Thursday, December 5, 2013

Memories of a Mentor

Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.  
This Charles Schulz quote is just one of the many my mentor shared with me over the years, and when someone else sent it to me the other day, I immediately thought of him. Phil Krause was once my manager, often a coach and counselor and always a friend. When he passed away suddenly a few years ago, he was mourned by many. 

When Phil left corporate America to branch out on his own as a leadership consultant, he had a strong foundation of contacts because he was the ultimate connector. Once you knew Phil, you were a friend for life.  He stayed in touch in countless personal ways, recommending books, mailing an article he cut out because he thought of you or sending an email about a mutual friend he’d run into.  Whenever he was in Atlanta on business, he made it a point to see me and even stayed with us once.  I am sure he did that with many others. 

He was famous for his Christmas letters which always included two pages of quotes and a magnet with his quote of the year.  The Charles Schulz quote is one of those. One of his many friends has continued this tradition by sending an email list of quotes in Phil’s memory annually. 

Through the years, I called Phil for ideas on leadership meetings and even hired him several times to help plan and facilitate meetings. He was always available to offer advice about difficult work relationships, what I wanted to do next in my career or any leadership topic. He was a master at asking thought provoking questions.  You didn’t call Phil to whine; you called him to work through an issue. 

There were three of us who worked for Phil his last few years at the bank, and we all stayed in touch with each other and with Phil.  Because we took so many business trips together to facilitate offsite leadership programs, we got to know each other pretty well. When he heard we three had a girls’ trip planned, he told me he had a book he wanted us to read when we were all together. Soon thereafter, I received three copies of How Proust Can Change Your Life, my last surprise package from Phil. 

His gift was that he brought out the best in everyone he encountered.  He always encouraged me to be the best and pushed me when I had self-doubts. To this day, I use what he taught me, whether coaching a co-worker, counseling a friend, or working through a problem on my own, and I think of him when I do.
There are quite a few of us still at the bank who worked with Phil, and his name never fails to come up when we connect.  We all comment on how special he was and how much we miss talking to him.  Maya Angelou was so right when she wrote,
 I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.