Organizational Role Models and Mentors

Over the weekend I had a good talk with friend and unofficial mentor Al Pittampali. At a young age he is already an accomplished author and speaker, and he had some great advice to give me on some things I should be doing to succeed in my career.

His insights were spot-on and priceless. In hindsight I realize that what he spoke about were things that I’ve observed others do but had never occurred to me that I should be doing as well. This got me thinking about the power of role models and mentors in business.

I argue that role models and mentors aren’t just necessary for individuals. Organizations would be well-served to identify other organizations as role-models. The ideal role-models wouldn’t necessarily have to be in the same industry, in actuality it’s preferable that they not be direct competitors. Instead, a good organizational role model candidate is a company that operates with the ideals our company aspires to possess. Or a company which builds relationships with its customers the same way we would like to do it. Maybe it’s a company which fosters a familial environment with its employees and it seems like the best fit for our business. Or maybe even all of the above. The options are limitless.

Think about it. How many companies couldn’t stand to benefit from modeling their goals and efficiency like the General Electric that Jack Welch established? A company known for not accepting anything less than excellence, who would exit a market in which it wasn’t #1 or #2. Even if said market was very profitable for them.

Yes, some of the things we’ll learn from role models and even mentors will be things one can learn from analysis and thorough reading. But what makes it much more effective than just research is that aspiring to an already-great entity brings a bit of business “magic” with it. It gives us a pre-established frame of mind and spirit we can turn to during tough times and say “How would ______ handle this?” You won’t always find that type of thinking in a book.