Go Ahead, Make Someone’s Day

By Chris Crouch

Many years ago when I began my career with a national CPA firm I was quickly bombarded with information related to numerous firm policies and procedures. I was told about everything including when to show up for work and which color pencil to use. I’m not kidding about the pencil choosing policy.

On the first day of work, all of us newbies were given a set of four mechanical pencils – a black one, a red one, a green one and a blue one. Then we were given a generous supply of black, red, green and blue pencil lead. As we were handed the pencils, the manager in charge of employee orientation, or perhaps I should call it employee disorientation, looked sternly at us and said, “Do not, under any circumstances use the blue pencil! Only members of the partner/management group are allowed to use the blue pencils!” As it turned out, no one could find anything about the seemingly all-important blue-pencil ban in the policy and procedures manual.

The newbie group began talking in whispered tones around the office about the possible existence of a super-secret partner/managers manual. CPAs are pretty adamant about documenting things. We figured this and many other similar baffling edicts must have been documented in the super-secret manual. I personally speculated that the super-secret manual was written totally in blue pencil.

Anyhow, something else happened early in my career that I could find no reference to in the policy and procedures manual. I somehow found myself in a very helpful mentoring relationship with one of the partners. He took a special interest in me for some reason and helped me navigate the ins and outs and ups and downs of my budding career. He seemed to know all about what was going on with me. On many occasions, he would informally nudge me in one direction or another and help me stay on track in terms of my career progress.

I’m told that not near as much mentoring is going on in organizations these days. I do not know if that’s true or just something people like to say. I hope it’s not true. If you believe mentoring would be a good thing for your organization, here are three questions that can help you assist newer folks in your organization. Ask the person you are trying to help: What do you want? How are you going to get it? How can I help you?

I learned these questions from Bobb Biehl, author of the book “Mentoring, How to Find a Mentor and How to Become One.” I love the simplicity of these three questions and I love the fact that these questions specifically challenge the mentee (if there is such a word) to retain responsibility for determining what they want to accomplish and how they are going to accomplish it. These simple questions make them think about things they should be constantly thinking about. Go ahead – make someone’s day. Ask them these three questions.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.