Sitting on the terrace of the RIBA restaurant (above) on a warm summer day a few years ago, I was asked “who are your professional role models?”. I was floored, not least because I have only two – and one of them was asking the question.
I first thought of writing this blog on International Women’s day, as both of my mentors, coaches, role models – call them what you will – happen to be women who have achieved great success in their chosen fields.
Janice Maiman is Senior Vice President of Communications, Media, News & Professional Pathways at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Dr Mairi Mclean is a former chief executive of Waveney District Council and Northampton Borough Council respectively, and is now a full-time management development consultant – it was Mairi who asked me to ‘out’ my role models. I fear I dodged the question at the time!
Janice was a senior manager on a joint venture I worked on, and Mairi was employed as a management coach by a previous employer. It’s true to say that Janice and Mairi are both North Stars – a guide or reference point by which I try to navigate my own career.
If you don’t have challenging moments in a management career, you’re not doing it right. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, and as a pleaser, that displeases me no end. Both Mairi and Janice have supported me through challenging moments – some experiences they passed on intentionally, sometimes they coached me to reach important conclusions alone, and frequently they instructed me on how to be a better manager just by being themselves.
Mairi is unparalleled in understanding how a business functions holistically. Janice has an amazing knack for building a shared vision and keeping everyone striving towards it. Both deliver insights by valuing people, truly understanding their nuances, and managing with complete integrity. Through this they achieve respect and great loyalty.
So here’s to mentors. The Americans have a Thank Your Mentor Day – a marvellous idea which the UK should adopt. And to Janice and Mairi, a huge thank you!