Don Craighead and Michelle Filicicchia
Early on in my career, I worked for a company in St. Paul, Minnesota called Power/mation, an industrial supplier to the manufacturing industry. Co-founder, Don H. Craighead, sadly passed away in December 2020. He lived a long and active life. Had it not been for decline in his physical health, Don would still be out and about, networking and supporting causes and organizations he believed in and loved. This article is dedicated to a man I admired and someone who took interest in me when I was young, inexperienced, insecure, and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. Don was a true entrepreneur, business person, and friend. He was in fact, the best mentor a person could have.
Simply stated, a mentor is someone who spends time and invests in the development of another person (mentee) through insights, knowledge, wisdom, and experience.
A mentor/mentee relationship can be one of the most beneficial exchanges between two people over the course of time, especially in the realm of professional and personal development.
When I think about Don being my mentor, this word never came up. Over time, I began to realize that Don played that role in an organic way, as they say “it just evolved.” I think this is the best way for mentor/mentee relationships to develop. I’ve worked for large corporations where they had “formal mentoring” programs and to be honest, they didn’t last. Not to say that formal mentoring programs don’t work, but it takes both parties (the mentor and the mentee) to connect and have a desire to participate and put the time and effort into the relationship. It’s important to realize the mentor / mentee relationships include give and take exchanges.
As you read this article, reflect on these questions:
- Do you have a mentor?
- Would you like to be a mentor?
- What does it take to be a GREAT mentor?
Do you have a mentor?
Ask yourself the following:
- Is this mentor/mentee relationship working?
- What do you like about it?
- What’s missing?
- What are you able to give to the mentor?
- Do you connect with the mentor on a mental, intellectual and emotional level?
- Do you trust and respect that person and is it mutual?
- Does the mentor build you up?
The main point in having a mentor is to collaborate with someone who really believes in you, especially when you have a hard time believing in yourself.
Lessons from Don: After working at Power/mation for about 2 years, he offered me a promotion to become the Assistant Inside Sales Manager with the intent to replace the manager when he retired. Call it stupid or naïve, but I said yes, not knowing what I was getting myself into. This company was male dominated in a male dominated industry. In the end, this was the best and hardest time of my working life, especially after getting promoted a second time to the manager position. On the positive side, I was forced to toughen up or I would lose my mind, dignity and sense of self-worth. This job also propelled me into pursuing my Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota in Learning and Organization Development. Like anything ignorance can be bliss and the opportunity to grow comes when you least expect it. I was bullied by other managers and I learned how to manage other people. I still reflect on my time at Power/mation and I thank Don who truly believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
Would you like to be a Mentor?
There’s no magic bullet for being a mentor except to have the desire for the following:
- To support growth and development of another person
- To take some time to give back
- To teach and impart wisdom
- To listen and be a sounding board
- To give more than you receive
- To share lessons learned
- To challenge status quo
Lessons from Don: One of the funniest memories I have from my Power/mation days was when we sponsored and hosted an industry conference at our location. Manufacturing representatives, industry leaders, and customers were in attendance. Don, a consummate salesperson, lived and breathed the business, always promoting it to anyone he met. At that time, we had a sign hanging in the office which read: “Pluck the Chicken Clean”. In other words, don’t leave anything behind, specifically selling opportunities. Well, I came up with this crazy idea to rent live chickens and during the conference, let them out in the room to tie into the theme of “Pluck the Chicken Clean”. I still can’t believe that Don said Yes to this idea, but he did. What I remember is that attendees were kind of shaking their heads and wondering what this had to do with the meeting until Don made the connection to the sign. What was most impressive to me was that Don allowed me to take the idea and run with it. I must say, I haven’t done that again, but I always remember how that made me feel because someone believed in my crazy ideas and to this day, I’m not afraid to think creatively.
What does it take to be a great mentor?
Author Alyse Kalish describes these characteristics of a great mentor:
- Good listener
- Gives constructive feedback
- Takes personal interest in the mentee
- Enthusiastic about their role
- Treat others with respect
- Skilled teacher
- Demonstrate responsibility for their mentee
- Expertise in a certain field
- Take pride in their work
In conclusion, ask yourself – what difference can you make in someone else’s life? Go mentor someone today and you see for yourself. The mentee will be blessed by your gift of time, attention and support. It’s often said that the more you give, the more you receive.
Don, thank you for all the wonderful memories and above all, your gift of friendship. Rest in Peace!
Don was known for giving out Attitude pins with the following message attached:
What is a Golden Attitude?
… marketing excellent products and providing superior service!
… doing work with integrity. e.g., making a promise on our performance and keeping it!!
… looking for a solution to every problem entrusted to us and treating “it” as an opportunity!!!
… delivering on our customers trust and exceeding their expectation!!!!
,,, knowing that Powe/mation will be the best source & proud to be a part of an outstanding team!!!!
… realizing “attitude” is key to all the above so in the end “we are all winners!!!!!
A Golden Attitude makes a big difference – We’d like to share it with you.
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