From her success in the financial sector to her independent entrepreneurship, Rita P. Mitchell has collected anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom that she’s doling out in her empowering book, Own Your Phenomenal Self: A Guide on Character, Success, and Leadership. Through it, the founder of Mitchell Financial Inc. and retired Executive Vice President and Manager of Private Client Services for Middle Tennessee at First Tennessee Bank (now First Horizon) teaches us how to excel in leadership and maintain confidence in the workplace, even in the face of corporate politics. Living her own phenomenal life, she’s using her “retirement” to find joy and encourage the rest of us to do the same — particularly in the corporate environment. Please welcome our newest FACE of Nashville: Rita P. Mitchell.
How do you feel you’ve pushed past corporate politics to become successful?
Being a Black female in financial services, I was almost always the only one. You have to own your craft, be the best at what you do, and stay focused on your endgame and goals. You have to figure out how to maneuver in a corporate environment, which [encompasses] a lot of different things, beginning with being true to yourself, doing the right thing, and knowing your goals and objectives. Where do you see yourself three to five years from now? What skills do you lack to get that done? You have to raise your hand and expect success, and if you don’t get it, then you pack your marbles and do the next thing because you know where you’re going.
You’re the only person who controls your success and journey. When you own it, you begin to realize that you’re the author of your own dreams; you’re the player pushing the chess pieces around. So, what are you going to do to move forward? Politics work until they don’t, so when the music stops, you want to make sure you still have a chair. You can’t lean into politics; you’ve got to stand strong on your own skill and merit.
What inspired your book?
My career has always been in financial services, whether as an investment advisor or in leadership. After 40 years, I retired in June of 2018, and I knew that I really wanted to write a book — a short book like Who Moved My Cheese? When I read that [book] in 1986 or 1987, it made me stop and think. It was a little bitty book, but it changed how I thought. I wanted to write a book that’s short, helpful and makes you stop and think about your career — to make some changes and have some ownership. The book is called Own Your Phenomenal Self, and it’s about character, success, and leadership. In it are takeaways of what I’ve learned in these 40 years. It’s for young women, between 25 and 40, who are struggling in a corporate environment for whatever reason. I think of it as a pocket mentor.
What does living a phenomenal life mean to you?
It means that you’re anchored in your true north. You know your purpose, passion, and [what it means to live] a life as your best self. It’s about knowing what makes you joyful and happy, and it’s about being willing to do the work to get that — whether that’s income, a different work environment or travel. There’s no change without change. If you know what makes you happy and don’t have it, then something has to change, and the ownership of that change is you. To own your own phenomenal self, you first have to know that you are phenomenal.
You do a lot of public speaking. What do you feel resonates most with audiences?
I think what resonates is my journey and how it applies to people’s success. Leadership is a natural progression from having success because success doesn’t happen in the dark, in the corner, in a booth. When you have a high level of success, you’re on stage, on a chart, traveling to a conference, or getting a trophy. Wherever you are, people see that you have success, so you’re either going to be a leader because you’re formally choosing to lead or not. If you’re a young leader beginning that journey, what are you going to have to tackle? What should you know, and how do you manage people? If you’re on the other [side of the] spectrum, are you in the place that you want to be? If not, why?
You work with your daughter. What prompted the two of you to join forces?
I only have one daughter, and we’ve always been very close. She has her own fabulous corporate career, and when I started to write, a lot of it came from her struggling in a corporate environment. She had some real challenges at her last job because she was a young manager. As we talked, she was like, “That needs to go in the book!” So, we really collaborated on it. She has an international MBA in marketing, so it’s a natural collaboration. During COVID, we actually started writing a cookbook together, too. We were always in business together, whether formal or informal!
Is there anyone who has mentored or inspired you?
Margaret Behm. She’s a partner with Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella. I’ve known Margaret for over 30 years, and she and another attorney started the first woman-led law firm here in Nashville. Margaret has always been a person that I’ve looked up to. She’s been my go-to on career decisions, and she pushes me. She’s also been there when I was possibly making decisions that weren’t really going to fit. She’s someone I can go to that has great success, passion, and purpose. She knows exactly what she wants, and she does the work.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask for what you want. At the beginning of my career, I never felt ready. As women, we think we have to know everything to be ready. But what’s the worst thing that can happen? You’ve got to be ready for the opportunity, but you also have to raise your hand. If you want it, then ask for it. If you don’t get it, then figure out why and do the work.
Outside of faith, family, and friends, what are three things that you can’t live without?
Travel, cooking, and living a joyful life. I do a lot of things — I golf and swim; I love the water and boating. There are so many things, but all of them make for a joyful life.
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