Mentoring: From The Ballpark To The Boardroom And Beyond
“Jeffrey [Hammonds] learned from Eric Davis, and Eric Davis learned from Dave Parker, and Dave Parker learned from Willie Stargell and Willie Stargell learned from Roberto Clemente. You see where the gravy train is going?”
That is Dmitri Young, a former major league baseball player, listing for the New York Times, the names of black players (some of whom are Hall of Famers) who have shepherded generations of black ballplayers. Hammonds mentored Young himself. In turn, Young mentored Curtis Granderson, who recently retired after 16 years in the majors playing for the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and New York Mets.
Granderson followed suit by taking Cameron Maybin under his wing, treating him especially well, putting him up at his place when he first arrived in the majors, and personally taking him to dinner in every city new to Maybin. Like his peers, Maybin is providing counsel to the next generation of players.
Baron Radcliff, just drafted into pro ball from Georgia Tech, is experiencing this first-hand; he is being mentored by a whole cadre of retired black players calling themselves The Players Alliance. “[The former players] talked about making sure you’re hustling because there are stereotypes of black players in pro ball, and they don’t want us to fall into that trap. It was all good advice.”
Mentoring provides the players with the “inside dope” to conduct yourself as a major leaguer. Such advice resonates for two reasons: one, the mentor has played the game; two, he is black and knows the challenges and temptations that young men of color face when they are suddenly in “The Show.”
The lessons these mentors impart have implications off the field, not merely for ballplayers but many young men and women entering the workforce.
Shannie Mears, the co-founder of the ad agency, The Elephant in the Room, writes, “What I needed was someone who could empower me and care about who I was becoming – regardless of what I thought of myself.” Mears’ comment gets to the heart of mentoring: understanding the individual and helping them fulfill their potential. Or, as Oprah Winfrey once said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
“Young black people,” says Mears, “need to be empowered not only by their inner circle but also their senior employers, their colleagues, and everyone else that they encounter during their professional and personal development.”
Mears ended up founding her company with her mentor, Dan Saxby. “The most important thing is that I trust our relationship. Both of us want to contribute back to this industry and create long-term value. We know the value of mentorship because it is what led to the birth of The Elephant in the Room, and we trust the process.”
“To be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care,” said the poet Maya Angelou. “Know what you know, and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” And in turn, the one being mentored must take care to listen, experiment and grow.
Mentorship is a two-way street. It requires commitment. One, it is not always easy to find the right mentor. Two, the mentor must look for ways to challenge the mentee and provide the support necessary to overcome specific obstacles. Three, the mentee must commit to the process, that is, put in the time and the effort required to benefit.
Lessons may be imparted, but they are not learned until they are lived.
John Baldoni is a globally-recognized leadership educator, certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, and author of 14 books that have been translated into 10 languages. John’s books include GRACE: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us, MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership, Lead with Purpose, Lead Your Boss, and The Leader’s Pocket Guide. John’s books have been translated into 10 languages. In 2018 Inc.com named John a Top 100 speaker and Trust Across America honored John with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Trust. In 2019 Global Gurus ranked John No. 9 on its list of Top 30 global leadership expert, a list John been on since 2007. In 2014 Inc.com listed John as a Top 50 leadership expert. John is also a member of the renowned Marshall Goldsmith 100 coaches, a group of executive coaches and thought leaders from the worlds of business, academia and social service. John established a career as a highly sought after executive coach, where he has had the privilege of working with senior leaders in virtually every industry from pharmaceutical to real estate, packaged goods to automobiles, and finance to health care.
Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]