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Share values not just data

by Matt Weilert, Fall 1994

Mentoring and the worthwhile business of strengthening social & professional alliances are excellent jumping-off points for each of us to understand the bottom-line results from the golden rule of the ’90’s and beyond, whether we're in the safety and health industry, quality, operations, finance, you name it. I'm not talking about the cynical “he who has the gold makes the rules” but rather the timeless good citizenship that fills volunteer rosters, makes a more cash-costly product the least expensive in the long run and builds a customer/client loyalty that cannot be bought at any price. If any of the above could benefit you or your company, read on.

Mentors help discern what matters most

What is my reason for coming to work each day? A workshop on “Motivating Employees” this morning at our local Chamber of Commerce covered that very question. At the other end of the spectrum, a print article from the Hanford Reach answering that question took me about another 45 seconds or so to find. Connie Eckard, a fellow Aggie and great mentor to me among many at the Energy Dept's Hanford site has invested in other people for much of his 62 years. He is a founding mentor in a semi-formal mentoring program at ICF Kaiser Hanford. Having shared dinner and shows with Connie and his wife Donna, I know Connie speaks from the heart when he says “Mentoring is easy when you love what you do. You want to share it, you have to ... At my age I know I'm not going to be the next vice-president of communications at [a major multi-national] so I'm free to make a contribution ... Share yourself, nothing else is more important.”

Where to Turn for Examples

So if mentorship is teaching and the best teaching is by example, where have I found my examples? First and foremost, my parents have been and remain fine examples of a family partnership and of fiscal planning, in fact, all of my paternal grandfather's surviving children are still married to the same person, are in touch with much of the family and are enjoying comfortable retirements. The Boy Scouts was another tremendous experience for me. Both my older brother and I are Eagle Scouts, and it has a lot to do with Jack Sutphen, for years the Troopmaster of Troop 489 of Austin, TX. Watching him and other men like him commit their weekends, time and energy to molding and shaping young boys into men makes the constant negative barrage the “outside world” feeds confused kids like I was, much less confusing. He deserves credit for instilling some work habits and basic business ethics, like the Scout Oath and Law, that still serve me today.

Mentors during my schooling could include a cast of hundreds, yet three stand out. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Schlief, (I never knew her first name, everyone my height called her that too!), lighted the lamp of learning that has never dimmed. Two of my high school teachers, Mrs. Cindy Gurka and Mrs. Martha Bell praised my writing and gave me a challenge to do more and better. A technical writing prize I won while at Texas A&M was due, in fair measure, to their efforts and encouragement.

Of all my time in the Navy, no single individual stands out more than (then Captain) Robert Pacek. The five “C’s” we teach in one of our seminars, Credibility, Confidence, Competence, Compassion and [giving] Credit are words that describe Bob Pacek. He was believable, understandable, human and available. I'll never forget the scene, during one of our Indian Ocean deployments, watching the Captain read Greek classics comfortably relaxed on his bridge command chair, pausing frequently to answer questions or attend to message traffic brought by crewmen. Under his command, retention soared, consistent discipline came from the top. Personally, I owe Bob Pacek in a big way for getting a juicy shore duty assignment as my last tour of duty!

My decision to enter the consulting field was nurtured over a period of years by a number of positive strokes and some corporate restructuring. A key mentor and a man in whom I repose a great amount of trust is Pat Bettin. Now in private practice, Pat and I met when we both worked for Battelle, he considerably higher up the company pecking order than I. The strength and clarity of Pat's vision for organizations to mature by developing “transformational leaders” is nothing short of compelling. Bill Perry really boosted my confidence, provided a needed springboard for ideas and an emotional catalyst when my fears were battling with my time management skills.

Women in business have an even more important reason to have a mentor and that means more important reasons to be one to others: you know that rightly or wrongly, your clothes, mannerisms and even voice hold the potential for boosting or barring your progress. Male mentors provide vital role models who give insights simply unavailable elsewhere. Remember, we're talking about what is, not what should be. If you have a mentor-protégée relationship with a senior woman, fantastic, if not, live and learn. Harvard Business Review has covered this in at least three articles ranging from 1978 to 1981.

Charlie Jones provides the best reasons to be a mentor I've yet come across in his slim but value-packed book Life is Tremendous. To be honest, I just read it two months ago; I wish I had woken up to the truths he shares for the industry professional a quarter-century years ago. Charlie says “The best ideas for my family come from my business and my church. The best ideas for my church come from my family and my business. And I've found the best ideas for my business come from my family and my church.” Today's career-concerned professional (and if you're not you should be!) could learn much from the man who's been a paper mentor to millions: Richard Bowles, author of What Color is Your Parachute.

Origins in the Odyssey

My life has been shaped by mentors, of every race, creed and color. Mr. Noah [Webster] tells us that mentorship derives from the epic Odyssey where Mentor was charged with advising Telemachus while Odysseus was off doing things to write home about. One dimension of my personal views on mentorship then, is fulfilling a charge, much like the ad campaign Canon cameras have “a symbol is a promise.” Mentorship can come from anywhere, even an advertising pitch. Some readers may remember “The Modern Little Red Hen” piece Pennwalt, Milliken and others considered informative and worthwhile enough to spend the price of full-page ads in national magazines some years back. There are at least five web addresses from which to read the full text.

Resources cited in this article

Hanford Reach, October 2, 1995, p. 2
Life is Tremendous [ISBN:  0-8423-2184-5, paper]
What Color is Your Parachute [ISBN:  0-89815-568-1, paper, -584-3, cloth]
Harvard Business Review on-line sources:
Beyond the Myth of the Perfect Mentor: Building a Network of Developmental Relationships
Much ado about mentors
and a print-only reference: “When the mentor is a man and the protégée is a woman”, LW Fitt and DA Newton, Mar-Apr 1981, pp. 56ff.

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