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Teach a man to fish, & feed him for a lifetime

October 31, 2011 Blog 2 min read

When I was in high school, I took a civics and government class taught by Mr. Charles Dickleman. I learned a lot about government that year—in fact, my future focus on the government industry at Plante Moran is largely due to my experiences in that class—but when I think back on his class, it’s not the academics I remember. Mr. Dickleman taught me to always be prepared, never to take myself too seriously, and that hard work and fun can go hand in hand. Above all, however, he taught me to be an optimist. “People don’t follow pessimists,” he cautioned me, and he was right. That lesson in particular has come in handy over the past few years interacting with clients and staff amidst a struggling economy.

When I came to Plante Moran, I was fortunate to learn from a number of great mentors:

  • Frank Moran taught me that balance is an ideal for which we must all constantly strive; that money doesn’t lead—it follows when you do the right things; and the definition of a professional: to always put your clients’ interests ahead of your own.
  • Bruce Berend taught me the importance of getting out of my comfort zone as often as possible. “By doing this,” he said, “your comfort zone will expand.” And it has.
  • Tom Doescher taught me to spend less time thinking in the past or present and more time focusing on the future. He also taught me the importance of self-discipline and always speaking my point of view, no matter the audience or the circumstances.
  • Bill Hermann taught me to be intentional in my actions, to always be prepared, and to be creative. Most of all, however, he inspired me to wake up every day thinking about how to make Plante Moran even better.
  • Finally, Ken Kunkel taught me to see the best in people. “Everyone has their ‘negative stick’ out,” he used to say, “but everyone has positives, too…you just have to take an extra second to find them. Once you see them, you can bring them out in people.” He also taught me invaluable organizational skills and that real success isn’t when you succeed but when your team does.

You’ve probably heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Thanks to these great men and others, I have enough fish for several lifetimes. That’s the thing about mentoring—it’s better to have more than one, as it’s the multiple points of view that really help and shape you.

What about you? Who was your favorite elementary, high school, or college teacher? What mentors have you been fortunate to have in your life, and how have they affected you? And because of these teachers/mentors, do you feel better positioned to mentor others?

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