The Ethical Edge
The Art of Integrity
Rite of Mentoring
Executive, Author, Mentor
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists,
when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say:
We did it ourselves.”
Ken was a manager at General Electric when he hired me to work as a computer engineer. I was 22 and had not experienced a mentor outside of my family and teachers. He undertook mentoring me from both a business and a personal perspective. He asked important questions and was a focused listener. Without ever demanding, but always suggesting, he guided my professional career. My career launched quickly and I was soon managing others. He shared his professional network with me and introduced me to other leaders.
He also offered suggestions for my personal life such as marriage, buying my first home, raising children, and finances. Ken was a true mentoring leader and took no credit for my successes – he humbly allowed me to stand on my own. He drew the best out of me and I am forever grateful for his indelible, positive affect in my life.
Ken also taught me how to mentor others. This became increasingly valuable with the many people who worked for me in different organizations throughout my career. I was equipped to be a good resource for them.
One of my mentees was a young man named Frank. He reported to me as a program manager when I was a senior vice president in a Fortune 500 corporation. Frank was particularly inquisitive and often asked for direction in his career.
My mentoring included asking him penetrating questions and then listening deeply to his concerns and ideas. I would offer him suggestions, ask him to reflect upon them, and more often than not he would adopt some of them.
Frank succeeded well in that company and was eventually promoted into a leadership role in that company, and in several other companies. In the same timeframe, he was challenged with a painful divorce. Considering my earlier, similar experience I could relate to his situation and offered my guidance. I took a personal interest in his life. We both ultimately left that company and moved our separate directions.
For many years afterward, Frank would call me for my counsel in his career in other corporations. I was able to help him with my network of professionals, my advice based upon my own experiences, and my interest in his career. I was gratified when Frank later told me how much I had added to his professional and personal successes.
“What goes around, comes around” has been true about mentoring in my life, both receiving it and giving it, and I am grateful.
This week’s article was contributed by Tom Zender