Chip Bell: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris


Bell-Chip-149x200The author of nineteen books, Chip’s newest book (with Marshall Goldsmith) is Managers As Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning. He is also the author of Wired and Dangerous (with John Patterson) and Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (with Ron Zemke). He has served as consultant, trainer, or speaker to such major organizations as GE, Microsoft, State Farm, Marriott, Lockheed-Martin, Cadillac, KeyBank, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, USAA, Merrill Lynch, Allstate, Caterpillar, Hertz, Accenture, Verizon, Home Depot, Harley-Davidson, and Victoria’s Secret. He has served as an adjunct instructor at Cornell University, Manchester University (UK), and Penn State University.

Additionally, he was a highly decorated infantry unit commander in Vietnam with the elite 82nd Airborne and served on the faculty of the Instructional Methods Division of the Army Infantry School. His articles on training and learning have appeared in such professional journals as T+D, Training, HR Magazine, Personal Excellence, Workforce Training News, The Toastmaster, Educational Leadership, Adult Training, Adult Leadership, Storyteller’s Journal, and Journal of European Training (UK). Chip’s articles on leadership and mentoring have appeared in Leadership Excellence, MWorld, Entrepreneur, Leader to Leader, Advanced Management Journal, Sales and Service Excellence, Journal of Management Consulting, Customer Relationship Management, Quality Digest, Staff Digest, and Today’s Leaders.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Chip.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to create a new edition of Managers as Mentors and do so in collaboration with Marshall Goldsmith?

Bell: The book has been a perennial seller and the publisher asked for a third edition. Since the first two editions were solo works…and, since the subtitle of the book is “Building Partnerships for Learning,” I thought writing the book with someone else would be fun and a learning opportunity. Marshall and I have talked about a collaboration for years and it seemed like a natural fit. I proposed a plan and he liked it. It was no more complicated than that! The collaboration was a gift and a joy!

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing the Third Edition? Please explain.

Bell: Not really. I think we went much deeper on the creation of insight and how partnership made that more likely. We are still uncovering new perspectives on that subject. So, the book is really a work in progress. We just stopped at a convenient spot to get out what we had been given.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the third edition in final form differ significantly from what you initially envisioned? Please explain.

Bell: This is a very difficult question to answer. And, my answer will sound weird. So, delete if you like. Books for me are not created like building a house from a blueprint. They appear almost fully complete—actually they are complete, I just cannot recall all of what appears, so I get lots of return visits. My job is more one of taking dictation. I appreciate how weird this must sound. A book arrives on its time, not mine; leaves on its time, not mine. And, assumes a life of its own until it is gone. That’s probably way more than you wanted to know about this topic. Writing for me is deeply spiritual. It is not like writing a term paper on a topic assigned. Let me sum it this way, “the muses” and I are very close friends and I have been given twenty books because I respect their power and value their gifts.

Morris: Of all the changes that have occurred in the business world since the first edition was published in 1996, insofar as mentoring is concerned, which do you consider to be most significant? Why?

Bell: Clearly the increase in the pace of work, the globalization and diversity of the work force, and the role of the Internet.

Morris: You define mentoring as helping another person to learn in partnership. How do people learn?

Bell: I am not sure. Biologically, there are chemical changes that alter and/or imprint synapses, ultimately impacting habit. But, can chemistry explain a magical aha when we are emotionally moved by a discovery? Anthropologically, certain cultural patterns are affirming causing repetition to be more likely. But, that does not explain how Mozart composed music by the time he was five. We do know there are features of a mentor-protégé relationship that makes learning more expeditious and retentive.

Morris: Here’s a follow-up question: How specifically does a mentor help another person to do so?

Bell: The word “mentor” comes from The Odyssey, written by the Greek poet Homer. As Odysseus (Ulysses, in the Latin translation) is preparing to go fight the Trojan War, he realizes he is leaving behind his son and only heir, Telemachus. Since “Telie” (as he was probably known to his buddies) is in junior high, and since wars tended to drag on for years (the Trojan War lasted ten), Odysseus recognizes that Telie needs to be coached on how to “king” while Daddy is off fighting. He hires a trusted family friend named Mentor to be Telie’s tutor. Mentor is both wise and sensitive — two essential ingredients of world-class mentoring.

The history of the word “mentor” is instructive for several reasons. First, it underscores the legacy nature of mentoring. Like Odysseus, great leaders strive to leave behind a benefaction of added value. Second, Mentor (the old man) combined the wisdom of experience with the sensitivity of a fawn in his attempts to convey the skills of warrior king to young Telemachus. We all know the challenge of conveying our hard-won wisdom to another without resistance. The successful mentor is able to circumvent resistance.

Homer characterizes Mentor as a family friend. The symbolism contained in this relationship is apropos to contemporary mentors. Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer an unconditional, faithful acceptance of the protégé. Friends work to add and multiply, not subtract. Family members care, even in the face of mistakes and errors.

Superior mentors know how adults learn. Operating out of their intuition or on what they have learned from books, classes, or other mentors, the best mentors recognize that they are, first and foremost, facilitators and catalysts in a process of discovery and insight. They know that mentoring is not about smart comments, eloquent lectures, or clever quips. Mentors practice their skills with a combination of never-ending compassion, crystal-clear communication, and a sincere joy in the role of being a helper along a journey toward mastery.

Just like the first practitioner of their craft, mentors love learning, not teaching. They treasure sharing rather than showing off, giving rather than boasting. Great mentors are not only devoted fans of their protégés; they are loyal fans of the dream of what their protégés can become with their guidance.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

Here is a direct link to Part 1.

Chip cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

The Chip Bell Group link

His Amazon page link

YouTube videos link

LinkedIn link

Twitter link

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