GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: The Power of Mentorship
Richard Haggerty | October 18, 2021
As reported previously on Real Estate In-Depth, Gil Mercurio, the long-time CEO of this organization, passed away at the end of September. Gil had been my mentor for more than 30 years. His intelligence, humor, leadership instincts and generosity of spirit could not be matched. I experienced his generosity first hand at the very start of my tenure with what was then the Westchester County Board of Realtors.
I had “temped” at the Board for a couple of weeks when Gil brought me into his office to offer me a permanent position as Director of Member Services. I had been looking for a job in publishing in New York City for almost a year without success, so I jumped at the job. After receiving my first paycheck I promptly cashed it and went to Macy’s, then on the corner of Main Street and Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains, to buy a new suit. However, all of the cash in my wallet was stolen in the changing room when I was trying on the suit.
I went back to the office distressed and downhearted, and shared my tale of woe with Paulette Grogan who was the head of the accounting department. Unbeknownst to me Paulette shared my experience with Gil, and by the end of the day he had Paulette issue me another paycheck. Not only did Gil demonstrate true generosity, he also made me feel doubly committed to my job and the organization which had just hired me.
Perhaps the two most impactful mentors in my work life were Gil and Ann Garti, who retired earlier this year. Since Gil’s passing I’ve been reflecting on the power of mentorship. Webster’s defines mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” I think we should look at mentorship much more broadly.
In my estimation a mentor is not just an individual who offers sage advice and counsel. A mentor can be someone who just listens and serves as a sounding board. A mentor can be someone you don’t know well but who is in the right place at the right time and is willing to share their experiences. Most importantly, a true mentor is someone who can raise others up and help them succeed, a talent that both Gil and Ann possessed in abundance.
I also think that mentorship is a two-way relationship, with the mentor often gaining just as much wisdom as the mentee. In the past several months HGAR was lucky to hire Freddy Garcia as our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to mentor Freddy in the years to come, but I can tell you that Freddy has already introduced me to new perspectives and opportunities.
Ultimately, especially in our industry where knowledge and experience are so vital, each of us must be a mentor and mentee, knowing that we must be a teacher and a student at the same time, sharing our experiences and absorbing new information, and elevating our profession in doing so. That’s the true power of mentorship.