Mentor Who Made a Corporation Less Crazy

st Infantry Division’s insignia laid out in stones on a high, wind-blown hill; or the frequent “free beer nights” on the base, when the hung-over casualties were collected on large trucks, taken to a gymnasium, and put in dozens of rows…. When he was young, his family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, stopping temporarily at various places — the semi-nomadic life of the working poor – until they came to a Santa Monica motel near a pier.  He could hear a jazz band playing in the distance, mixing with the sounds of the ocean, and thought he had come to a wonderful place. In time, Los Angeles did seem like a place where wonderful things could happen.  He worked his way through USC, had a job all lined up after graduation, and then was drafted, giving him two years worth of stories. After the Army,  he joined IBM and near the end of his career was sent to Tokyo, where he mentored me in executive communications.  After he retired to the U.S., he continued to advise me in weekly calls.  Often our conversations concerned his youngest grandson who seemed to have inherited his sense of misbehavior. One of the first things he told me when I came to IBM was, “This corporation is crazy.  Well, actually, all corporations are crazy.  This one is just crazier than others.”  He made it his duty to instill some sanity into the corporation.  Speechwriting, he felt, was one way of doing this, “It’s your job to show that the executive is intelligent, that he knows what he’s doing.  You also try to make him likable – even if he isn’t.  A lot of them aren’t.”  He always tried to help the corporation become a little better, a little less crazy, a little more likable, for the sake of its employees and customers.  And for me, he did just that.]]>