10 Self-Mentoring Ideas from Deborah Nixon
- Build a network of contacts who you can call on, and take the time to nurture those relationships.
- Your relationship with people is absolutely everything.
- Follow your passion. If you’re sensible about it, usually takes you to a really good place.
- If you come from a place of integrity, honour and humility people respond to that.
- Most of us can survive almost anything.
- You have to read your market very well, and be willing to change and adjust your offering because you cannot convince the market. The market is what the market is, and you have to be open to letting go.
- When we go into things, and we assume that what we’re trying to get out of something is what the other person wants to get out of it as well, we often do not check with the other person, we don’t question assumptions, and sometimes it’s wishful thinking because we want something so badly that we won’t look critically and won’t ask the tough questions.
- If you have resiliency it gets you really far in life.
- Integrity is all about what you do when nobody is looking.
- Pay attention to where things are going and read widely.
Invisible Mentor: Deborah Nixon, President/Founder
Company Name: Trust Learning Solutions, MyMoneyMindset
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Deborah Nixon: My area of specialization is working with leadership teams in organizations trying to build better relationships, conflict resolution, and actually to help them work more effectively together. I have another business which is quite interesting as well called My Money Mindset. I work with women helping them to look at psychological issues toward money.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Deborah Nixon: I don’t have a typical day. My life is driven by my clients. At some point in the day I will always be doing some writing. I will talk a lot to people – people are interested in talking about trust a lot and building relationships. And of course there is the other part of my life which of course is dealing with my 15 year old son and my lab. And so I try to structure my life around being a mother and doing my work.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Deborah Nixon: I stay motivated because I feel the work I do is really important to people. I know it makes a difference. Everyday I speak to people about my work and research. People keep on telling me how important it is for organizations to work hard in building trust and integrity into their operations, and into the way they deal with people. That really motivates me a lot.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Deborah Nixon: From a career perspective, if I started over from scratch, I would take a lot more risks and I would have followed my passion. I think what happened to us is that we get the messages about building careers, and climbing the corporate ladder. What I found in my career was people would often hit a wall at some point and they get to that inevitable midlife crisis, which sometimes comes earlier than midlife where they really question the meaning of what they are doing. I certainly did that along the way but looking back, I think the greatest satisfaction I got in my career was in my mid-thirties when I walked away from everything that I’d done before and started to do what was meaningful to me. I wish that I’d done that earlier and not be so worried about the implications. To follow your passion if you’re sensible about it, usually takes you to a really good place.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Deborah Nixon: I think my response aligns with my response to the previous question. It is about being true to who you are. You can’t fake it, and I believe that if you allow people to be the essence of who you really are, if you worried less about doing the “right” thing, and more about doing the right thing in the deepest sense of the world. If you come from a place of integrity, honour and humility people respond to that. You still may not get the sale or the deal but what you will have formed is a relationship built on respect and an enhanced reputation where people will remember you and somehow that pay-it-forward concept does come back to you.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
Deborah Nixon: I don’t know if they are threats, they are more like challenges. It’s how we interpret the situation, so I don’t see a lot of threats in my life because threat implies fear. The challenge in my work – the trust piece is important and people acknowledge how important it is – is that senior leadership often doesn’t want to do anything about it. The challenge is how to approach helping people to learn about building their reputation and integrity and trust with others and the organization without being afraid that it will expose them. I think most people work in trust, deep down they don’t believe they are trustworthy and are terrified that people will discover that. And that’s actually never the case, so the biggest challenge is to work around that. The way I deal with it is to not come into this topic in a direct way that unmasks anything. You have to create safe spaces for people to discover what they are about, so that’s my biggest challenge and it’s a big one.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Deborah Nixon: A lot of people say that they work in the trust space and employee engagement, but I think what’s unique is that I have a PhD in Trust from the University of Toronto, so I have spent 15 years researching and practicing in the area. My depth of knowledge is above a lot of other people in the area. One of the unique things I do is that I work both at the behaviour and attitude level so people will say to me, “Tell me about trust,” and I’ll come in and work with your teams about how to speak better to one another, how to respond to the elephant in the room issue, but I helped people to practice their skill, so they get an awareness by the time they leave the workshop, they know what their next step is and how to do it.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it. What kind of lessons did you learn in the process?
