The Benefits of Being a Mentor: Part Two

March 25, 2024

A conversation with Mark Johansen of ACS Group

Henrique Noguchi (Milliken & Company) and Mark Johansen (ACS Group)

Mark Johansen, Vice President of Marketing for ACS Group, recently spoke with the PLASTICS Blog about his experience mentoring Henrique Noguchi, a Technical Manager in the Plastics Additives unit of Milliken & Company.

How did you become involved with the FLiP Mentorship Program?

At the ACS Group, we have three people who are actually in the FLiP program as mentees. It was through them that that I decided I should probably throw my hat in the ring on the mentor side and see if I can’t help make a difference in the development of some of the younger members in the PLASTICS organization. I recently put in my paperwork for my second mentorship assignment.

How did you structure your mentoring sessions with Henrique?

Henrique and I met monthly, online, for a year and once in-person at the PLASTICS Fall meeting. We had some very deep-dive conversations about leadership and how to motivate direct reports, how to present business results, and how to drive success, both individually and through teams. Henrique would e-mail me very specific, detailed questions 48 hours in advance. That allowed me to pour through the Rolodex in my head and pull up some nuggets and examples from both distant and recent memory.

What type of “nuggets and examples” did you draw on?

I think what’s most important is to share both successes and failures. Decisions that lead to successful results are always fun to talk about, but I think it’s just as important to let the mentee know that things won’t always go well – there are going to be setbacks. You’re inevitably going to make decisions that either aren’t perfect or might even lead to significant unfavorable results. For those unfavorable examples, it’s important to convey to the mentee what you would have done differently and how you recovered and what you learned.

What benefits did the mentor relationship yield for you?

It’s always rewarding if you can share your experiences and help someone else navigate their career. But specifically, the age demographics among my current direct reports and extended team include people in the FLiP mentorship age group. Speaking with Henrique opened my eyes to some things about mindset, perspectives, and what’s important to someone in that demographic, which helps me be a better manager for my existing team.

Is there anything about the structure of the FLiP Mentorship Program you found helpful?

I found the mentorship process to be very flexible. There are certainly some guidelines in terms of the frequency with which you want to meet, in fact, it was almost conveyed to me as, “You don’t have to meet that often; It’s not going to be that big of a burden.” So when Henrique wanted to meet monthly, I said, “That’s fine!” I mean, who can’t carve out half an hour of time on a monthly basis? If it’s important, we can all make it a priority… In my opinion, it’s not very restrictive and gives the mentor and mentee the flexibility to tailor the program to suit their needs.

What’s your opinion of the program’s importance and overall impact?

We need to encourage the PLASTICS membership to invest the same amount of energy in the FLiP Mentorship Program that they put into the succession planning and development of the employees in their own businesses—It’s that important. If we want longevity and success for PLASTICS, we have to start developing the next set of business and industry leaders who are going to step up and help lead the association through their involvement. I think it would behoove us to have a strong level of focus on FLiP.

Give us your elevator pitch to someone who’s considering mentorship.

All successful business people want to leave a legacy, right? There’s no better way to leave a legacy than to pass on your experience, your learning, and your philosophy to help someone else be successful.