It was my first week in a new job, in a new city. I was selected to spend my first training week with the VP for the region. "Zink," -- for some reason all my bosses called me Zink -- he bellowed from the office door, "let's go!" I grabbed my faux leather portfolio overflowing with brochures and raced after him. Literally, raced. He was a tall man, with a huge stride. I am not tall and I was wearing 3-inch heels. As we crossed the street to his car, he bestowed upon me his central tenets of sales: always go to a sales call hungry (just make sure your stomach doesn't growl) and carry a great pen.
Believe it or not, almost 30 years later, I never eat before a call and you'll never catch me with a disposable pen.
Earl was my first mentor. Life insurance turned out not to be my calling, but the lessons I learned from Earl stayed with me.
My first national sales job was at General Media International. My boss was Jimmie Bob Martise. I thought I was hired as a marketing director. He taught me everyone in the company is a seller. Like Earl, Jimmie Bob, was more than a boss. He guided, advised and challenged me. He was also an amazing storyteller. A sales call with him was a sight to behold. The buyers were riveted. They signed on the dotted line to keep him in the room telling more stories! Jimmy Bob taught me to throw away PowerPoints and talk to your prospects!
I am blessed to have two more amazing mentors: Bob Berenson and Phil Pfeffer. They were (and still are) brilliant and powerful men with far better things to do than spend time with me. Yet they've spent almost 20 years guiding me through my career. They challenged me and kept me humble. Much of what I have achieved is due to the lessons I learned from my mentors.
I share all this because I am concerned that mentors are no longer sought or valued. Only a few of my peers regularly seek out counsel. None of the 30-somethings and younger I work with are even interested in being mentored. I'm sure there are exceptions out there, but I am disappointed and dismayed to see an invaluable resource for both individuals and businesses fading in importance.
The reasons are varied, but I feel they boil down to this: We've lost sight of the long view. Whether it's politics or business we don't seem to pay attention to history or value experience. We no longer plan; we react. We don't stop, breath and think anymore. We just do. In business we chase quarter-to-quarter results while completely missing the emergence of competition or technology that threaten the company's future.
Being mentored requires us to slow down, think, articulate our challenges and learn from experience. It also requires us to be humble. Humility isn't in abundance these days. Today, too many of us think we know it all.
We are facing huge challenges on all fronts. Our economy is stagnant. Our political discourse has devolved in to something unintelligible. Our position in the world is changing in ways that will have far reaching impact on our safety and our economy. Mentors are needed now, more than ever. I am convinced there are plenty of them out there. But we need to open our eyes and our minds to them.
I'd love your thoughts on why mentors aren't valued like they once were and how we can change that!
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