As the Chief Community Officer for Comerica Bank, Irvin Ashford, Jr., oversees community reinvestment nationally and all associated activities; including development, lending, community investments, volunteerism and data analysis. Additionally, Ashford leads Comerica’s diversity business resource groups.

For the past 22 years, I’ve been fortunate to hold various roles with increasing scope and responsibility at Comerica Bank. My team’s dedication to helping others and our passion for uplifting underestimated businesses and communities has been the cornerstone of our success.

Early in my career, I spent a lot of hours serving in the community whether it be coaching Special Olympics or teaching financial education on the weekends. I often brought my children along with me. Although I was happy, we got to serve as a family, I now realize that should have been time reserved solely for my children and their activities.

However, as I matured and advanced in my career I began to live by the motto: family, community and corporation / work, in that order. I still may not have the ideal work-life balance ratio, but I have learned to budget my time more efficiently. So, that would be my first piece of advice for young professionals looking to climb the corporate ladder because you certainly cannot pour from an empty cup. Spending time with my family is most fulfilling to me and I find that I am a better leader when I prioritize my loved ones. And I encourage my team to do the same.

Over the years, there are many lessons I have learned, but here are a few additional tips that may help aspiring
executives achieve their goals.

  • Assemble an informal board of directors of “Self, Inc.” These are individuals who will keep you grounded
    and be transparent with you regardless of the circumstances or outcome. These advisors should be well-positioned to help you navigate career and life decisions.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses, because this will allow you to leverage your assets and produce
    tangible results while developing your personal brand. When presenting your authentic self, you must be aware of your audience and the environment because as the adage goes, “people’s perception becomes their reality.” We often work hard to sell the dream without effectively executing the strategy. Talk is good, but results are better.
  •  My father always told me “do not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.” This correlates with enjoying the ride going up to the top knowing that there will be people standing in line waiting to see if you will fail – and, you will experience the valleys. But you also can show how resilient you are by rebounding from setbacks.
  • Be well read, you can never read or research enough, but then engage your team to make decisions to ensure that what you have comprehended and studied is applicable to a specific real-life situation and/or a feasible solution to said problem.
  • And, lastly, when it is your time to leave – leave, do not overstay your welcome. Everything has a shelf life; the trick is to know when and enjoy the new journey.
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