Lessons Learned from a Mentor

Today is a special remembrance day for me.  It has been 12 years since my mentor, Faith Miller Cole, passed away.  There are so many ways she helped me develop early on in my young professional career.  I was Faith’s administrative assistant back in the day.  Undecided in a career path after having spent a year in college, I chose to take some time to do other things.  That other thing was getting a certificate as a word processing specialist (yes that was a thing way back then!).

I was fortunate to land a job at the corporate headquarters of Kentucky Utilities (KU).  In my administrative role, I worked in the Communications Department with some incredibly talented people where I learned about advertising, marketing, press releases, branding, and how to effectively formulate messages to our board, employees and customers.

My mentor, Faith, came on as Director of Communications after I had been with the company only a little after a year.  And boy, did she shake things up!  She was like a whirlwind.  She made immediate changes in what had been to me a very “safe and comfortable” environment.

At first, my colleagues and I were skeptical of the whole process.  Who WAS this person and why did she insist on making ALL of these changes so quickly?   To be honest, I initially felt the sentiment of “why can’t we just go back to the way it has always been?”

Faith had a bigger and better vision.  Not only for the company – she had that vision for each individual that she supervised.  Being close to the lines as her administrative assistant, I saw how she showed assertiveness with the senior leadership.  She was “leaning in” well before Sheryl Sandberg made the concept popular.

She challenged me and she challenged our whole team.  And what was so inspiring about the whole process – she did it in a way so that we as individuals wanted to improve ourselves.  She took time to listen to our concerns, she took time to hear our ideas, and she took time to believe in who we were and the strengths we offered.

Faith and I became very close during her time at KU.  We especially became closer as her health declined from complications of Crohn’s disease.  She was one tough cookie – we all saw her work through the pain as she was in and out of the hospital.  Faith and I had deep and meaningful discussions about life, about strength and about “faith” in general.  We came from different faiths, her being Jewish and I being a Christian, and we both learned an incredible amount from each other.

One thing she showed me which I will always carry with me was her acceptance and belief in me.  Even when I screwed up, she said, “It will all be okay.  You are stronger than you know.”

I remember when I was told of her passing.  I was only a few months into my job at another local corporate powerhouse.  I literally fell to my knees crying.  I could not believe she was gone and I was upset with myself for not having visited her more.  Then I heard her whisper to me, “It will all be okay.  You are stronger than you know.”

Faith visits me from time to time in my dreams giving me words of encouragement, especially during the times when I want it the most.  A mentor is such a wonderful person to have in your life and I hope those of you who read this are thinking of someone who has been that person for you.  If so and they are still around, call them up and say, “Thank you.”  And if you currently aren’t mentoring someone, think of someone you can mentor and be a voice of wisdom and encouragement for them.