By Chuck Lauer
I think most of us have achieved a measure of success in our lives. But too often with our success comes a state of amnesia and we forget those who helped us up the ladder.
Most of us are very busy people and we have lots to do on a day-to-day basis. With all that we have to do, it is easy to forget those who have taken the time to mentor us. I am speaking about those individuals who took an interest in our careers and helped us get over seemingly insurmountable obstacles that came at us out of nowhere. It may have been a boss or even a senior colleague who offered a helping hand. Nobody but nobody can succeed in any endeavor unless they have been lucky enough to have one or two or even three mentors that have given their time to help.
All of us remember teachers and coaches who not only helped us, but also inspired us to do things that were beyond our own expectations for ourselves. There are all kinds of mentors in your life but the one common denominator is the fact they took an interest in you and that's the point.
Now the reality is that many people simply aren't interested in being mentors. They are so caught up in their own duties, they just don't feel they have the time to work with others and help them do a better job. I have been incredibly lucky to have had a number of wonderful mentors who taught me the ropes as I went about my career.
For instance, when I became the publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine in 1976, my immediate boss was a senior vice-president at Crain Communications, Inc. called David J Cleary. Crain had purchased Modern Healthcare from the great business-to-business publishing house, McGraw-Hill. Crain hired me in hopes I could somehow get the magazine back on viable financial footing, as the publication had many problems. It had lost a lot of advertising clients, the editorial direction was confused and staff morale was very low. I had to move quickly to get the magazine back on track and with the help of David Cleary, within four years I was able to turn a profit with a magazine which had all but been declared dead by its previous owner.
David Cleary had responsibility for a number of other Crain publications but he was unselfish with the time he spent with me in making Modern Healthcare a success. When he retired in the 1980s, I made sure he knew how much I appreciated his help and I made sure I stayed in touch with him virtually up to the day he died. He had been a medic in the United States Army during World War II and saw plenty of action, and he was a true mentor to me during some tough years. As a matter of fact, without his help I am not sure I would have been able to make Modern Healthcare the successful magazine it became.
There are many Dave Clearys in the world, thank goodness; people who go out of their way to help us in our jobs. However, in recent years I have talked to many hospital CEOs who tell me they just don't have the time anymore to mentor their colleagues the way they were mentored.
On the other hand, there are some CEOs who do go out of their way to mentor their colleagues. They actually set a regular time each week to meet with three or four of their reports and talk about a variety of matters. When the CEOs tell me about these sessions, they say they are some of the most meaningful and productive meetings they have. They often use the word fulfillment to express their feelings and they fully enjoy the benefit of those discussions. They also tell me sometimes how they were mentored by the person they succeeded. When they do, they give testimony to the fact that without the mentoring they received, they may have not been able to succeed.
So what is the point of all this? It is as simple as this: I think a lot of people have gone out of their way to help us, and I wonder if we are just too busy to tell someone how much their advice and counsel meant to us at one time or another. There is no greater reward than having someone come up to you and say thank you for all you've done for their career. Thanking people for their efforts on your behalf is a sign of grace and just plain good manners. Give it a try and see how much better you feel.