A Career Mentor
Good leaders know the value of mentoring. Building team leaders, subordinates, successors, and those that will be the next generation of organizational charge are key traits that a good leader will be conscious of in their walk. They take the time to coach and guide others, and regularly plan their days and weeks accordingly to make this happen.
Yet I was reminded just the other day of a brief bio of Reginald Jones, the CEO for General Electric in the 70’s who became a model for corporate strategy and guidance during a difficult economic climate. Jones was one of the most influential people in a business world that was undergoing significant changes. It was during his entire tenure at GE that he focused on mentoring a successor, almost immediately after ascending to the top of the company ranks. He not only revamped strategic management and corporate-government relationships, but set the bar for mentoring and became the standard for others to be evaluated.
In his second year as CEO, Jones began the process of selecting his successor. He began with a list of 96 candidates, all of which came from inside GE. Over a two-year period Jones narrowed the field to 12 qualified leaders. He then reduced that number by half, to 6 executive protégés.
Over the next two years, these six individuals were assigned to various sectors of the organization, with Jones evaluating their performance. In 1981, Jones retired and handed the reigns of the company over to Jack Welch, one of the six sector executives. Other companies hired the other five to serve as their CEOs.
Of Jones’ eight years as CEO, he spent seven years preparing his successor. Knowing he would one day retire, Jones invested the needed time and energy in the future leaders who would carry on the GE legacy after he was gone.
For Reginald Jones, mentoring was more than just a buzzword, or a trite buzzwords on a mission statement. Jones knew the absolute value of developing the next generation of leaders in his field. While Jack Welch served longer and has garnered more media attention and notoriety, Jones laid the foundation on which the Jack Welch’s of the world could build their influence. He made his career at GE about mentoring, and leaving not only an organization – but people – better off because of this focus.
As a leader, we create the most impact, the longest lasting effect, the biggest legacy, in developing people who will not only take our place, but perhaps even surpass the influence and accomplishments we attain in our tenure. As gratifying as attaining a position of influence can be, there is nothing more fulfilling than when you have a part to play in someone garnering greater success than you even dreamed of. At the least, helping them achieve their potential, no matter how insignificant it may be to the masses, will bring everlasting joy that you’ll look back on with absolutely no regrets.