence and the realization that I was spending a lot of time in a daily whirlwind. We spent the remainder of our call identifying goals to achieve in 2022 and beyond. Professionally, goals have been a big part of my approach, and this mentor quickly identified why I was stuck and helped me reorient my plans and efforts. 

As part of my goal to live healthy and be strong, I’ve run several half marathons. One of the posters that I see on the course has a big colorful button on it with the words “Press Here for a Power Boost”. Giving that big button a hearty slap not only gives me a needed pep in my step, it also gets a very excited reaction from the poster-holder, often someone young. That is mentoring in a nutshell. Whether you are giving guidance or receiving, you get something powerful in return.

Unleash the Power in You

It’s hard to imagine a world without mentoring. For Lisa, Sara, Tamara, and Merry, confidence, the value of constant learning, and the multiplier effect of relationships are all lessons taught to them by mentors. It reminds us that the unlimited power of mentoring is a gift in us all.

Are you getting a power boost from mentoring? Are you running through a course lined with power boost posters waiting to be activated? Give mentoring a prime spot as the women of Concourse Labs and the Forbes’ 50 Women Over 50 have. And see how it can expand your horizons and success in 2022. 

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