Tag: Coaching

[Mentors Count] Paging Sue Leeson


"The right mentor can help you get ahead" according to the Boston Globe.

An article in Forbes headlines "To build a great company, start with great mentors."

And the wrong or no mentor? A recipe for more career detours or a life in the slower lane.

I got a chance last weekend at my alma mater Willamette University's terrifically done Alumni Weekend to spend time with one of my college mentors, Susan Leeson.

I met Sue when she was fresh out of grad school from earning her PhD at Claremont, just a very few years after she had graduated from Willamette.

Short on years and experience, Sue was (and is) long on EQ (and IQ) and advising smarts. While mentoring can be trained and developed in people, Sue had clearly done coursework on her own time for all of her life.

After I'd nodded off at one 1 PM Friday 12-person seminar - a class I'd asked to sit in - she observed that I must have a lot going on and asked how I was doing.

After turning in some work that was OK but not great, Sue noted "You can do better" and then talked about ways to meet a bar I'd set myself.

Mentoring is a little like dating - there is no formula for finding a great mentor. And Sue has that touch to nudge and care, prod and nurture.

Post Willamette we lost touch, though I continued to follow Sue's career which led to her going to law school to get a JD, teach law school, serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals and later on the state of Oregon Supreme Court. She now teaches and works as a (much sought-after) mediator; it was sweet to feel that same strong connection we had 40 years ago when we say each other last week at Alumni Weekend.

The Forbes article mentioned above has a very helpful list of things to do - and things to don't - when identifying and working with mentors.

And when you're lucky enough to find people like Sue Leeson, cherish them. They are as precious as rare jewels, and when it comes to your career, more valuable.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

Picture: Susan Leeson - James Madison University.

Mentoring is hot, both on college campuses and in the private sector. “The right mentor can help you get ahead” according to the Boston Globe. An article in Forbes headlines “To build a great company, start with great mentors.“ And the wrong or no mentor? A recipe for more career detours or a life in […]

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Can Introverts (Co) Rule the World?

quicker delivery

They’re sometimes dismissed – usually by extroverts – as “too shy” and not-so-good at speaking up. Social skills to mix it up in crowds can seem lacking. When they’re “on point” it can seem like they can falter. They are said to have “issues” when it comes to small talk; not great “speaking on their feet.” So can […]

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Where is Jonah Lehrer?


It happens: we screw up. With any luck we own up to any mistakes and move on. Life continues, the metaphorical business version of an invisible scarlet letter and all. Jonah Lehrer, whose gifts as a writer (best sellers such as Proust was a Neuroscientist,  How We Decide, and Imagine as well as writing for Wired and The […]

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The Little Book of Talent: What Should You Look for in a Coach?

Little Book of Talent galley - can't wait to s...

Executive, career, and team coaches come in all flavors. How do you know who you should hire? Daniel Coyle, author of the best seller The Talent Code, has a new book out, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills. Read it. Coyle’s work has lots of great, research-based ideas on boosting […]

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8 Dreaded Words? “I’ll follow-up and get back to you”

Gosh It's... Bad Manners

It has become the dreaded phrase you don’t want to hear; “I’ll follow-up and get back to you” Why? Because when you hear that phrase you know that 90% of the people you deal with won’t get back to you. I’ve stopped chuckling when I get the email from someone with whom I’m scheduled to meet […]

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Your Career: When the “Sure Thing” Isn’t

Sunrise First Light, Last Lights

Sometimes the job you’ve been promised won’t be there; sometimes the job you think you’ve lost may return. So how do you know if it’s a sure thing? You won’t. Learn why the “sure thing” today is likely the maybe thing tomorrow, and what you can do to make yourself better prepared when that sure-thing-to-make-or-nothing […]

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The Leadership Team: “You Can’t Hurry Love”


The request came from a client whose leadership team I had worked with this June; the team had a consultant come in earlier and diagnosed them as dysfunctional. What to do about that dysfunction? That wasn’t part of the program. The work the team had done with me followed the Road Trip model, and predictably some […]

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When Whispers Beckon: Someone Getting Fired?

Hungarian Telephone Factory - 1937. Budapest

There are execs who can’t seem to say goodbye – Howard Schultz and Michael Dell come to mind – while there are those who perform well such as Proctor & Gamble’s Art Lafley, who move on when their time as a CEO is up. The latter types of leaders make the transition to “civilian” status […]

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You’re the Boss: “When It’s Nobody’s Business!”

Steve Jobs presenting the iPhone 4 in San Fran...

It’s not about having the $500,000 credit line at Tiffany’s, or having your $43 million divorce news splashed across the tabloids. And it’s certainly not about the CEO of the year being busted in a child prostitution sting. But what do you do – as I coached a startup CEO yesterday – when something personal […]

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Fix the Pinch and You (Too) Can Avoid the Crunch


I’m guilty. In the land of do as I say and do as I do, I’m buckling on the latter and hoping you do the former. It happens. Despite best intentions to behave true to my own advice I slipped into behaviors that others rely on me to avoid modeling. It happens. Welcome to being […]

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