If you listen to some of the top business leaders out there, many of them will tell you about a mentor that they had rising through the ranks. For Bill Gates, it was Warren Buffett. For Jack Welch it was his mother. So what impact can mentors have?
I have had several in my career. Two of them have been involved since the beginning (literally), and a few just in the last decade:
- First my parents. My mother because she taught me about unconditional love, the value of relationships, and helped to teach me structure and how to be organized. Believe me, that was no easy task. My father because he was a business man and I thought he was brilliant when it came to negotiating deals, working hard, and learning your way into things. He actually let me come with him to business meetings and even brought me along for a legal deposition once. I was hooked.
- Perry Davis, my boss at Leggett and Platt taught me a lot as well. Not about marketing because he didn’t know SQUAT about that! (If he happens to read this he will laugh and agree I promise). But what he did teach me was how to measure every action because the ripple effect can directly impact many other things down the road. The other and more important lesson he passed on was how to approach your job with humility. (Yes, I’m still working on this one.) Perry had a big job at Leggett back then, and an even bigger one now. On one of my first trips with Perry we were staying at a condo in Colorado. Perry grabbed our luggage and I grabbed some of the other gear. Perry had placed my suitcase in the first room which was huge, featuring a king sized bed and its own bathroom. I figured that this condo had two master suites but I was wrong. I went to take Perry a beer and he was unpacking his stuff in a room with two twin sized beds. This guy is 6’7″ tall…are you kidding!? Just because you are a big deal, doesn’t mean you have to act like a big deal. I literally had to force him to swap me rooms.
- Karl Glassman was my other mentor at Leggett. Karl also didn’t know SQUAT about marketing but that’s because he and Perry both attended the Paul Hauser school of marketing; and FAILED! (If you know Paul, that last sentence is pretty funny.) Karl did however teach me how to lead people. In addition to Perry, he is also a very humble guy. When you allow people to do their job, encourage good behavior and don’t crucify people when they make a mistake, you can really get some great results. Karl is incredibly intelligent so you had better not try to BS him, but he knows that he is not always the smartest guy in the room and is happy to trust the guy that is on any given subject. He reminds me a lot of my own father and both of them are very generous in every way. You get more when you give.
I will always be grateful to these people that helped to shape my life and business career. The impact they have had on me will last a long time and hopefully benefit others that come into my circle. I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for their kind hearts and influence. Because of what others have given to me, I try very hard to be that to those that ask it of me. Another mentor of mine from a long time ago was Roxanne Stevens at Sealy who once told me that she thought that her most important job was to help me get better at mine. She did, and I hope to do the same for the people that look to me for help.
How about you? Do you have a mentor that made a big impact on you? Are there people in your universe that would look at you as their mentor? If not, I encourage you to be that to someone because you can usually learn just as much from them as they do from you.