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No Congratulations for My Mentor

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My mentor retired, but I did not send him a congratulations card.

His name is Ed Platt and he was a giant in the electric utility industry for 50 years. He left a huge footprint—not only because of his monumental personal achievements, but because of those leaders he created and those he greatly influenced.

Many leaders–including myself–rode on Ed’s shoulders.

Riding on Ed’s Shoulders

You see, that’s what great leaders do. Just like our parents, who lifted us up onto their shoulders to improve our vantage points so we could see the parade or the race, great leaders boost us up, mentor us and show us the way. We have all ridden on the shoulders of great leaders who came before us. Whether it was a teacher, a boss or a parent, somebody important in your life boosted you up to improve leadership.

Ed Platt boosted me up and gave me leadership principles, a leadership style and a real opportunity to improve my own vantage point.

When he retired, I traveled 500 miles to meet him and his colleagues in the back room of a small restaurant in Dallas, Texas to celebrate his career.

Why Did I Go?

When something monumental like this happens, I don’t send a card, and I don’t think you should either. When something this important happens, you have to show up. There are times when you know you should go, but you really don’t have the time or desire. Go anyway! It’s called Being Physically Present, and it matters greatly.

A Special Leader

What was it about Ed that made him so special?

Ed was the one who taught me the value of being present – physically, mentally and emotionally. He didn’t teach me from a stage like I teach others when I speak to an audience. He taught me in the plant, out on the floor, in business meetings and at group lunches.

Ed had a way of lifting me up and putting me on his shoulders so I could see leadership in action.

No Congratulations Card

So, I did not send him a congratulations card, but not because I decided to show up. A congratulations card just didn’t seem right. Instead, I brought him a thank you card. Why? Because I owed this legend of a man more than a simple “congratulations.” I owed him a lot; it was more than I could repay, but the best I could do was thank him sincerely for all he gave me.

These are some of the things I really needed to say to him:

Thank you, Ed, for putting so many of us up on your shoulders and pointing the way to leadership. Thanks for leading us all to good places that we would not have gone on our own. Thanks for imparting so much worth to us at a cost to you. Thanks for always showing us what true courage looks like.

Now it is Your Turn

Who was it for you? Whose shoulders have you ridden on? You might be thinking of that person right now, somebody who influenced you. Somebody that was important in your life. What did they give you while you were riding on their shoulders? They probably gave you a lot of things: knowledge, lessons, modeling, experience. Maybe they just gave you a chance to succeed when nobody else would. For me, it was seeing leadership in action.

Who do you need to thank right now? What are you waiting for? November is the month for giving thanks. You could call and thank them right now. Or better yet, physically show up and do it personally.

Leaders must be present to win. Leaders who are present, win, along with those they lead and those they follow.

So, congratulations Ed on your retirement. Now, we all want to watch you lead us one more time, as you show us how to do retirement right.

Doug Sterbenz's picture

Thank Doug for the Post!

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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Nov 14, 2019 7:51 pm GMT


As always love this post, nice tie into to the month of giving thanks.  I will send a shout out to our CEO, Steve Drazga, who is also my husband if you didn't catch the same last name :).  Steve has always challenged our team to develop professionally and to continually improve.  He is also always challenging us to think strategically, which is hard for some of us tactical folks. I have learned a lot from working with Steve!  So, thanks to our CEO!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 14, 2019 10:38 pm GMT

Quite an inspiring post-- we all undoubtedly have many people to thank for boosting us to where we are, whether formal and deeply connected like a direct mentor or just people who gave us a small bit of advice or a pat on the back when we needed it. Definitely motivated me to reach out!

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