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If you’ve had the chance to read up on the future of the workforce both domestically and globally, you’re no doubt aware that we are facing a significant shortage of critical skills across nearly all industries. A substantial subset of this trend is the lack of leadership development or succession planning currently in place to groom the next generation of executives.
Corporate leaders everywhere are, or should be, planning how to address these issues. While many critical skills could be developed by increasing investments in apprenticeship programs, this type of process does not work as well for the soft skills or critical competencies associated with becoming an effective leader. For leadership development, the best solution may be as simple as implementing effective mentoring.
I am grateful that I was able to connect with an external professional mentor at a crucial time in my career. As I began planning my ascent up the corporate ladder, I sought out new learning opportunities to provide me with an edge.
Through a local community college, I stumbled upon a class entitled Organizational Development and Business Leadership, lead by one John R. Bierer, PhD. This class was a deep dive into understanding market forces, product positioning, operational strategy, and developing actionable vision. Professor Bierer had been a VP of Marketing for a global tire manufacturer, had owned his own advertising and marketing agency, and had had ownership stake and input in over 100 companies around the world as a Venture Capitalist.
Though for all his professional and financial success, he was by far most proud of his status as a Vietnam Veteran, for which he received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and Purple Heart.
John was prolific in his time and willingness to share knowledge to those who were interested. Over time, I came to lean on him as a formal professional mentor. It’s no coincidence that as I rose from sole contributor to supervisor to manager to director, I was in regular contact with John. As I weighed business decisions or new programs, or considered opportunities to perform stretch projects, or evaluated horizontal and vertical promotions, I would talk with him. His perspective and ability help me better define my own goals was, and has been, invaluable.
As a true mentor, much of his advice came by way of questions. Not only questioning me about my own motivations and desires, but also providing me with the questions that I needed to ask related to whatever issues I was facing. His conversations helped me better understand short and long term effects of business decisions I made for myself and for my company. While I have learned a great deal from formal education and practical professional experience, the development of my own critical thinking skills and emotional IQ were most impacted by my opportunity to work with a mentor.
If your organization is serious about grooming the next generation of high impact leaders, don’t underestimate the true and lasting value of effective mentoring. It may in fact be the only way to develop and refine the core skills necessary for leadership.
It had been a few years since I spoke with Dr. Bierer, as I had moved away and had gotten immersed in being a father and husband, while learning a new role with a new company. Yesterday, I sent an email hoping to connect when I’m back in Maine for the holidays, and I started to look around online to see if he was still teaching any courses. What I found was his obituary. While not surprised by his passing at such an early age (he had only moved to Maine originally to live out a terminal lung disease for which he was given a year to live nearly 10 years ago), I was surprised by the effect it had on me. Not only did I feel sadness for a tremendous loss and for my own feelings of guilt as I failed to let him know just how valuable his time had been for me, but also an overwhelming feeling that I had to pay his efforts forward.
The simplicity of his obituary mirrored the simplicity with which he faced business and life…
BRUNSWICK — John R. Bierer, son of John H. Bierer and Florence C. Bierer, passed away on Oct. 28, 2010, after a long battle with lung disease from exposure to Agent Orange while serving with the 173rd Airborne Rangers in Vietnam 1967-1968. He was born on June 10, 1940, in Pittsburgh, Pa.
John was predeceased by…
John was an entrepreneur, educator, and a proud Vietnam combat veteran. Dr. Bierer was educated at Columbia University, Lewis & Clark College, and Oregon State University.
No public service will be held.
Memorial contributions may
be be to either:
The Coastal Humane Society
30 Range Rd.
Brunswick, Maine 04011
or the H.A.R.T. Shelter
302 Range Rd.
Cumberland, Maine 04021
Jason Blais currently works with a global talent acquisition company specializing in pre-employment screening and recruitment technology. Previously, Blais held a director level position with a recruitment media company for several years, where he cut his teeth in Employment Branding. Blais began blogging in 2004, as he researched the value of social networks and new media for employers and job seekers. He has written and presented numerous HRCI-certified seminars in the areas of recruiting, employment branding, social media in HR, and employee engagement; and has been a featured speaker at several state HR conferences and trade associations. Blais is a contributing writer for JobsInTheUS, and has been featured in various news outlets including Fox News American News HQ, the Wall Street Journal, and local ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates across New England. To compliment his experience in recruiting, Blais has also worked closely with thousands of job seekers through his work with state agencies, college and university career centers, and local economic development entities. Blais is currently developing a new conference for job seekers focused on using social networks and new media to find work, which will launch in the Spring of 2011. Blais resides in Northampton, MA, with his wife and their one child.
You can find more from Jason on his blog http://jasonblais.com.