The Mentor in Me

April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” ~ Bob Proctor, Author, Speaker and Success Coach

It recently occurred that the first two letters in the word mentor are ME. I was musing on that after a colleague told me she sees me as a mentor and thanked me or my support.

When Angie Saltman, who operates Saltmedia, a web development company in Grande Prairie, mentioned this, I hadn’t realized I’d had an impact through our discussions about business.

But that’s the way it is with mentoring. You can be teaching without necessarily realizing it. It was particularly noteworthy because Angie is someone out in the community as there was no thought of providing anything more than casual advice.

“When we first met, I was taken with how confident you are and I realized I needed to work on that part of me,” Angie told me. Saltmedia has been in operation for three years. “I appreciated how you’ve taken time to share your career and business experience.”

That’s why I love the Bob Procter quote. It’s truly a thrill to recognize someone will thrive at an undertaking even with limited experience and confidence, and then watching them flourish.

Now I’ve won awards for my work and led a fruitful career. I’ve supervised numerous people, including employees with my own communications business. I certainly know I’ve made a difference to several people’s futures if by no other measure than the number of references I’ve provided. I know, of course, it has gone way beyond that and for someone to outright tell me how I’ve helped them is touching.

Although I’m not about to slow down, this feedback has happened enough lately from younger co-workers and associates that I feel at the pinnacle of my career.

Having colleagues recognize my role in shaping their careers is acknowledgement that I’ve invested time and energy as they find their way in the world. I think of it as my own way of giving back to a life that’s been rewarding to me.

What I have learned and pass on to others becomes the foresight of those with less experience. The true joy comes when mentees challenge and question what I have said and offer their own ideas. Even more thrilling are the times when I know I am learning from my younger colleagues.

A mentorship doesn’t have to involve someone in the same community or even direct involvement in their day-today work. I met Mary Leong, a student at UBC, three years ago while she was working in Grande Prairie. She’d been assigned to visit me to at City Hall to discuss a partnership with the agency employing her during the summer.

We’ve kept in touch over the last couple of years and I always enjoy hearing Mary’s latest news. She’s one of those people who you know will go as far as their ambition takes them. I look forward to saying, “I knew Mary Leong when …”

She wanted to contribute to what I had to say on this topic since she felt I’d influenced her career direction.

“To me, David is a long-distance mentor who checks in every once in a while to deliver news and information on the new initiatives he’s working on, but also to provide encouragement and support in a sometimes very rocky field.”
She recalls travelling to Grande Prairie to pursue a career path which she soon realized was ill-suited to her personality and interests. At the same time, she was discovering an interest in new media and communications.

“Our initial conversation was brief, but the topic of communications in a changing media landscape was brought up. I was surprised when David followed up with information about how the city was using new media and technology to connect with its citizens, which I found fascinating. That, for me, was the turning point as I realized that someone was taking an interest in my career development and providing information that could support my journey.

“These discussions provided a holistic view of the day-to-day tasks in a communications job, and spurred me to seek out opportunities to grow in the field.”

Mary is completing her Political Science and Psychology degree at UBC, and will be working for a year before starting the Politics and Communication Master’s program at the London School of Economics in September 2014.

Her goal is to work in the field of media and communications for a non-profit she’s passionate about to help enact policy change.

Mary’s own passion is to be a mentor to young minority girls to ensure they have the tools to succeed at whatever they set out to do, whether as a CEO, a politician or an entrepreneur.

Knowing Mary, those young ladies will be fortunate to have that leadership.

I thought this quote would be a most appropriate way to end this post:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter. Going to bed knowing we have done something wonderful is what matters to me.” ~ Steve Jobs

Taking Up the Torch

November 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

“I am obliged to contribute if I care enough.” – Trenton Perrott, 1957-2012, in an excerpt from his personal journal, September-October.

How often have you attended an event and felt inspired by a speaker only to do nothing as a result?

So often we feel momentarily engaged and then return to our routine, not motivated to make a change. The words above are ones I won’t ever forget. They will assuredly make a difference for me and others.

Sadly, I could not receive the message directly from the author.

On Saturday, they were delivered by Trenton’s brother, Dale, as Grande Prairie celebrated the life of a significant community builder, particularly in the arts and culture and business sectors.

Dale went on to say that Trenton, who lost his two-year battle with cancer earlier this month, had it backwards – that he did care a lot about many things – his community, country and family topped the list.

Trenton touched people in many different ways. As a fellow manager in my service area at the City of Grande Prairie, we had regular interaction, particularly since he oversaw the website as well as advocacy initiatives and I’m Manager of Marketing and Communications.

I always appreciated Trenton’s thirst for strategic planning, his passion for history and politics, and his vision for creating change. He was a mentor to colleagues at all levels and got the most out of those around him with his quiet leadership.

Why will the words from Trenton’s journal make a difference to me? He walked the talk. Trenton was a model of courage and class as he dealt with his disease. He lived his final months with a level of dignity I’ve never witnessed.

Even in his waning time with us, Trenton continued to do as much work as he could. He encouraged me and others to do more in the workplace and within the community.

In August, he invited me to attend a Rotary meeting with him. Not just any Rotary meeting. A long-time Rotarian, Trenton was one of the initiators of the new After Five club in Grande Prairie. He was even willing to pay my membership.

We had a good, long chat before the meeting. I always cherished my discussions with Trenton. As I learned on Saturday, I would not be alone in often finding myself in long, drawn-out but rewarding talks with Trenton.

Unfortunately, all my dialogue with Trenton was contained to the workplace so I didn’t get a chance to share any of the wine and scotch for which he is renowned for enjoying.

It would be the last time we spoke at any length. I could tell there wasn’t much time left for Trenton, but that didn’t stop him from sharing even more ideas and demonstrating how much he cared about his workplace and colleagues.

Of course, he didn’t stop there. Trenton arranged for me to speak to the Rotary group in October about the City’s Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP, just a few weeks before the initiative launched on Nov. 5.

I wish he could’ve been there to hear me speak in more than spirit and attend the kick-off event, too.

But he knew how important this initiative is to me as the project leader and the municipality. It ties in with so much he believed in – community involvement, partnerships, connecting people, and making the place you live a better place to be.

And new features on the new website Trenton so much wanted to see introduced last February contribute to involving residents. I’m thrilled he and his team saw that project through to fruition.

I don’t know that I will follow through and join Rotary at this time with two other significant volunteer positions already on my plate. I do know that I will be even more driven to make a difference in the community.

And I think that is all Trenton really expected of me – that I would realize I had more within me.

I was honoured to be asked to assist in the production of the video for Saturday’s tribute. In the process, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes with Joanne, Trenton’s wife, another example of class and strength.

She shared with me that Trenton had spoken of how he had unfinished work to do.

I assured her that others would pick up the torch.

I will be one of them. Rest in peace, Trenton. Your legacy will live on.

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