Education: BS, Business and Psychology, Nebraska Wesleyan University; MS, Organizational Psychology, University of Nebraska.

First Job: I was a cashier at our family grocery store

What I'm Reading: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

My Philosophy: If you can make a difference in the life of at least one person, then your life will not have been in vain. At the end of the day, it’s really not about you; it’s about the relationships that you build or don’t build. Live life as if “Failure is not an option.” This means that you never fail because you learn and grow from what others may call failure. Learn to adjust, adapt and overcome. The Apostle Paul said it best, “All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Family: Husband; three sons.

Interests: Singing, acting, reading, adventurous activities.

Favorite Charities: Aflac Cancer Center; American Cancer Society


Laree Daniel 

Senior Vice President of the Customer Assurance Organization

award winner

Mentoring is widely accepted in the business world; however, its roots have evolved. I believe people often serve as a mentor without ever knowing it. A mentor is essentially a teacher or coach.

The most impactful mentors in my life are my parents. They guided me and have been a tremendous influence. The phrases—”The only failure is to fail to try,” “nothing to it, but to do it,” and “Big girls don’t cry.”—are imprinted in my mind. I learned how to lead and how to be a team player as my dad worked countless hours managing his business and my mom filled in the gaps.

While my career has taken many turns, from a cashier to the assembly line— deboning chicken and packing boxes of cereal—i accepted a service representative position at an insurance company to take advantage of its tuition reimbursement program. I truly believed that I would leave once I attained my master’s degree. Eighteen years later, having reached the executive suite, it’s clear that decision was pivotal for my career.

I enjoy applying my mentoring philosophy to help others realize and achieve their goals. As a coach to fellow associates, I’m honored to guide future leaders to advance in their careers. Also, at church, I mentor youth in spiritual values, life style choices and skills.

Balancing career and a child with cancer proved to be one of my greatest challenges. When my son was diagnosed with a tumor at age two, I had to learn how to get my priorities straight in terms of what matters most in life: God, family, career. I managed to find common ground—a balance between my commitments at work and home.

Here are a few lessons that have kept me on track:

  • Volunteer. Give back to your community through church or nonprofit organizations. You can gain valuable, transferable skills through volunteer efforts.
  • Develop people. Build effective teams by bringing out the best in people and helping them to be their best.

I believe that positive reinforcement is the most powerful management tool. I encourage managers to hire people that excel in ways that they don’t.

A mentoring relationship allows you to assist someone in getting answers and direction by allowing them to reach their own conclusions. Most of the time people have the answer, but need confirmation, prompting, or someone to hold them accountable.