Giving Your Best to Others

Alex Pollock

In June I was saddened to read of the passing of John Wooden, the famed UCLA Bruins basketball coach. As I listened to and read the tributes that were recorded in the media, I sensed that this man was revered as much for his off-court character as he was for his on-court prowess.

He left a legacy of honoring his commitments, listening to his conscience, living by the highest of standards and always giving his very best. I read that among the advice his father, Joshua, passed along to him were the phrases, “Help others” and “Make friendship a fine art.” These lessons became important dimensions of the legacy John Wooden left behind. He was a mentor to many, intentionally helping guide the development of those within his sphere of influence.

As we reflect on our careers, there are many people who have crossed our path and we may have even been fortunate enough to have a few people take the time to invest in us. Much has been written on the “rules” for finding a mentor, including experience, character, availability, open- mindedness, caring and having a positive outlook.

I was wondering if any of you have benefited from a mentoring relationship? What “rules” have worked best for you? What guidance can you give those who are at the edge of the mentoring pool but haven’t yet jumped in? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “helped others” was included in our legacy? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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1 Comment
  1. Stephen Evanoff

    July 21, 2010


    Thanks for another thought-provoking piece. Yet again, you’ve touched on an important topic at the intersection of business management, sociology, and psychology.

    I was blessed to have two good mentors early in my career. Each gave me opportunities, protected me from myself, and modeled good management techniques and interpersonal skills for me. I regret that I haven’t yet paid back this debt to society by doing the same for some young person. Time remains and your words inspire me.

    The poet Robert Bly wrote eloquently in the 1980s and 1990s about the diminution of male mentors for boys and the general decline in institutions that historically enabled adolescent males to become responsible, mature men. Bly’s recommended solution, cloaked as a question, was: “When was the last time you told a young man you admired him?” Perhaps this is a good place to start for those standing at the edge of the mentoring pool.

    (Forgive me dear female readers for this gender-specific example.)

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