If mentoring's not on your menu, you're out to lunch

Forget piles of cash. Without a successor there is no success.


Whenever I hear “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin I am challenged to emulate a role model in my life – John Belushi in “Animal House.”

Belushi, who plays Bluto Blutarsky, is seized with rage when he passes a folkie strumming an acoustic guitar.

In the blink of an eye Bluto grabs the guitar, smashes it to pieces, hands it back to the strummer and says, “Sorry.” 

I'm still looking for an opportunity to destroy the instrument that plays Chapin's song. Why? The sad, sober reality of it is almost more than any parent – or anyone seeking to be a role model – can take.

Values are much more likely to be caught than taught. But it’s sure a lot easier to teach them than to model them.

We all know the drill. The office team heads to a Kumbaya conference on team building and everyone goes home encouraged. But by 8:45 a.m. the next day, the boss has already shut someone's head in the file cabinet and Gunter is complaining bitterly that we're out of decaf French roast.

From throttling to modeling
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that we face a crisis in modeling values to our children, employees, volunteers and leaders.

But there is hope. The first step is to understand the need and method of modeling values – whether these principles are personal, faith-based or the embodiment of a company's mission statement.

It won't just happen, no matter the 400-point-type of your giant mission statement on the wall.

Modeling comes down to:
1.    Teach it
2.    Watch me do it
3.    You do it while I watch
4.    I give you feedback
5.    Now you start by teaching someone else ... wash, rinse, repeat

So simple to say, so hard to do. There is no app, training manual or webinar that can replace this human-to-human approach. If you want continuity in your family, church or business, you must mentor. Does it work? Absolutely. Can I prove it? Absolutely.

Tim Honeycutt: Champion Mentor

Tim Honeycutt: Champion Mentor

Mentoring changed me
I am exhibit A.

Tim Honeycutt is the most important mentor I've ever had. When I was a wet-behind-the-ears pup of 23, he took me under his wing at Lee's Summit Community Church. But I didn't know he was doing it. I wasn't a project. He just spent time with me – time he had to take away from other urgent things – and showed an unhurried, genuine interest in my well being.

There was no lesson plan. Yet there was one: He was it. I spent time with Tim at church and saw how he handled people and challenges. I spent time with him at home and saw how he loved his wife Gayle and his two children, Emily and Zach.

He invited me to training events and then gave me responsibilities such as leading discussions and greeting newcomers. He also gave me feedback.

“You're scaring people,” he once told me gently and with a smile. He didn't put it this way, but honestly I was the church greeter from Hades – stiff as a board and welcoming as Jason Bourne.

He gave me a book called “Be a People Person,” which I did not read. Because I didn't have to. All I had to do was watch Tim.

I watched him get soaked in the rain as he walked out with a golf umbrella to usher frazzled churchgoers to and from their cars. I'd never seen it before: 20 years later I was still doing it.

You can be an introvert and still love people
Amazingly, Tim is not a classic “people person.” He's a quiet gadget guy who would probably be content to stay to himself. But he loves God and people, so he doesn't. You would never know he wasn't a social animal.

This, too, has rubbed off on me. At one point I was one oddball introvert and had the people skills of a brick wall. But then I met a guy. Now people are surprised to find out I'm actually a member of Introverts Anonymous.

Tim's gone through some hard times of late. He lost his irreplaceable wife Gayle last year. He's had to struggle to find a new mission and identity.

But he's never stopped mentoring. One of his grandsons is moving in with him, and it's not just so Grandpa can spoil him. Mentoring is on the agenda.

Or I should say, the curriculum of Tim is about to be opened once more.

How to close this column? Simply this: Who is one person whom you can invest in at home, church, work or in your community?

Now get started.

Roy Harryman is the principle of Roy Harryman Marketing Communications, helping small businesses and non-profits reach their customers, prospects and suspects.