Leading The Way Through Mentorship | Emily Wilcox, Head of Account Management, Johannes Leonardo

Tell us how your mentor(s) has supported and elevated your career.Emily_Wilcox_296-crop

Past and present, I have been so lucky to call some of the most strategic and intelligent minds in the industry colleagues, mentors and friends.

There are two powerful pieces of advice they have all instilled in me that, to this day, I still practice.

  1. To bring my true and authentic self to work every single day. This advice was and is so freeing to me because, as a whole, we have created this myth that as a professional, you have two personas that you fall into – a “work self” and “personal self.” This simply isn’t true. When you live and breathe your truth, you are able to lean into your strengths and also better understand areas of opportunity for yourself. This advice has been instrumental in my growth as a professional.
  2. I should always be comfortable in my POV, even if it isn’t popular. It’s OK to fail, because failure is learning!

What are some tips you would give to a new mentor in how to spot, train and elevate a rising star?

There are two very important questions that I ask myself when evaluating the relationships I have with my team and when I am interviewing potential candidates.

1. Are they “coachable”?

Great mentorship to me is the ability to unlock the potential and talents someone already has, not imparting skill sets on people. Coachability is so important for any mentor/mentee relationship. Coachability comes from a place of being curious – about themselves, about the world, about the experiences of others. Those people who are lifelong learners are the best mentees.

2. Do they have great talents that they are not aware of?

In our industry, there is a preconceived notion that the loudest people in the room are the “ones to watch.” However, sometimes the most unassuming people are the brightest stars, and it’s a mentor’s job to identify these people and bring them out into the light.

All anyone needs is to know someone else believes they are worthy of being invested in, and the relationship usually unfolds seamlessly from there.

What advice would you give new mentors?

I would give new mentors the same advice that I give myself (often!). To be the leader and mentor that I needed when I was rising through the ranks in my career.

How do you do this you may ask? I think it all comes down to practicing Empathetic Leadership.

Empathetic Leadership is the ability of leaders to understand, relate to and listen. It is the single most powerful tool that we have at our disposal today as leaders of modern organizations. Leaders who practice empathy with their teams and mentees are able to foster a deep sense of trust. It is this trust that will be the anchor to any mentor/mentee relationship.

There are a few simple, yet all too often overlooked, behaviors that empathetic leaders can practice every day with their mentees:

  • Invest in the person over the employee: Your relationship with your mentee is personal, with everything in service to unlocking your best selves, together. Take conversations outside of the office, check-in often, and keep your eyes open for when you are sensing that they need new opportunities for their own growth (moving around internally or even leaving the company). As a mentor, it is your duty to help them identify what their true calling is and support that no matter where it takes them.
  • Practice active listening: It is rare that people state what they are actually feeling or thinking. Oftentimes, they package it in a way that makes it more digestible to the recipient.  Don’t fall into the trap of taking things at face value. Mentorship is not an opportunity to manage (or micromanage). Listen deeply to your mentees, unafraid of what you might hear. It is the most powerful way to build rapport and trust with your mentee. Identify what they might not be saying, or are having a hard time articulating, and challenge them on it.
  • Leave all your assumptions behind: Every relationship is unique, and you should always come to every mentorship opportunity with an open mind. Dispel any set of conclusions and assumptions based on our previous experiences or thought processes.  These assumptions can drive huge wedges between you and your mentee and cause premature judgment that hinders the ability to create an open and trusting environment.
  • Don’t give them all the answers: In an attempt to be as helpful to mentees as possible, we often default to giving answers or providing solutions. But I’ve found that the most powerful thing you can do in many cases is to ask the questions rather than provide the answer and allow them to unlock their own ideas and way of answering on their own. That will allow them to feel more ownership over the solution, and ultimately build more confidence over time when they realize they had the talent to get there all along.

*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.