The people who influence our careers

Sep 24, 2023

These are some of the characteristics of people who bring out the best in us and steer us to the “right path” for business and personal success.

I think anyone who is truly successful in their field – if they are honest – will admit that there were people they met along their journey who were very helpful to them. They didn’t just do it alone.

We often call these people “mentors,” but they don’t have to necessarily be all that. They could just be a really good boss or even a co-worker who helped steer us to the “right path” for business and personal success.

Let’s take a look at the characteristics of some of these people who bring or who have brought out the best in us:

  1. They can be brutally honest with you. At Zweig Group, we give out an award every year to someone in the AEC business who has exemplified courage in leadership – the Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award. Jerry Allen was one of those people who really helped me in my career. Jerry could (and would) absolutely rip you down one side and then down the other, and you still didn’t feel terrible afterward. That’s because he gave you the feedback you needed even if it was negative, but did it in such a way that you knew it was out of love. I learned so much from him about how to act and deal with people because of his honesty and care.
  2. They make time for you. Look – we are all beyond busy with a million problems and responsibilities. There is probably never a good time to stop and talk with someone who needs feedback, encouragement, or advice. But the people who bring out the best in us will take that time, no matter what, to help us with no expectations at all from us to do anything other than listen to them. Time shows care.
  3. They teach you specific skills. My first boss post-grad school, Michael Latas, taught me the discipline of selling. If not for him I don’t know that I ever would have learned the idea that activity has to precede results. It really was all about probabilities and making them work in your favor. If you made enough calls, set up enough meetings, and wrote enough proposals, you would probably sell what you set out to sell. This knowledge helped me be successful through the next 40 years of my career. It was a very specific skill that was taught to me. And he wasn’t the only one – there were others along with way who taught me things I never could have succeeded without knowing.
  4. They connect you with other people. Again – in a completely non-transactional way – these people will introduce you to people who may buy from you, people who can give you information you need, people who could have a job for you, people who can clear a roadblock out of the way for you, and people you may want to hire. They are natural connectors. Any one of these connection opportunities could be one that sets your career on a new trajectory. How valuable is that?

How can we find these people who are practically angels in our lives? I think it is up to us as individuals. We have to invest time ourselves in building relationships. That means we need to help out when we can. We have to demonstrate we are worthy of their love and care. We need to ask them for feedback and listen with an open mind when they give it to us. We need to go to bat for them behind the scenes when there is nothing in it for us. And we need to prove we are taking their advice through our own actions. If we do these things, we will bring out the best in them – just as they bring out the best in us! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.