By: Kris Magel, President, DAN Media Clients
True mentorship is rare. In an entire career, most professionals are lucky if they encounter a single individual who takes a genuine interest in them, their professional development, their life in general.
I’ve learned this over two and a half decades of working in the media industry – from speaking with friends and colleagues, and even mentees of my own, who simply haven’t had that amazing experience.
I am a very, very lucky professional. Why? I not only met, worked with, developed a relationship with, and still enjoy that relationship with someone who mentored me; I hit the professional jackpot. Throughout my 26-year career, I’ve been blessed to work with, and for, several true mentors who spent their own time, their own resources, their own political capital, helping me succeed. For that, I am truly grateful.
I will never forget ANY of them – in fact, I’m happy to give each of them the credit they deserve (I won’t name names; don’t want to piss off the non-mentors) – right here and right now. I am pretty sure they will know who they are, just because what I learned from each of them was so clear, so distinct, and so right for me at the time.
My first boss in the media business was an incredible buying leader, who knew how to assign responsibility and accountability. He allowed me (and my co-workers at the time) to take on big projects, well beyond our years of experience, and learn our way into growth. He taught me to shoulder responsibility and be confident that I could figure anything out. That confidence and versatility, no matter what the situation, has stayed with me my entire career.
Later, I had the opportunity to work for a legend. It was only for three years, but it was a wonderful three years. She taught me the human side of leadership; that the best manager always keeps his/her team’s personal growth and development the #1 priority, even if that means sometimes advising a star to accept another job somewhere else. That principle has stuck with me my entire career. It is only the greatest leaders who have the empathy and the courage to not only watch, but also encourage their #2 go on to a better opportunity. Why? Because they are confident enough in themselves, and the rest of their remaining team, to allow that to happen. We only worked those three years together, but she is a lifelong friend of mine. I haven’t made a career decision without the counsel and advice of this person for over a decade.
Then, I worked for the LEADER. The LEADER was someone who literally studied the craft of leadership. This person helped me make the transition from leading teams of 10 or 20 to teams of 100, 200, even 700. This was not an easy transition – it was full of challenge and adversity for me, and for the teams that reported to me. But the LEADER backed me all the way through. I made my way through those difficult moments and became a much better leader on the back end. The LEADER taught me that at this level, you will never get to talk to everybody – almost, but not everybody – so you must be diligent about addressing your full team, often and in-person. And you must always think about your words and how people will receive them vs. what you just want to get out. Thank you, LEADER – for helping me become one.
I have another mentor – a gentleman I never worked for directly, only indirectly. This person taught me that, even in the highest levels of corporate leadership, you can remain a true, authentic and appreciative human being.You can have values that you always remain true to, in business and in life. And you can also just be a friend, as no matter what happens in the business world, you stick with the good ones through thick and thin. I look forward to my next holiday drink with this mentor.
To be honest, I’ve gotten used to it. I am not sure why or how I got so lucky, but I am relatively certain in my new work situation, I will evolve into another rock-solid, respectful, educational and ever-growing relationship with my next mentor. You can have mentors, even when you’re 50 ?.
So, I would like to take a moment and raise a virtual “cheers” to each of my personal mentors who have impacted my career the last 26 years and say THANK YOU, GENUINELY, for what you did for me just by paying attention once in a while, by providing some counsel, by teaching, and by listening when I needed it. I can only do my best to return the favor, not only to you, but our industry, by providing that same attention to someone who could use my mentorship, as well.