The Porch

Welcome to DORO – Pull Up a Chair

Forget Something?

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. Ralph Nader

Remember! Mentor Young Professionals.

Once while working at a large finance corporation in the late ’90s, I had an occasion to meet a woman who held a VP level position. She was referred to me by a number of mutual friends who suggested that I contact her. Naively, I approached our initial meeting as I would have another friend introduction. I won’t ever forget her look when she said to me, “you’re way too casual with me.” Of course that changed the tenor of the conversation and needless to say, we didn’t become fast friends. I’d hoped to find in her a mentor in the organization where there were very few African American women not only in a position of power, but few in number period.

Fast forward 15 years and here I sit in the reverse situation.  A young lady, looking to gain her footing as a new professional, reached out to me in an extremely casual way: sent me her info and an email address and said, “email me.” No hello, please nor thank you. I was about to dismiss the request when I remembered my own too-relaxed moment. Thankfully, I found other patient mentors at Schwab who thought it better to nurture my gifts and skills than to effectively dismiss me for an etiquette gaffe. I realized that I prefer to be like them.

Is there a moment that you recall from your work past, when you weren’t as perfect as you are now, the moment you still find unsettling when think about it? Perhaps it still stings a bit. That’s the time I’d like you to remember when you have the opportunity, the responsibility, to lead a younger or green, growing professional. No, you may not have time to hold training sessions under a tree with lemonade. But take a minute, humbly, and recount your own tale to her, or give him a pat on the back for eagerness along with a list of tools to help him grow. Most importantly, encourage her enthusiasm. I know it’ll stick even if you’re not around later to witness it.

That’s Door #3 at its core. The particular brand of training that’s rarely found in a book. Those tips and strategies that at some point someone had to share with you. If you were blessed to have parents who shared it before you left home, awesome! For those of us whose parents had love but not corporate know-how, somebody had to share with you what shoes to buy and how to shake hands. If you had to develop your professional ethos by trial and error like I did, and still do, then hold on to those memories and use them to become an effective leader and teacher. I’m sure it’s much easier to manage an immaculately dressed, polished newbie, but you may miss that one-of-a-kind, talented next leader looking instead for shiny shoes. Remember your moment, then give ’em a hand, a smile and point them to the nearest cobbler.

Door #3 is the DORO Professional Training Workshops series. To find out more, email us at design@doromarketing.com.

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4 comments on “Forget Something?

  1. alice
    01/19/2011

    Thank you for sharing that moment. I do miss out on a lot of oppurtunties when we judge a book by it’s cover, but on the other hand it is really important to know proper ettiquette in the corporate world.

  2. Mia,

    I know exactly what you mean. I too had that watershed moment when I realized for the first time that I needed to step up my game if I was to ever become an effective leader. It stung when it happened, and I was embarrassed. But in hindsight, she did me a favor and now, I have no bones about sending people the same message. Love the Nader quote too.

  3. donnamaria
    01/19/2011

    I logged into my Gravatar account in the hopes that my comment would show up with my avatar, so I’m trying again to test it out. Let’s see what happens!

  4. donnamaria
    01/19/2011

    Mia,

    I know exactly what you mean. I too had that watershed moment when I realized for the first time that I needed to step up my game if I was to ever become an effective leader. It stung when it happened, and I was embarrassed. But in hindsight, she did me a favor and now, I have no bones about sending people the same message. Love the Nader quote too.

    Thanks for a good reminder. It will help a lot of people!

    dM

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