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Developing Talent

After my first week of work as a Marine, following boot camp and computer science school, I met my team leader Sgt Jim Condello. He had been away during my first week, attending the Staff Non Commissioned Officers Academy and preparing for his upcoming promotion to staff sergeant.

I met him as we checked in at the shop. Once we met, the team was given the morning off while the techs performed weekly maintenance on the mainframe. As I was leaving with the rest of the group, just as I had the week earlier, Condello asked me where I was going. He shook his head and told me to follow him.

For the next two hours, he had me doing any dirty job he could find. Every now and then, he would shout out my name and ask how it felt to be a private first class (PFC) in the Marines. I would keep working and say fine sergeant. The whole time, I was getting frustrated, but was not going to let him bother me to the point I did something stupid. After two hours, he yelled again and I had finally taken all I could without responding. I stood at attention and yelled “I like it a lot better than being a private, sergeant.”  He threw his head back, laughed hard and then told me to take the morning off.

I later realized that he was testing me. Condello had re-enlisted from the artillery and was used to a disciplined group. Many of the new guys in the shop had bad attitudes and he wanted to check mine. Once he discovered that I was a motivated young marine, I still had to do the duties of the lowest ranking guy on the team, but was treated with respect. He also went out of his way to teach me and prepare me to be an NCO.

Two years into my enlistment, I was meritoriously promoted to sergeant while on embassy duty. A few months later, I had a chance to speak to Condello and he asked me how I liked being a sergeant in the Marines. I laughed and said it was better than being a PFC. We both laughed. That was when I realized that he was as proud of my promotion as I was.

That was also a great lesson I learned from him. Condello was trying to prepare me to be a sergeant and replace him as he moved up.  He was a good leader.

I find myself looking more these days for opportunities to help others advance their careers. I think it’s the ultimate legacy that anyone could leave. If I do it correctly, then those that I help will turn around and do the same. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

Who was there to help mentor you? Who do you know, that has the talent and desire that you could mentor?

  1. April 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Great post Marty!

    One of the key priorities for a leader is to recognize and develop the potential and talent in others.

    I have been blessed to have a few mentors in my life that recognized in me talents I didn’t know or even believed I had. They were encouraging, provided opportunities to stretch my comfort zone and got to know me both personally and professionally. I would not be where I am today without them.

    Thank you for sharing your story and for reminding me how important it is to have that mentor.


    • April 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm


      Thanks! Upon reflection, I think everyone could come up with a couple people who made a difference in out lives.

      I had a chance last week to talk to a young man who is where I was early in my career. We’re getting together now and then to discuss important issues in his life, both personally and professionally. I really hope he’s getting as much out of our sessions as I am.

      Thanks again,

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