Until I met Emilie Liebhoff, I didn't have a real mentor. I never had a teacher that changed the course of my life or who truly nurtured me and took a long-term interest in my growth. I had plenty of great teachers and other influences in my life, but not that one person who jumped to mind immediately when I thought about mentors before Emilie.
I can safely say that I attribute much of my professional growth to her. I felt her belief in me from the moment she offered me the job to be program associate at the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, where at the time she was Deputy Director. I vividly remember nervously preparing to negotiate a bit before I accepted the offer (as an aside- whenever the subject of salary negotiation comes up I always like to share this book that profoundly changed the way I think about value and knowing your worth).
I remember speaking with Emilie on the phone and she shared with me that she was glad I was negotiating for myself--that she knew it was hard to do. She was giving me positive feedback and encouragement for advocating for myself, even as I was handling a job negotiation...with her! Who does that??
Emilie does. That's who.
It would be VERY easy for me to make the rest of this post an extensive list of Emilie's many virtues, as a person, friend, colleague, boss, mentor. However, doing that in a way that doesn't sound sappy and cliche would be much harder. Because Emilie really does possess all the qualities you could ask for in a mentor--she's caring, reassuring, encourages boldness and risk-taking. Her passion for helping raise confidence in girls and women emanates from her deep inside and extends to her fingertips and toes, which is inspiring to me and everyone she meets. She always looks for ways to help me grow professionally. When I first started working for her, she would regularly shoot me quick emails after team meetings, to let me know she thought I made a good point in the meeting, or she was impressed with how I carried myself in a particular situation. That kind of positive reinforcement led me to believe in myself more and the value I brought as an employee, which led to me taking on more challenges.
The paragraph above is not comprehensive. Because I know your time to read this post is limited.
But there's one quality Emilie has regularly exhibited that I feel strongly about sharing with you today. That's because I believe it is rare, powerful and does not get talked about enough in relation to leadership, management and mentorship.
Emilie understands that if you lift up your team members, everyone rises. Other people's successes inspire her, not threaten her. She has always encouraged me to tackle new challenges and when those have led to professional successes, she is the first person to be excited for me. She is my biggest champion.
And it's not just me. Everyone I know who has worked for or with her would attest to this about her.
And I can tell you another thing. There's NO WAY I would have had the confidence to take a risk and focus my energies these past two years into the uncertainty of growing a non-profit start-up, if it wasn't for Emilie and all her encouragement along the way. AND, I can tell you that I always told Emilie I would be most comfortable being deputy director with her as the executive director. But she believed in me and trusted me to step up to the front and lead an organization that means more to her than just about anything. I'm still catching up with my own belief in myself to be executive director but I know her belief in me has never wavered. And if that's not the sign of a true mentor, I don't know what is.
SO, Emilie--if you're reading this, THANK YOU. THANK YOU for believing in me, pushing me, empowering me. Thank you for being my mentor. For always making time for me, listening to me, caring about me. I couldn't be happier to be on this professional journey with you. And I hope with this crowd-funding campaign (donate here!), we can take Moms as Mentors® to the next level. If we don't, I know you'll still be there, helping to provide perspective, encouraging me to think big and dream big. And I know you'll be my cheerleader in whatever the future holds. If I'm lucky, my future holds many years of working closely with you.