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Leadership insights: Deloitte’s Sandy Cockrell

I created a UNC Kenan-Flagler fellowship out of my deep passion for this great University and Business School. Three important themes served as the foundation for this passion, which has only grown stronger since my own graduation in 1982.

  • Passion for the precious time I spent here in Chapel Hill. Enjoy every day here – your time is fleeting.
  • Passion for the talent that was attracted to this great place. You will have few opportunities in the future to be surrounded by such a gifted cohort of your peers.
  • Passion for the relationships I was able to build. Many of you will move forward and accomplish truly great things – and the relationships you formed at Carolina will be part of your story.

As you transition into the professional and corporate world, these themes – time, talent and relationships – will also apply to you.

Time: This might be your most precious resource. You must learn to guard it and use it wisely – you will never get it back. Research we’ve done at Deloitte tells us this is the big surprise for people as they transition into new roles.

Talent: It will not be long until you make decisions on the talent that surrounds you. Be discriminating – you will never be any better than the average of the teams you lead. The most significant regret of leaders is that they did not move quickly enough to get the right talent in the right positions.

Sandy Cockrell (BSBA '82) with his fellowship recipient Kelley Sweeney (MAC '15).

Sandy Cockrell (BSBA ’82) with his fellowship recipient Kelley Sweeney (MAC ’15).

Relationships: Be strategic about identifying, developing and nurturing those key relationships that will help you grow and be successful. These go beyond the standard relationships – counselors, mentors, coaches, etc. – which will be available to you. They are all necessary and important, but seek out role and people outside of your day-to-day universe – that is where you will learn the secrets.

At Deloitte, we did research involving some of the woman CFOs in the Fortune 500. Without prompting, every one of them said they had someone who really made a difference in their careers: A sponsor. That’s a role that you never hear in traditional corporate lingo – but it works. I continue to encourage my two daughters to find their own sponsors.

At Deloitte, we have used these three principles – time, talent and relationships – to effectively support the transition of over 700 executives in many of the world’s largest companies. And these same principles also apply to soon-to-be business school graduates.

Plan ahead: Developing and executing your five year plan will help you navigate your future and accelerate your success.

To create your five year plan, determine where you want to be personally and professionally. Write it down, then review and update it every year. This will help you decide which doors to keep open, which doors to open up and, sometimes most importantly, which doors to close.

Congratulations soon-to-be UNC Kenan-Flagler graduates on all that you have achieved. You have a great foundation upon which to build your future.

Sanford “Sandy” A. Cockrell III (BSBA ’82), a global leader and U.S. national managing partner for the CFO Program at Deloitte, LLP, established the Sanford A. Cockrell III/Deloitte Scholars Fund – a fellowship for the Master of Accounting Program. He spoke to a crowd of more than 220 people – including more than 150 student scholarship and fellowship recipients, donors, faculty and staff – at the 2015 Donors & Scholars Celebration, where he shared his advice for business school grads and spoke of his strong connection to the Business School.