For most of her career, Mary B. Lucas, Chief Talent Officer of Supplemental Health Care and author of Lunchmeat and Life Lessons: Sharing a Butcher’s Wisdom, has been in the people business. Yet, when she was offered her first full-time, corporate job right out of college, she didn’t quite see it that way.

“So, there I am 22 years old, completely full of myself, college graduate, and I get a job offer to work as a recruiter for ADIA personnel. And I started squealing, ‘I got the job!’ and [my father] called me over to his butcher block table, which was the gathering place in our family home, and he said, ‘You got that job you wanted – you’re going into the people business.’ And I rolled my eyes into my head, and I said, ‘No Dad, I’m going into the staffing industry.’ He looked at me, and he said, ‘Get out of your own way, girl. You’re going into the people business.’”

Mary says her father further explained that everyone is in the people business regardless of their role. The most important thing, he told Mary, was to make meaningful connections to the people around you, one person at a time. If she could achieve that, he said, she would be successful.

And though it took Mary many years to fully absorb the weight of the message and the advice her father shared, she credits him for helping her understand how to approach her colleagues, managers and relationships in order to develop successful collaborations, long-lasting support and loyalty—valuable traits one needs in the staffing industry.

The Power of Comeback Sauce

Being in the people business can be a challenge for even the most-seasoned veteran. Mary believes that those early career lessons courtesy of her father gave her an advantage and helped shape the leader she’s become today. Mary’s father instilled in her the idea to leave everyone a little bit better off because of their interaction with you. Her father used to call this the “comeback sauce”, the impression you leave on others.

Mary tells Leslie that there’s a specific recipe for comeback sauce. “It’s one part recognition, it’s one part connection, and you add a dose of the unexpected,” she said. “What’s important to you isn’t important to someone else, but you have to think about what’s important to this individual, and how do I make the most powerful and meaningful connection with them, that will leave a lasting impression?” By keeping the idea of comeback sauce at the forefront of her career, Mary has been able to forge long-lasting connections with those she’s met in the industry and has seen those relationships transform and deepen over time. Despite many mergers, acquisitions, role changes and organizational shifts, the world of staffing remains a tight-knit community and Mary says that through all of the ups and downs, “You realize what other people can bring to you to help you be better.”

Does Gender Affect Success Rate?

Mary is also a well-known executive coach and has provided leadership advice to both men and women over the years. Leslie challenged Mary on the differences between what success may look like for a man versus a woman, especially when it comes to promotions. Mary firmly believes that there’s no real difference in qualities one must possess in order to achieve success, but rather, how one approaches their career progression. “Make sure you’ve connected really well with your peers and that they know, and are aware of what you’re doing and that you’re supporting them along the way, so you have the respect and admiration of your peers. All of those things will be keys to your success, and I really don’t think that’s any different between a man and a woman,” she said.

Finding the Like

Mary is a firm believer in “finding the like” when it comes to interacting with one another. Simply by making small shifts in your mindset, you can really shift your perceptions. Mary says, “Ask questions that bring out the best in people. You bring out the best in people and all of a sudden, your perspective about them changes. It’s life changing when you start looking at what’s right with people instead of what’s wrong with people and you stop being negative about someone.”

By approaching relationships and work this way, your entire career trajectory can change. If you stay in the positive and focus on how to make things work, magic can happen. Big ideas can come to fruition. And if you’re not finding success, you can shift gears and set your sights on another path. After all, staffing and recruiting are all about people. It’s the people business no matter how you slice it and if you don’t understand that early on in your career, you may be in the wrong industry.

Tune into this very special episode to learn more about Mary’s book, her passions and why making mistakes is vital to success.