“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J Loren Norris
One of our most talented up-and-comers, Taylor Watson, had a brilliant idea. To bring this month’s agency fundamental “Be a Mentor” to life, she suggested we have a “thank a mentor” party at the agency. We get together as a group in both offices to write a thank-you note to the people who have helped us get to where we are today. First of all, a written note in today’s world is akin to a Bigfoot sighting. The time it takes to write with an actual pen requires thought to what you want to say. And let’s face it, receiving a handwritten note from someone just feels good. Its says, “I took the time to write this note, because you are important to me”. Never mind the time it takes to put it in an envelope and mail it! How retro — but how undeniably nice.
There are really two women who have been mentors to me in very different roles. When we can’t see what’s ahead of us, it can be scary. Mentors can become a true north — they tell you what to expect and how to deal with it.
Dana Maiman is a well-known entity in the pharma agency world. She is the CEO and president of FCB Health. She is one of those incredible women who somehow gets it all done, makes it look easy and is beloved by clients and staff. When we started HCB, I was introduced to Dana and truthfully, a bit awed. Here I was, a former New Yorker with a startup agency in Austin, Texas. She didn’t have to give me the time of day. Yet, she did. She made time on her busy calendar for me every time I came to town. She let me pick her brain and ask advice while offering guidance. Many times at the agency I’ve employed my “What would Dana do?” approach while keeping in mind her words of advice on riding the roller coaster of running an agency — “seat belt on, but enjoying the ride”…. Thank you, Dana, for making time for me.
When I was 22, I lost my mom to ovarian cancer. It was an especially tough time as I hadn’t really learned enough from her about the things ahead: marriage, kids, etc. It was never more apparent than when I had my firstborn and the nurse said those terrifying new-mom words,“He’s ready to go home!” My sister Cindy Ravn stepped in and has never missed a beat in teaching me the most important job I have: being a mother. She has modeled for me the important things: to be strong but empathetic and spend less time worrying and more time enjoying. Every stage brings a new adventure from toddlers to teenagers, and she took many a late-night call from me with the reassuring words, “It’s normal or it’s a phase” — simple but weighty words that have meant everything to me. As a mother of four, she had pretty much seen it all — and gave me the wisdom of her journey to help me navigate. Thank you, Cindy, for teaching me how to do this job right. Mom would be proud.
So here are my notes of thank you to two incredible women. What does it take to be a mentor? It can be a few meetings, or it can be a lifetime of support. It doesn’t matter how much you can do for someone who needs you — but someone out there absolutely does. Maybe they will send you a letter someday.