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Monday Morning MentoringTen Lessons to Guide You Up the Ladder
By David Cottrell
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 David Cottrell
All right reserved.
The First Monday
Getting Past Splat
It was a rainy, gloomy day when I left home for my first meeting with Tony.
Frankly, I was somewhat cynical about whether meeting with Tony would change anything at work. At best, time with Tony would probably make me feel better about how things were going. I guess I really doubted he could do much to change how I managed. After all, I had worked for years for one of the best companies in the world and had been to numerous management-development sessions. To no one's surprise, however, the impact of these highly touted training sessions rarely lasted more than a short time.
I had to keep reminding myself that if things were great, I never would have called Tony in the first place. The truth was this: I was at a crossroads in my career. Deep down I knew something was going to have to change, one way or another. "Get with it," I chided myself. "Executives all over the country ask for Tony's counsel. You should consider yourself fortunate he has time for you."
We had agreed to meet at eight-thirty. Because of the rain, I drove into Tony's driveway at eight-forty. Tony was waiting for me at the door, looking as if hehad just stepped out of Gentlemen's Quarterly.
"Hello, Jeff, and welcome!" he said, extending his hand and pulling me toward him for a fatherly hug. "I am honored that you would take your time to come and see me."
Tony asked me to come in and gave me a quick tour. His home was incredible. It was large, with a warm ambiance. His wife had passed away a little over a year earlier, and he was proud to show me several pictures of them taken at locations all over the world. After the tour, he took me to his library, where he said we would be meeting each week.
There must have been more than a thousand books on his library shelves. I noticed several pictures of Tony standing with well-known business leaders whom I immediately recognized. Some of the pictures had been taken in the library where I was sitting. I must admit, I was a little intimidated.
After several minutes of catching up, he said it was time to get down to business.
"Your time is valuable, Jeff," he began, "so I think we need to set some ground rules if we're going to make the best use of our meetings. "With that in mind, I took the liberty of drawing these up while I was thinking about our sessions. See what you think."
He pushed a handwritten note across the table that listed three simple rules:
Ground Rules for Monday Morning Meetings
Start and finish on time.
Tell the truth.
Try something different.
Simple enough, I thought. I can live with those rules. Then I looked at Tony. "I can handle these. Let's get going."
"Okay then," Tony said. "Tell me what brings you here after all this time."
For the next hour, I did the talking, and Tony listened without saying much.
I began with my college graduation, the last time we had spoken to each other. I had been so excited about the future. Like most grads, I felt nothing could keep me from being successful. I was educated, energetic, and full of optimism.
For the first few years of my career, success came easily and promotions were rapid. I worked in sales for one of the most respected technology-manufacturing companies in the world. Then I was promoted into management -- my first big break -- and I loved it. Business was good. I went on great trips. I was involved in making some big decisions, and I learned a lot, early on.
My team was not top performing, but our results were acceptable, and more than respectable.
Some of the people on my team didn't have the drive I had, but business was so good, I didn't worry about them. Actually, I probably ignored performance issues that contributed to the problems I had now.
Oh, and I tried really hard to be "one of the guys." I wanted my team to like me and to want to work for me, so I frequently took them out for dinner and drinks -- and even shared some of the issues I was facing. At the time, it seemed like a good strategy. About that same time, I rated the job upper management was doing as far from acceptable. In fact, I even told my team that if we did our jobs like upper management did theirs, our company would go under. We all laughed about that.
Those were the good times. But over the next several years, business got tougher. Most of my team was still intact, but some of the performance issues I had once ignored were now affecting my division's performance in a big way -- and by "big," I mean they were becoming threats to my job.
I was working hard -- long hours -- but business indicators told me things were pretty bad. I wasn't very happy, and the people on my team weren't happy. Our results reflected our frustrations, and the unhappiness transferred over to my home life, as well.
"I looked you up, Tony, so I could learn from you," I said dejectedly. "I'm at my wits' end, and I just hope it's not too late for me to turn this ship around."
After listening for almost an hour, Tony finally started talking. "First," he said, "I know you think these problems and the situation you described exist only on your team. You could not be more wrong. There are few -- very few, if any -- leaders who have not faced the same issues you've just shared. I know I have.
"When it comes to leading people, there is no problem that is unique to you. Ask anyone with experience, and you'll discover they've faced the same issues, the same frustrations. So don't feel sorry for yourself. That's a waste of valuable time. Just make plans to make things better.
Excerpted from Monday Morning Mentoring by David Cottrell Copyright © 2006 by David Cottrell. Excerpted by permission.
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