Archive for the ‘mentoring’ Category

Dare Mighty Things – With The Right Approach

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 9.38.06 PMAlways interesting and forever eventful, the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference always brings something new to the table. This year, my 22nd on the island, I had the good fortune to experience the knowledge and perspectives of our next generation, via the Chamber’s “Emerging Leaders” group – an experience both enlightening and thought provoking. I only wish the ‘EL’ initiative was in place in my more formative years.

Each year, the Chamber selects a number of “young professionals” to attend the conference and be a part of the overall conversation, including attending sessions, networking and being provided with a slew of special programming opportunities. One of those interactions was a sit-down with Tim Smith, Owner and CEO of Skidmore Studio in Detroit including a discussion based around his forthcoming book, “Dare Mighty Things,” that examined such areas as personal and professional brands, personas and potential conflicts between them.

It is always interesting to hear both “sides” of the millennial/baby boomer interaction dynamic and this particular gathering contained no lack of opinions.  One particular individual took the conversation into contiguous areas, including his impassioned thoughts on why millennials should not ask for or earn but, rather, demand both a seat at the decision-making table in business and when seeking access to capital. “They need us,” he implored.

Now, I’ve been at this for a long, long time and I know what it is like to feel as if you don’t have a say or stake in the complicated world of business and commerce. I also know that having a ‘say’ is not demanded but earned- not necessarily over a long period of time but through a demonstrated willingness to collaborate and cooperate. Being a ‘disruptor’ is fine. However, that approach should come with constructive solutions to adjusting or replacing the ‘status quo.’ I hope other young professionals looking to find their way will at least consider this advice: It’s not about tearing down walls but, rather, building bridges.  Take the long view and you’re much more likely to succeed over the long run – and accomplish mighty things.


Lost and Found

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.42.51 PMThis week was one of the toughest of my life from both a personal and business perspective. The timing was almost uncannily ironic as I was recently asked to speak to a young professionals group in the Spring on handling life and professional challenges.

First of all, if problems related to work (or time outside of work) don’t bother you, you might be a sociopath.  If they do, you’re human.  A wise mentor once told me, upon my sharing with him a disappointed client situation, if a particular state of business affairs concerns you, it’s not because you can’t handle it; its because you care.  Move beyond the emotion and you can work toward a resolution.

Away from the office, affairs of the heart can be even tougher, indeed, they are more important in life’s scheme of things.  There, emotion can often not be set aside, a resolving solution harder to come by.  As in work, all you can do is try and give it your all.

Work and home – the two are intrinsically and forever linked.  And what has comforted me most has been the (almost) surprising support of others willing to lend an ear and a pat on the back.  Those who appreciated I had been there for them in the past and now were here for me.

They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I’d counter its more about appreciating what you have, when it’s found.


Mentoring: Marvels, Lamentations, Revelations

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

28What is a mentor?  In the business world, it is typically someone who takes the time to help others learn their craft, further their career, find their way.  Sometimes, that mentorship can turn into friendship, when built upon mutual respect.  But to work for the long haul, it must go both ways.

In 1991, I attempted to leave radio behind and enter the world of public relations. There was, you’ll recall, a recession in full force at that time.  Having moved to Detroit only a few years previously, I was armed not with industry connections but, in a pre-Internet world, an encyclopedic Adcraft Roster book.  As I cold-called area PR firms to inquire as to possible employment opportunities I consistently heard what was to become an all-too familiar refrain: “There are qualified PR professionals out there who are out of work. Why would we want to talk to you?” And so I persevered – and sought out mentors – in a sea of doubters.

One was Al Sebastian, then Director of Public Affairs and PR at Little Caesars, today Director of Communications & Philanthropy at The Guidance Center.  When no one would take my call, he took the time to listen and advise, helping set the groundwork for relationship building in the field. It meant the world to me then and still does today. I told him so again this week. In 1993, still in radio, I met another generous soul – Barb Palazzolo, then a top executive with Brogan & Partners. She actually met me for breakfast and provided additional guidance. The following year, she was instrumental in helping me finally break into PR.

That was 20 years ago this year. The selflessness of those two individuals helped set the tone for how I would operate in years to come as I continue to take the time to speak, connect, mentor both new professionals and those more seasoned. It is important. It is the right thing to do.  Yet, at times, I question whether I care too much.

In recent days, an individual whom I worked to mentor and advise for some time – someone who was a decade out of college and trying to find their way – took, I felt, advantage of my efforts and goodwill. Communication, responsiveness, appreciation for my time – all were not reciprocated. This despite a friendship, a kinship based on a mutual love of music. In turn, I felt disbelief, confusion, even hurt.  You take the time to try to be there for someone and that person should be grateful or at least respectful, right?

In the end and at the core it all comes down to treating people the right way.  It is something I demand – of myself and others. Recession or no recession.  Boss or employee. Mentor or mentee. Because life is a long two-way street. And the golden rule is always the road best traveled.

Giving Back To The Future

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

us-and-them-by-jeff-macnellyWhile we are all busy with the day-to-day of work and life, a few recent events underscored the importance of taking the time to stop for a moment to look both back and forward and seek out ways of playing a tangible role in furthering a chosen field.  In 1991, while still working in radio, I made my first dedicated attempt to find a job in public relations. There was at that time, you might recall, a recession going on and I experienced many, many doors slammed in my face, sometimes quite rudely.  I persevered, however, by seeking out willing mentors and ‘few and far’ between “allies”, building relationships and making the connections that helped me eventually find employment in the industry.

That initial career-change adversity helped shape a resolve to assist the next generation of PR practitioners in finding their way. It is a priority shared by my colleagues and firm.  In recent weeks, we have had the good fortune to host students from Wayne State University and Michigan State University at Tanner Friedman, walking them through what it will take to successfully prepare for and transition to a successful and rewarding career.  Similarly, we are currently taking a close look at our intern program and how it might evolve to provide even greater value to our future student colleagues. Regular job shadows are also an ongoing part of our modus operandi and DNA.

Particularly rewarding in recent days was being asked to participate in the Adcraft Club’s 2013 AdCon – a conference for students in the creative industries held last Saturday at the Center for Creative Studies. Hundreds of future PR, advertising and marketing agency professionals were provided with the wonderful opportunity to listen to industry pros discuss their career paths and respective fields.  On a PR panel of four, I had the good fortune to speak to three separate groups of students, sharing best practices and job rewards and realities.  All were greatly engaged, bright and motivated (remember, this was a Saturday)!

And finally, Thursday night the 2013 annual dinner for Detroit Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was held at MotorCity Casino Hotel – an organization our firm joined upon our inception and one we serve proudly (including in leadership roles).  It is one more way we are giving back to an industry and the people that work within it – both today and tomorrow.  Because, in the end and ultimately, it’s not just about us (and billables and profits).  Rather, it is (with a nod to Pink Floyd) about us and them.