The mentor edge Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002

There is a Chinese saying, “When you drink the water, remember the source.” To remember the source of many of our finest qualities is to remember those who mentored us.

Akron Beacon Journal Vice President and Editor Janet Leach recalls the mentors who inspired her enthusiasm for leadership and passion for journalism. The dizzying pace of her daily executive duties is regularly infused with the lessons of her mentors.

As a rising star at the Cincinnati Enquirer, mentoring by people like her editor, Larry Beaupre, took the form of “bringing you into something you’ve never done before,” she says. Other mentors taught her the difference between leading and managing and the vital importance of thinking big.

Gender has been neither a barrier nor an issue in the quality of mentoring Leach continues to thrive on.

Mentoring crosses the boundaries of industries. Larry Parsons, CEO of Brewster-based Wheeling & Lake Erie Railways, provides for his succession leaders the same type of mentoring he receives from lifelong mentors such as octogenarian and railroad guru William Holtman, who spends a week every year getting Parsons’ business perspective on new tracks.

As an emerging mentor, Leach says good mentors are generous with their experience, have the ability for deep listening and demonstrate “an intuitive belief that this person will succeed.”

For Parsons, mentors give “a sense of direction and a presence you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

They subscribe to the philosophy that business growth depends on the growth of its leaders. Mentoring is not only an effective talent and knowledge retention strategy, it becomes a tool for growing the leadership that grows the business.

One of the more potent media for talent development is peer mentoring, a hot feature of The Executive Committee, known as TEC — the 47-year-old international association of local professional networks for executives.

According to Dennis Sabol, a TEC chairman in the greater Akron area, the committee provides resources to executives with robust personal, professional and business development agendas. Select executives in small local groups provide confidential and powerful peer mentoring.

TEC members trade probes, provocations, resources and support they might not get from their spouses, partners, accountants, or yes-saying staff. Sabol says members, who represents diverse levels of achievement, get direct value from deriving quality mindshare with their peers and mentors.

This is mentoring at its best: an effective accompaniment to the kinds of mentoring Leach and Parsons provide and enjoy.

Mentoring relationships can be just-in-time and ongoing. What seems clear — a lesson for wanna-be mentors — is that no one is a mentor on everything.

It takes a whole village of mentors to raise great leaders.

Jack Ricchiuto is a management consultant and author. He can be reached through his Web site at www.newpossibilities.net.