Blog post

Reaching Back

19 July 2018

We frequently talk about the need to “pay it forward” in the workplace and in life at large. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to invest our time, talents and (hopefully) our wisdom into our mentees so they can seek to become all they were created to be.

In addition to paying it forward, have you ever considered the importance of reaching back and expressing your gratitude to those who invested in “your” growth and development?

I recently was meeting with a mentee, and we had a delightful conversation regarding her career aspirations and strategy for her advancement. After we talked about her professional roadmap, she shared she recently had an opportunity to thank her mother for the sacrifices she had made as she supported her daughter’s growth and development.

This conversation made me long to turn back the hands of time and talk once more with my parents, both of whom are deceased. To my mother, I would thank her for being a role model of kindness, encouragement and compassion. To my father who was an attorney, if only I could find a way to see him try a case in court. And, I would ask him to share all he experienced as he advocated for Equal Rights at the pinnacle of racial unrest in Mississippi in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. Regrettably, my father passed away before I had a full understanding of the courage he displayed as he assumed a high profile, high-risk role in advocating for respect for all people without regard to their ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status.

Because of the lessons I learned from my parents, I seized the opportunity to honor them by dedicating Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before to their memory. Clearly, they were incredible role models of several of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership.

Writing Gracious Leadership also afforded me an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of other mentors who shaped me into the leader I have become. As I reflected upon all I had gleaned, I reminisced about four individuals in particular who had a pivotal impact upon my professional journey. And, I decided to honor them by sharing within my book the profound impact they each had upon my career.

As I contacted these individuals to describe my intent, each leader displayed abundant humility as they learned what I wanted to share. It gave me such joy to have the opportunity to thank them for believing in my potential and for taking a chance on me as I traversed the professional pathways I was meant to follow.

As a leader, I am confident you will pay it forward as you seek to help your mentees realize their full potential. While we can all readily agree that life and work are busy, and there are never enough hours in any day, I challenge you to be purposeful in reaching back and thanking those very special individuals who believed in you and who inspired you to be all you were created to be! Start reaching back today! You’ll be so glad that you did!


  • Eleanor

    July 20, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Great post, Janet. When I graduated from Otterbein a few years ago, I sent notes of appreciation to people who had supported and encouraged me along the journey. Not only did it help me pause in loving gratitude, but several of them told me how good it made them feel to receive the note. No-one succeeds alone!

    1. graciousadmin

      July 20, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Thank you, Eleanor. I’m sure they were delighted to hear your expressions of gratitude. I have found that my mentors have made a far greater impact on my life than they ever realized. Saying “Thank you” provides such joy to the recipients of expressed appreciation as well as to the individuals who extend it! Priceless!

  • Joe Chornyak

    July 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Great insight! It made me reflect back on the eulogy that I prepared and gave at the funeral service when my Mom passed away in 1995. I shared several stories about her and the many lessons that she taught me that have molded me into the person that I am today. While the eulogy allowed me to honor her, I only wish that I would have shared many of those feelings with her before her passing. It makes me think that I should consider writing a few eulogies now and sharing my thoughts and gratitude with a few people while they’re still alive. Thank you for getting me to think about this.


    1. graciousadmin

      July 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you, Joe. I have to believe our parents know the positive difference they made in our lives. Yes, if only we could turn back the hands of time!

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