Learning from the Best

It’s not everyday that one gets a really good mentor – someone willing to teach you what he/she knows, or listen to you even as he has to listen to 100 more employees on any given day; someone willing to work harder than everyone else. When you’re privileged to meet that mentor, make sure you’re ready to learn and give it all you’ve got. In the 10 years that I worked with him, my mentor showed me how to write good reports, to manage simply, and to take care of people.

He showed me why good reports are important, and how these should be understood by the board members, as well as regular people. In the process, I learned many things from writing these reports. I learned to tell a story about what happened during the period in  review, why those things happened, and what to expect moving forward. I learned to write simply, hoping to explain jargon such as Extraordinary Price Adjustments (EPA) and Return on Rate Base (RORB) to college-educated people. I learned to be concise, acknowleding that the board members had no time to read. I learned to be precise, distinguishing that one billion has several zeroes more than one million. I learned to write, re-write and start over, to analyze, and to be patient writing my narratives.

By his example, he showed me how to manage things simply. He kept things simple which was how he managed and grew the company. He was always asking us about our five marbles or our most important deliverables. He said that if we didn’t know what these were, then we were in trouble. He was right. At any given time, we should be able to articulate what our five marbles were. I hated it when he’d ask me to simplify and summarize the key points made by each group after every offsite planning session. (My fellow managers couldn’t care much about these summaries because the buffet lunch was ready.) In hindsight, it was good training for me.

He took care of people and showed them that he cared. He knew people by their names.  I’m not sure how he remembered everyone’s names or managed to check everyone’s ID without being too obvious as he addressed them. He’d make an effort to know which of the cadets were dating because he said that that too was important. Our many conversations in the car gave me an insight to his person. He’d share how he used to take several rides to get to his classes at the Ateneo from Malabon, or how his folks were regular people. My favorite quip was when he told me: “Good people always outlive their bosses. Who knows, the bad boss might get run over by a train!” I laughed when he said this. I knew he wanted to make light of a serious issue of plagiarism involving my immediate boss.

I heard about his retirement in the news and sent him an SMS to congratulate and thank him. Ever humble, he simply returned the compliment. ‘Thanks, B. patience always pays off as you have proven with better results each time around. I was fortunate to have been mentored by Tony Aquino as were my other colleagues. ATA as we call him, taught me the value of doing things well – be it in writing reports, managing responsibilites, or handling people.

 

 

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