I used to have a sign on my desk that read, “The sign of a good boss is that he/she hires people smarter than they are.” One can look at this is different ways, but I like to think of that boss as not being afraid to hire bright, dedicated people who are interested in growing. Having a bright team makes life easier, as the boss should be able to delegate responsibilities, which makes operations more efficient. This also has the potential benefit of boosting staff confidence and putting them in a position where they might think, “The boss has placed his confidence in me, so I don’t want to let him/her down.”
Managers with this attitude also tend to be great mentors. Sit back and think about your life. I’ll wager that you can identify several people who helped your career path and/or helped you grow as a person and as a professional. I can look back and pick several persons who fit that bill, including two very supportive parents. In fact, my mother, Dr. Elizabeth Stier, has a major award offered through the IFT in her name—the only award named after a woman. I can pick people from Rutgers: Roy Morse and Mike Solberg. They focused on teaching problem solving, as opposed to regurgitating every little fact related to an issue. When I was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, my advisor, Dr. George York, actually sent me out into the field to help processors in need of help. It was sink or swim, and I managed to swim.
But the greatest mentors for me were those from the National Canners Association, later the National Food Processors Association, a trade association that represented the food canning and processing industry. I joined the microbiology section, headed up by Keith Ito, whom I am proud to claim as a friend and mentor. Keith allowed his people to work up to their abilities. It was a real pleasure to watch Keith work with, listen to, and advise people. He had a unique ability to lead the discussion so that by the end of a meeting, the client felt that they themselves had figured things out. Keith would smile and say, “Let me know if you have questions.”
If you have people in your lives who are mentors, consider yourselves fortunate. We at Food Quality & Safety hope that you may find one or two pieces in each issue that are added to your reference files. We may not be mentors, but we hope we are a good source.
Richard F. Stier