The Plank Center is committed to developing the next generation of leaders and advancing the profession. It is our honor to recognize six leaders whose commitment to mentoring generates a powerhouse of influence and accelerates success in our profession.
Our question and answer series introduces the 2016 Milestones in Mentoring award recipients.
Meet Ginger Hardage.
Ginger Hardage believes she had her dream job at Southwest Airlines, a Company that is known for its legendary Culture and reputation and a perpetual standout on Fortune’s Top 10 “Most Admired Companies in the World.” Ginger oversaw the activities that nourish that Culture and the internal and external Communications function for the largest domestic airline (most Customers carried). She was a member of various executive committees at Southwest and lead its “Best Place to Work” initiatives.
Ginger has received numerous awards including PRWeek’s 2013, 2012, and 2011 Top 50 Power List and previously as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Public Relations. In 2010, Southwest Airlines ranked in the top 20 of the “Best-‐in-‐Class” category in a national Corporate Public Affairs Survey.
What is your biggest mentoring challenge?
Time. We all wish we could spend more time in the listening and counseling role, but pressures of the business often get in the way. For official mentoring relationships, it’s important to actively schedule the time so that routine conversations occur and progress can be tracked.
What is your advice for mentees (young professionals, students, etc.)?
- You don’t have to seek the person highest in your organization or department to be your mentor. Often times, others in the organization may have more time and be able to better relate to your circumstance. But, of course, only choose someone whom you admire, trust, and would like to emulate.
- You may want more than one mentor. Someone inside your organization can relate to the specifics of work challenges better while someone outside your organization can sometimes give perspective on broader career opportunities.
- Be as specific as possible about what you’d like to address with your mentor. This will allow both of you to focus your time. Let your mentor know if your goal is moving to a manager position, working on a difficult work relationship, or changing organizations.
- You have selected someone you can trust, so be honest with them. Sharing specifics about a difficult boss or project failure allows the two of you to develop precise ideas for changing the situation.
What inspires or motivates you to be a mentor?
It doesn’t get any better than seeing someone become more than they ever dreamed possible. My role was to help identify and encourage their inherent talents. The thrill comes from seeing someone get that VP title they toiled toward or another deciding to ditch corporate life to pursue their dream of a career in music. Mentors get to share others dreams.
What is one powerful thing you’ve learned from a mentee?
I’m still working on this one, but when to just listen and when to strategize on solutions. In one of my longest mentee relationships, she has to remind me “you can’t fix this” which is my signal to listen.
How do you describe your personal mentoring style?
My goal is to always let the other person know that I have their best interests at heart. I’ve had mentors who were trying to create “mini-me’s” or versions of themselves. The best mentors want to understand your goals and aspirations, then help you plan a course to achieve them. My hope is that I’ve been a good listener and even better at encouragement to bring out the best in others.