When you’ve been mentored — when you’ve been really taught — by someone who is deeply invested in your success and well-being, your life is multifold in blessings.
One who mentors is someone who gives with no expectation of payback. In my experience, a mentor is large of heart and measured of ego. She’s kind, she’s funny, she’s a career fairy godmother.
And, today I have to write that she’s gone.
Because the mentor who profoundly affected me and my life, Anne Wexler, passed away on Friday. And in the days since, I’ve been reflecting on the gifts I received from her.
Anne was a remarkable woman. You can read more about her in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Yep, she was the kind of woman major newspapers cover. “She is easily the most influential female lobbyist in a world still dominated by men,” magazines said about her. Yet, she was also the kind of woman who never forgot that she had been an at-home mom who had completely reinvented her career in midlife.
I worked for Anne for five years. After my first maternity leave, I returned to the office to find that all of my peers had been promoted in my absence. I went into Anne’s office and said something like, “I see there have been some changes while I was out. Can I get my title changed, too?” Anne’s eyes twinkled, “And what title would you like?” I thought for a beat, “Queen?” Anne smiled, probably templed her fingers, and said, “That, my dear, is taken. What do you think of Senior Vice President?” I took it.
She went on. “Now, while you were gone there was no one here to take care of me. So, I want you to sit right there,” she pointed to an office outside her door, “and help me.” I began attending all of her meetings, and we’d discuss strategy, planning, personality. We construct, we’d revise, we’d hash things out.
I sat at the feet of the master. I soaked it up like a sponge.
And I learned so much about integrity — Anne’s client roster was solid gold with companies like AT&T, IBM, The Motion Picture Association, Comcast, and she never dumped a client for its better paying competitor, despite the lures of bigger money. Anne always kept her word, or she wouldn’t give it in the first place.
I learned about how to take care of people — she was so loyal to people who’d worked for her, and that loyalty was returned. During her recent campaign, Hillary Clinton praised Anne recalling how Anne gave Bill and Hillary their first jobs in politics. But it wasn’t just the famous people. Anne recognized talent where she found it, and had a prodigious memory. Which is why she could build such broad-based coalitions in support of her clients — she knew everyone, peon to President, and treated each person with respect.
But most of all, I learned how to be a strong, confident woman who uses her voice even when she’s the only woman in the room. Who uses her voice even in a room full of other women.
From Anne I learned more about how to be me.
Recently I was teaching a class for coaches on setting prices and valuing your service. I told an Anne Wexler anecdote, which I’ll share here. Anne once said to me, “Michele, if I can solve a billion dollar problem with one phone call, should I charge for the fifteen minutes of my time, or should I charge based on the value of the solution?” Well, when you put it that way…
My friend Kathy Korman Frey, founder of The Hot Mommas Project, is offering an upcoming Mentoring Workshop and says that “Mentoring and role models are the number one success factor for women.”
True. And I can trace my own success to having been “taken under the wing” of Anne Wexler. When I began my coaching business, I had lunch with Anne who asked me to explain coaching. After listening intently she said, “I think I’m a coach!” and I smiled and nodded. Because she was. Through and through. Another example of her leading the way for me.
And, given the gift I received, it’s imperative for me to pass it on. That’s why I mentor. Anne did. I will. Hope you will, too.
One hard task I’ll have today is removing Anne’s name from my newsletter list. See, she read these columns every week. She’d write to tell me what she liked, and what she thought. If you look in the forward to my book Lose Weight, Find Love, Declutter and Save Money, you’ll see I mentioned Anne. I referred to her there as “wise and kind” — small yet apt and powerful words. When I gave her a copy of the book, this woman who was on a first name basis with Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and Cabinet secretaries beamed.
And so did I.
Yes, it’s hard to imagine a world without Anne Wexler. But in many ways, I don’t really have to. Because the lessons she taught me, her mentoring mojo, endure. I am who I am in large part because she was who she was.
Rest in peace, dear friend.