Deborah Nixon: My husband died 12 years ago when my son was two, and that was probably my biggest challenge because he was young – he was 37. My dad had died the year before, my mom was not alive. My husband had a business, I was at home with our son, and I was in the middle of my PhD. The biggest challenge that many of us face, just like in a divorce, your outlook is a bit soured and it’s a scary place to be because you have to rebuild life from the ground up. It’s not a question of resolution, but one of growth. I was terrified at the prospect of my husband dying and I was petrified and thought the world would end. How would I get up the next day? How would I manage? The really big lesson in that is the power of spirit and the incredible ability of people to not only survive from a tragedy but also to thrive, and I learned that it is truly possible. I know that most of us can survive almost anything.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Deborah Nixon: I don’t think I got a big break, nobody gave one to me. I’d learn from the hard knocks school. I got to where I am through persistence, resilience and really hard work. Every time I began a business it really was from the ground up, from my conceptual plan and vision. It was about working incredibly hard, getting out and networking, and building the case for what I had. I didn’t have a mentor, and I didn’t have anybody hand me a break. It would have been nice to have.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Deborah Nixon: I think my biggest failure came when I got my PhD and I developed two assessment tools in partnership with another company. I would say that conceptually the two tools were great, but they were a dud in the market. I think what I learned from it is that when you start a business, you have a project that is your baby. What I learned is that you have to let go of your personal connections to your concepts, ideas and to your business because it will take you to the edge of the cliff and over. Because I believed so much in my vision and my product, I think I was blind to what the market was telling me that there was no space in the market for the product as it was conceived. I thought if I worked harder I would convince people. What I’ve learned is that you have to read your market very well, and be willing to change and adjust your offering because you cannot convince the market. The market is what the market is and you have to be open to letting go.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Deborah Nixon: One of the toughest decisions I had to make was separate from my last business partner. It was tough because I had so much invested in the product and into that relationship so it was both personal and professional. It was very hard and stressful during that period, and it became very personal so it impacted me in that I thought we shared the vision. It was a great disappointment to me. It also impacted me positively in that it made me realize that we all have expectations when we go into things and we assume that what we’re trying to get out of something is what the other person wants to get out of it as well, and that we often do not check with the other person, we don’t question assumptions, and sometimes it’s wishful thinking because we want something so badly that we won’t look critically and won’t ask the tough questions. The experience made me a lot more realistic going into new ventures. Right upfront I will ask the difficult questions even if I don’t think I will like the answer I will still ask because we need to know.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- My husband’s death.
- My son’s birth.
- Getting my PhD.
Those were all life-changing events – two really positive and one very tragic but they shaped who I am today. They were very seminal events for me.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Deborah Nixon: It’s my son who is 15, I knew the risks of raising him on my own when he was two years old. A boy being raised in a single parent household with a mother at the helm is at risk in our society and he has turned out to be an unbelievable, incredible young man. I’m very proud of him.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Deborah Nixon: I really believe in mentoring, but I’m not sure I had mentors. And that’s why I try to mentor a lot of young women. I have people I admire and I have people who I ask their opinions. I did have people to turn to who guided me.
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from afar, in the capacity of an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Deborah Nixon: The most critical thing that I’ve learned is that your relationship with people is absolutely everything. When I was in executive search, I used to say to people, “I do not screen for your technical abilities, I really have very little interest in asking you about your greatest accomplishments.” I’m assuming that if you’re a director at a prestigious company, that you have competence. I’ve learned that it’s more important to focus on the people side of things.
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