Lessons from a Bad Mentor

Robert Ramos |

We all have positive role models and mentors in our lives. These people set wonderful examples for us to follow and they demanded that we in turn set good examples for others. They are the ones we remember with fondness and to whom we owe our eternal thanks.

Then there are those on the other side of the spectrum; the bad mentors and the rotten examples. These people have massively overinflated egos, treat others like servants and value those around them by the size of their wallets.

What many young people may not understand is that there are lessons to be learned from both types of mentors. We learn how to act and how not to act. We learn how to be good citizens of our society. We learn the negative impacts of selfishness and self importance.

Joyce and I had the “privilege” of re-learning lessons from a bad mentor recently. We were at a conference and one of our bad mentors was there. Prior to accepting the invitation to the event we agreed that we would not let the unpleasantness of the past mar our attendance.   

However, the way we run our business and treat our clients is a result of watching him run his business and treat his clients. We learned what we did not want to be by observing him. Over the years, our assistants have been integral parts of our team. Their input is requested. They are not replaceable minions who work perform their tasks out of fear.

We treat our clients the way we would expect another advisor to treat our mothers. We respect their time, we make sure they understand a point before moving to the next, we return calls or emails promptly and we listen.

At the conference, we avoided our Bad Mentor but we watched and observed. We watched as he arrived late and walked to an open seat as close to the front as possible. As we listened to the speakers on stage, Bad Mentor turned his back to the speaker and spent his time with his head buried in his tablet or phone. Bad Mentor, as always, was purely focused on Bad Mentor. He was oblivious to how rude he was to the speakers and to the others sitting at his table. The character traits we knew so well 20 years ago are still in place today.

We are posting this as a learning experience for the next generation coming into this profession. Ours is a wonderful career that has rewards far beyond the financial. You will have good mentors and bad ones. Each will present learning opportunities. It is up to you to decide how to use the lessons they teach you.