Tag: Willamette University

[Life Back West] Autumn 2014 – Meet You at the Quad?

English: Quad at Willamette University

It’s a familiar refrain on many a college campus and more than just a few companies: “meet you at the Quad?” A line tagged to a place and a time, it routes you to the familiar where you can bank on connecting with the right people at interesting times. It’s also the place where more often than not serendipity […]

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[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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Look Before They’re Gone: RIP Alma Mater U

Barnard College, 1913  (LOC)

It’s autumn; college football games have started another season, and the leaves will soon be turning on campuses across the country. Catch a good look; for any number of liberal arts colleges this year will mark the start of their demise. Those people working in the space who are early in their careers need to […]

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Paging Sue Leeson: “You Can Do Better”


Sometimes the best thing you can do to help someone is a firm tap and playing a bit of a noodge. The fact of the matter is that people seldom improve without some sort of feedback, and if you don’t help them with it, who do you think will? I thought of noodge (or nudge) as […]

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[RIP Scott Mader] The Life Well-Lived

Scott L. Mader

We don’t usually get to pick how or when we die. We can, with some work, grit and luck, pick the sort of life we live. Scott Mader, who passed away this week at the age of 57, sure did; his story has lessons for all of us. Earnest is the first word that comes […]

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