Stephanie Mansfield | Transportation Intermediaries Association
Mentoring can be a magic act. To motivate others is less about teaching or coaching than building trust and instilling self-worth.
An experienced mentor presents a ladder toward success and gives others the inspiration to ascend. No self-help book can compare to an effective mentor, and nowhere is mentoring more important than in the world of logistics.
Younger workers (Gen Xers and millennials) will soon make up one-third of America’s work force as baby boomers retire in record numbers. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that millennials surpassed baby boomers to become the largest living generation in the United States. This new generation of 83 million will have an enormous impact on the way we do business, and their ambition and entrepreneurial spirit will lead to many innovations, especially in the world of transportation.
But this generation is looking for guidance. Someone in their lives they can turn to when self-doubt sets in.
“I was like, ‘Man who do I reach out to?” said 36-year-old Eric Arling, an operations manager for Integrity Express Logistics in Cincinnati, OH. When Arling started in the sales division eight years ago, there were 10 employees. Now, the company employs a staff of more than 400. His only prior experience had been in banking and finance.
Arling wanted to find a mentor to give him guidance, but felt the 3PL world is too unique to turn to a regular business mentor. Someone outside the industry wouldn’t have the specific knowledge he needed, and there wasn’t anyone in his own company who had the background and experience he desired.
Then, he found Mark Christos, Vice President of Transportation at Matson Integrated Logistics in Hinsdale, IL. Christos is a member of the TIA Board of Directors who volunteered to be part of the Association’s newly launched mentoring project. The two men share a weekly phone call on various topics ranging from how to prepare for an annual performance review to the logistical challenges of opening new satellite offices.
“Programs that are based on experience can be impactful,” said Jenn Labin, author of Mentoring Programs That Work (ATD Press, 2017). “But millennials do not respond very well to a ‘war story’ approach. They want to learn by doing.” At 37, Labin is the principal partner with TERP in Baltimore, MD helping match leaders with mentees. “Younger millennials have a real desire to feel more connected to the mission. Meeting with senior people can help motivate them,” Labin said.
“Mark is wonderfully helpful and generous with his time,”Arling said. “He’s also helped with corporate communications. But the best thing he gives me is peace of mind. Everyone’s facing the same challenges. And even though he’s been in the business for 30 years, he’s up against those same challenges. He’s taught me that it’s OK to not have all the answers.”
Most of the business challenges involve truck shortages, lack of new infrastructure for roads and highways, customer concerns versus carrier issues, slow shipping. “As a middle man it’s sometimes out of your hands,” Arling said.
Sue Spero, CEO of Carrier Services of Tennessee and a member of the TIA Board of Directors, has also become a mentor. “I’m mentoring a young woman who recently started a brokerage firm. It makes you feel good that you can help along the way, Spero said. “To help you be true to yourself and know how much you’re worth.”
Her mentee is 28-year-old Elizabeth Griswold, who worked her way up from receptionist to Business Development and Sales Manager at Bowerman Trucking in Searcy, AR. Her brothers started the firm and now she is learning and building the brokerage side. “She’s fired up,” Spero said.
The two connected in May, speak once a week by phone, and plan to meet soon. “I’ve never done brokerage before,” Griswold said. “Sue definitely knows her stuff, that’s for sure.”
In the end, what mentees like Griswold and Arling take away from the mentoring program is a growing sense of self-assurance. Mentoring “gives people the confidence to move forward,” Arling said, and companies would be best served investing in the next generation of leaders.
In the future, Arling says he’d love to become a mentor himself. “That’s my goal, but I’ve got a lot more to learn.”
Stephanie Mansfield is Director of Communications and Marketing for Transportation Intermediaries Association in Alexandria, VA. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.