When they say – I didn't know I was supposed to do that


I think we can all have about 10% more success in the places we lead simply by keeping the ideals and ends in front of us with some frequency. Here’s what reminded me of the importance of focus and repetition. I just had an anniversary mentoring a Lansing boy, and so Big Brother Big Sister sent me evaluation forms. And it’s great that more and more not-for-profits are measuring what’s important. What gets measured, gets done! However . . .

I wanted to hide a little as I filled out the scale-of-1-to-5 scores on my mentee’s improvement, because there were a bunch of areas where I couldn’t say I had helped generate any progress. Some of these questions pointed to areas where I didn’t see progress, but I had been genuinely focused, but some questions caught me totally off guard. Under questions that had to do with my mentee’s Confidence, I was asked about progress in “personal hygiene and appearance” and whether he was “able to express feelings.” I read these and thought: “Shoot, I wasn’t even thinking about that. I was supposed to do that?” I think I probably could have had some positive impact if I had just been focused. So, I wrote my wonderful case manager Kelly and suggested that maybe the agency could find ways to email us to keep us focused on where we can make a difference, and perhaps how we can do so.

It’s so easy to forget just why we are here, just what our purpose is. Measurables are tremendously helpful, but doing them once a year, twice a year, even quarterly is just not enough. We’re all suffering from what someone called “permanent attention deficit disorder,” so we need to be refocused from time to time. If, as everyday leaders we want to move people to important action, we’ve got to find ways to do it: emails, quick monthly check-ins, flipcharts, etc! Or here’s some great low-tech that’s a blast. In my old office we had an entire wall painted with black chalkboard paint, so we could keep the big measurables up, as well as do spur of the moment, erasable brainstorming. There’s now a very cool whiteboard paint that allows you to turn a whole wall erasable for key objectives, or for short-term updates and brainstorms. Be creative. Just keep it present.

And here’s an ideal that I remind you of once a year: This is Michigan (and National) Mentoring Month. There are so many great kids who just need a friend in their corner, a listener, an encourager. They don’t need your wallet; don’t need a psychologist, just someone who will open his or her ears, mind, and heart. I’ve been enriched as much by Delvin, as he has by me, but in his case, he has so precious few people pulling for him. Be somebody great for somebody this year. Make life fine in ’09!

Lead with your best self!



  • Dan,

    Thank you so much for getting me involved in the Mentoring program with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

    I assure you that it is something that I would not have thought to do on my own!

    My two years with my “Little” Eddie, has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I, like you, am not so sure that I am making a big difference. But let me tell you for sure! I am getting the better end of this deal!

    I look forward with great anticipation and sense of adventure to my weekly visit with Eddie. He asked me one day, “So when do you stop being my Big Sister?” My response is that he is stuck with me for life!

    Thanks Dan~

    The TIP Lady

  • to start, what a day 01-20-09 was. It has beenclose to eight years since I had a good feeling when my thoughts steered towards government leadership, at the federal level…..Thank you, Mr. President. Finally a leader who gravitates towards public service leadership, instead of the public as his servants mentality.
    Your blog this week is great, there is a saying, not sure from whom/where, that says something to the effect that no man (or woman) stands taller than when they bend over to listen to, and help, a youngster. Some of my fondest memories involve that perspective in my own life, both receiving and giving.
    I’ll take your call to act for ’09 to heart, as I have stepped away from the kind of interaction that motivated me in the past. 2009 can be an awesome year, and I have started to build on that stream of consciousness.

  • Dan,

    I just heard that Citi-bank, who took $45 BILLION DOLLARS of taxpayer “bailout” money, just treated the corporste big wigs to a $50 MILLION DOLLAR corporate jet. A luxury 12 seater built in France.
    One day, sooner than later, there is going to be a revolution in America, and these thieves will be targeted with extreme ire.
    It might be the proper time for these ‘bailout boys’ to get some hard jail time…..Wall Streeters and Washington D.C’ers.

    • More entitlement….AIG gets a whooping $150B in taxpayer funds….handing out $450M in exec bonuses, the equivalent to $1M per AIG employee. Something is VERY VERY WRONG in this once great country….it is called GREED, and COLLUSION….between Wall St,. and Washington D.C.

      On a more justice related note: You go, Mr. Attorney General of NY. To paraphrase a Clint movie……”Hang ‘Em High” (re: Merrill Lynch former CEO)

      Will work for food….the new commoner American mantra, not reserved for the cardboard carrying homeless man standing on the roadside anymore.

      I’m just glad I’m not a 93 year old fixed income man living in Michigan during the cold winter months.

  • Proverbs 22:6 says,Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Mentoring is the happy medium which supplements families, schools, and courts. Mentoring is valuable, and has become a necessity, but our communities are still ill knowledged with how mentoring will impact our children. There is still a divide, with all of the re-inventing the wheel, the trust in the community has not been able to come to an understanding on what mentoring is about.

    I think, RFL would have an impact on helping to promote mentoring. Yes this Mentoring Awareness Month, and this has been my focus for 5 years. Thank you Mr. Mulhern for sharing your story and reminding us that everyone can be a leader.

    Thomas K. Burke
    Mentoring Collaborative Of Jackson county – Chair
    BBBS – Mentor

  • Dan,

    This message is great. I’ve fowarded it to over twenty school people.
    This reminds me of when we put together the Michigan Youth Force. I was on the original committee.


  • Yes, Dan, in our 24/7 global economy, feeling frequently rushed and impatient, becoming easily distracted and forgetful can come from environmentally induced attention deficit disorder (www.WhatisADD.info).

    Dr. Edward M. Hallowell was the first to name adult attention deficit disorder, or Adult A.D.D., back in 1995, and he has written a book on our modern life in “CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone A.D.D.” (Ballantine Books, 2006).

    Technology and activity overload tend to be the consequences of living where everybody is trying to do more in less time. Yet, we must be able to maintain our focus and restore our energy as we bend, stretch and bounce around at work and in our personal life.

    We know that if we don’t prioritize our life activities, we’ll find ourselves spread so thin that we won’t have time for those people and things that are important to us.

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