By Brett Cafferty

Recently, we’ve spent time with younger folks who are early in their careers. The benefits of mentor guidance in their “adult” jobs came up. Recalling a few of my own experiences, two significant but very different outcomes came to mind…

One of my first bosses (who actually fired me once!) did a great service by challenging me to meet raised expectations, and when I was not taking my responsibilities seriously (a rebellious teen at this point), let me go from his employment. At the time, I was hurt, angry, insulted, and a bit panicked without a job. In retrospect, it was a well deserved and a necessary lesson I needed to learn. 

This was not a coaching or mentoring role, just a blue-collar business owner working 12-hour days with plenty of daily challenges. While being tough and having high expectations, he cared. At that age, I had no idea of the benefit or learning that was taking place, but I was being coached daily. Decades later, the lessons still resonate and mean a great deal.

Another example happened 20 years later. I was in management of a small company. The owner (another good mentor) sold to an investor group, and I then reported to a new CEO. This individual came from a national retail background, was well respected, and an active leader in the community. All was generally okay until accounting entries were changed to affect financial reports in order to look good for board meetings. I expressed concern and was met with the explanation that this was a “common practice” and we would correct it later.

This CEO prided himself as a “mentor” of young executives, and although I did learn a bit about relevant business matters, there were some hard lessons and disappointments involving trust, ethics, and major decisions that affected our operations and financial position. Over time, the differences of our “operating philosophy” were magnified, and after a battling for several years, I chose to step out.

My reason for sharing these experiences is to underscore the importance and responsibility placed on those in positions of mentoring and influencing others – whether in a formal role or as a coach, manager, co-worker, or trusted family friend. The words and actions demonstrated can be so much more significant than we realize, and the impact – positive or negative – can have long term influence. Mentoring is a privilege and very important role to fill in the lives of others. There is a tremendous amount of good wisdom out there – and it needs to be shared!