Photo: Barbara with Libbi Urban and Kim Rutkowski of USW Local 9231 and the I/N Steel Company at the Empowering Women in Industry Conference 2019

Mentor of the Year by Empowering Women in Industry!  It’s humbling to be nominated next to so many other inspiring women who have done so much to inspire others. It’s also humbling to be nominated by Blanka Gyorgy, a woman with a storied career in diversified skills from her native Hungary to Italy to India to the U.S., leading digital transformations across the globe. To think that our learning journey together during the Change Intelligence/CQ Certification Program made such a meaningful impact on her and her professional journey – wow.  I always know that I grow as much from those who partake in my training programs, or engage me to facilitate their change teams, or invite me to consult on strategic transformations, as they may learn from me.

I’ll never forget when I moved from Ann Arbor to Chicagoland after completing my doctoral degree and after consulting for a decade with clients in industries ranging from steel to automotive to refining, that when a new colleague asked me about my background, I talked about my mentor and how he had seen something in me and took me under his wing for years, teaching me the foundations of how to be a consultant, coach, and facilitator to help clients foster empowering work cultures – as opposed to the old command-and-control autocratic style so common in the Rust Belt days.  The new colleague remarked, “you had a mentor – how wonderful – how lucky for you.” His comment really hit me, and made me reflect. I had always been grateful to my mentor, but I became aware much more deeply of how precious that relationship truly was and how pervasively it impacted on my career and life.

So now I find myself on the other side, being acknowledged as a mentor to others – wow again! As I mentioned in my last newsletter article, this time of crisis and all the changes we’ve experienced at work and home represents a powerful time to reflect upon what really feeds us, where our passions lie, and what we want our legacy to be moving forward. So many of the leaders-at-all-levels I’ve coached point to the people they have mentored as their proudest and most moving leadership legacy.  Looking back, it’s often more about relationships, than results. Actually, not either/or, it’s both/and.

For me, this nomination has prompted me to look both backward as well as forward.  Since you’re on this journey with me too, I invite you to look through these lenses too!

Looking back
I’m relishing recalling fond memories of so many people who have contributed to my growth and success, formally and informally, in big and small ways.  Moreover, I’m reconnecting to express my thanks. It’s been a wonderfully enriching process. So often we get so busy, and we forget to tell people what they mean to us. This “great pause” is a great opportunity for that.  Taking this on could forge a new appreciation practice, which as we know from neuroscience and positive psychology is one of the best ways to literally rewire our brains from an unconscious negativity bias and toward greater optimism.  Research shows doing so reduces stress and boosts immunity, as well as is correlated with greater productivity at work and happiness in life – all antidotes to the current crisis, and an enabling foundation for beyond.

Looking forward
I’m actively pondering how I could do even more to mentor others and to promote mentorship in general.  Supporting the “Change Intelligence Community” of CQ Certification Program graduates like Blanka in 17 countries around the globe is definitely part of that, to continue to serve them as they help the people they coach, teams they facilitate and organizations they serve lead through this time of massive disruption. It’s exciting to contemplate how to mentor individuals at an even deeper level, as well as how to create systems to foster mentoring more broadly. It can be obvious to think about mentoring others when one is more senior in one’s career, with decades of experience.  However, reverse mentoring is so powerful, and as anyone who’s experienced such a relationship knows, it’s always two-way, regardless of tenure, title, or role of either party.  Also, so many opportunities exist to mentor outside the workplace, in our communities, which is more important now than ever, given current economic and social challenges.  Mentoring is a way to think globally, and take meaningful action locally.

Getting back to my nomination, mentoring is one of the most powerful ways to get women’s voices heard in “heavy industry” and beyond – so thank you for the great work of Charli Matthews and her team at Empowering Women in Industry for all you do to make a positive difference.  Of course, mentoring relationships are rich for men too, and and similar to reverse mentoring, cross-gender mentoring yields so many benefits.

As Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, said, “If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching… Coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone–your husband, other family members, or your boss.”

Thanks again to my mentors – (several of this newsletter’s readers are among them) – now I’m off to pay it forward!