Mentoring is the single most rewarding thing I get to do as a sales leader. This is the first of a series of posts on mentoring.
A few years ago, I announced I was leaving a company and several people I had mentored dropped by to wish me well. Each thanked me for taking an interest in their careers and for mentoring them. It was quite touching.
Over the next several days I reflected on the people who had helped me throughout my career. I wondered if they realized the impact they had made on my life. So I tracked them down and wrote each a letter. Below are some excerpts.
The man who launched my career in IT sales.
…Twenty one years ago, I was a college dropout looking for a job in the computer industry while going to night school to complete my degree. When I saw your ad for a warehouse manager I immediately applied…you hired me 2 days later!
You always treated me with respect and took an active interest in nurturing me both professionally and personally. You gave me lots of positive encouragement, teaching me how to use a computer, then you let me work my way up to fixing Macs, installing them and when a sales position opened you let me – an introverted, college dropout, failure – start working as a computer sales person.
I’m writing this letter to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for giving me a chance when nobody else would.
You were my first true business mentor.
The man who built my confidence, gave me polish and taught me about the B2B world.
Eighteen years ago, you hired me as an Account Exec. I was an unpolished, uneducated, retail computer sales guy who had some technical ability but almost no professional experience and definitely zero business polish.
I’ll never forget in my first week when you took me into a meeting with a team of 20 VPs to talk about the interactive CD we were developing for them. I was scared to death, but you had the confidence in me that I could handle the meeting and run this project for one of our marquee accounts. I still look back on that meeting and the experience of delivering the project successfully as one of my top career highlights.
…you were patient in teaching me account management …I fondly remember your frequent gentle, positive encouragement along the way that helped to develop my communications and presentation skills to a level that I still rely on today.
I’m writing this letter to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for all of this and for giving me a chance that launched a successful career.
Most importantly, I want to let you know that I have tried to pass on what you did for me…I try really hard to do this with the same kindness and respect as you did for me. Seeing these people go on to bigger and better things is one of the highlights of my life.
The man who taught me how to be a leader.
…15 years ago, you hired me to be a corporate sales rep . I’m writing this letter to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for all you did for me over those years.
I never expressed how much I respected and admired you as a leader. You took me on sales calls to companies like US Steel and taught me how to command a room, run a sales team and grow into a successful sales pro. Although I never told you, I carefully analyzed how you behaved with customers, in our internal leadership meetings, and with our sales teams – I tried my hardest to become a leader like you by copying your actions.
I’ll always remember when after my first 60 days, I had not sold a single deal and came into your office dejected, ready to give up, and afraid I’d be fired. You told me “Just keep doing what you are doing…you are doing the right things…I know you can do it….the sales will come”. Your confidence and trust in me kept me from giving up and led me to believe in myself and grow into a confident leader. I have used this exact same coaching with dozens of people who have worked for me in the past 15 years and have seen them develop into confident, successful people.
…Every Friday afternoon, you met with me for an hour. This time meant so much to me, that I make it a priority to do the same for everyone who works for me to this very day.
I was fortunate to have had you as a mentor.
The man who took my career, my management approach, and my life to another level.
I cannot thank you enough for your leadership, friendship, coaching and mentoring you have generously given me.
You may not recall, but when I interviewed with you, I was considering two other job offers. I joined here not because it was the best offer, but because of you. From the very first phone interview you treated me like an equal, shared your vision for creating a world class Inside sales team and gave me the straight, honest truth.
You have helped make me a better manager, sales professional and human being. I have taken many of your lessons to heart and modeled much of my behavior after you. One particular lesson that stands out was when I was frustrated with a rep and you told me “why don’t you go talk her to see what’s going on?” I did and it turned out that my assumptions about the issue were completely wrong.
That may seem like simple advice and common sense to you, but for me it was extremely valuable. With lessons like this, you taught me to how be a caring, effective leader instead of a bull-headed manager.
I have learned more from you in the past few years than in the rest of my years as a sales professional.
Thank you for championing me throughout the organization, for being flexible when I needed to spend time caring for my wife, and for putting me in multiple positions to be very successful. I have earned a good living, had some fun and even earned a life-impacting end-of-year bonus check.
The man, who when he read this letter said, “Thank you, this is very kind. But I don’t know what you are talking about. All of your success came from your efforts and I’m just being myself.”
…It is difficult for me to express how much I respect and admire you as a leader…
Your confidence and trust in me has been invaluable. I really appreciated how you included me in strategic discussions and how you consistently met with me for a 1:1 each week…I am not alone in these sentiments. Most everyone I know who has worked for you shares similar thoughts when we discuss working with you.
And you taught me Perfect Forecasting way back in the day! Everyone who has worked for me since has followed this method and I will take it with me to my new sales teams.
I’ll close with saying that I think fondly of those times we worked together and am sincerely grateful for what you have done for me and my family. You’ve made a lifelong impact on me, my family, and the lives and families of many people who have worked for me.
Reaching out to thank my mentors years later was a heartwarming experience. Each letter I sent also contained some updates on my family, career advancement and personal life, but I didn’t include these details (nor my mentors’ responses) above. But I will say that these exchanges were quite remarkable.
If you haven’t thanked your mentors, I encourage you to do so.