Kevin Rigby’s 2013 Honorable Mentor speech

Kevin Rigby
Kevin Rigby
HBA 2013 Honorable Mentor

Good afternoon everyone! David, thank you for those generous remarks and for being such a strong mentor and role model for me and so many of us at Novartis. I also want to acknowledge our US pharma head and country president, Andre Wyss for all his support, guidance and leadership … and for nominating me.

And my sincere thanks to the HBA for this award, which I appreciate very much. And, congratulations to the HBA for the difference you have made since being formed in 1979, by five professional women who realized the enormous power of sharing, developing and mentoring each other. The fact that HBA now has nearly 7,000 members and over 100 corporate partners…is proof of how wise those five founders were.

I would say it’s also proof that mentoring still works. I know this first-hand. Without my mentors, I absolutely would not be standing here today. I have been blessed with many mentors. But three in particular greatly shaped my life. The first who touched me deeply was someone I came to know when I became the new mayor of River Edge, New Jersey. His name was Ron Hardiman, a council member from a different political party. As a brand new mayor, I had a lot I wanted to do, a lot of ideas I wanted to implement… right away.

But Ron shared with me that to be successful, never lose my sense of humor and most importantly, listen. Listen to what others are saying. Listen to what’s on their minds. As obvious as that may be, it was an incredible insight to me. That the best way to influence someone is actually by listening to and hearing what really matters to them.

Suddenly I understood that truly listening to someone was an important way to begin understanding the best steps forward in almost any situation–by truly listening, we both get to sort through and hear what the right path ahead should be. I have found that most individuals I have mentored already knew somewhere inside themselves what they actually needed to do. Over the years, listening to my mentees has been the most effective way to help them better understand and resolve their issues –so thank you Ron!

My second great mentor was Senator Bill Bradley, for whom I served as state director and ultimately chief of staff. One day when a multitude of issues were hitting all at once, and I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, the Senator looked at me and said, “You really don’t know how good you can be.” The Senator’s belief in me, the fact that he saw so much potential in me, and the fact that I’d come to know he was genuine and always said what he meant gave me the confidence to believe more of my own potential. That was a first-hand lesson in the power of someone’s belief.

When I mentor anyone today, I try to highlight the strengths I see, strengths that they may not see in themselves. A mentor who inspires self-confidence can help another achieve heights that they never dreamed possible.

But, a mentor must always be honest and authentic, which can mean expressing a truth that the mentee might prefer not to hear. I strive to be as truthful and real as possible. I have found that feedback, if shared with sincerity, will often be embraced and valued.

My third mentor was my son, Dan. At age 21, while a senior at Georgetown University, he passed away in an off-campus fire. His awards and trophies are now packed away. But what has endured is the impact he had on others. So many people came up to our family when we lost Dan. They still do, even to this day, letting us know how he touched their lives. They tell us what it meant that he believed in them, how he helped them confront a challenge, at home, at school or in life.

The effect my son had on others … taught me an important lesson. It’s not the titles, promotions or accolades that matter in the long run. Of far greater meaning is the impact we can have on others. Mentoring allows us that privilege–the ability to have a lasting, positive impact on someone else’s life.

At Novartis, I am very fortunate to be part of a work environment where mentoring is encouraged, valued and recognized.  Having here today, both Meryl Zausner,  our US Country CFO and former Woman of the Year and David Epstein, who you just heard from who was also a previous winner of this prestigious mentoring award, is an honor in itself.

And to those I have mentored, many of whom are here, I sincerely offer my thanks. You allowed me the privilege of getting to know you and the opportunity to impact your work or life. The magic of being a mentor is the people we meet and what we receive from them in return.

I’d like to congratulate Bridgette Heller on her Woman of the Year distinction , along with all of our Rising Stars  on the dais, particularly Lisa Deschamps and Liz McGee of Novartis. It’s obvious that each of you knows the importance of making contributions, not only to business success, but to the lives and the futures of others.

I close with a challenge to you: are you building and supporting a mentoring culture? To the men in the audience: are you mentoring the many incredibly talented women in your organization who would benefit from your mentorship? The only way to truly achieve a company’s full potential is by actively developing the potential of its people. I am confident that the time you devote to mentoring will be returned multi-fold, or your companies, your people, and you. The ultimate benefit of mentoring is not only to make your companies more successful, as you elevate the performance of your associates. It will also establish a legacy that is personal to you: making a real difference in someone else’s life.

Now before I close there is one very special person I want to recognize. Someone who has made an incredible difference in my life, and who I consider my number one mentor and best friend–my wife, Mary. I can’t thank you enough, Mary, for your patience, guidance, love and support over our many years together.

Once again, HBA –I thank you for this award. I salute you for all you do toward the development and advancement of women …which is the advancement of us all.

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