Archive for Reflecting on 9-to-5

Shout-out to a Mentor

Derrick Coyle

Derrick Coyle

For some people the reward of a career is found in a title or a salary, for others, it is in the glory, however fleeting, of sales records and performance numbers. But the most influential figures in a large organization’s success are not necessarily found at the top of the hierarchy. They are often those who mentor, build talent, and influence attitudes, from the mid-layers.

The capacity to inspire a team towards a desired result is not the exclusive domain of the impeccably attired, silver-tongued executive, but is sometimes found in a position just high enough in the organization to be heard, and close enough to the workforce, to understand.


In my single-company, thirty-five year run, I was (a couple of decades ago) one of a semi-youthful roster of managers fortunate enough to have had such a career influence.

Larry Deramo, who for many years headed up the Commercial Lines Underwriting department of a large, Canadian insurance company, struck the delicate balance of delivering results while doggedly looking after his people.

Over the longer term, organizations will inevitably go through good cycles and bad. It’s the latter that test the authenticity of relationships and expose inflated egos. The charade perpetuated by the self-interested is quickly laid bare, and the strength of genuine loyalties, reinforced.

Larry is a senior manager who – occasionally to his own detriment – put his people first. He has never been blinded by ego and lives the company credo of ‘doing the right thing.’ There’s an unshakeable loyalty and powerful motivation that develops when you know a manager is fighting the fight for you.

But support for people should not be mistaken for skewed business priorities or weakness of character. An enterprise survives on its bottom line and business targets and performance expectations were always made clear to us. There is a big difference, however, between having to and wanting to achieve something. Larry’s charges wanted to, and invariably delivered.


mentorIt was an honour for me to have had Larry forward my name as a candidate for his replacement in the National underwriting role, back in 2007, when he elected to apply his talents to the development of commercial business, in a lateral position with the same company.

After a few months of seeing very little of him – while I tried to learn a host of new responsibilities and fill a very big pair of shoes – our orbits finally aligned and we caught up over a bite and a beer.

“If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard much from me,” he said, “it’s not that I haven’t wanted to help you, it’s because I was asked to leave you alone so you could put your own stamp on this department. But, Derrick, if you ever need my help, you know you can come to me any time.”

I did … and I did.


Perhaps a scenario less prevalent in an increasingly implacable business world, Larry knew how to meet work demands while keeping it fun. He earned a level of respect that still resonates at the highest levels of a convoluted industry, and he continues to put people together and make things happen, in his role with a prominent GTA brokerage.

It seems to me the legacy of effective leaders of people is more subtle than that of their numbers-at-all-costs counterparts, but it is also more meaningful. The impact of mentoring is pervasive, cascading well beyond the original layer of protégés directly exposed.

Managers of my time have done their best to emulate their model and provide the guidance, support and leadership he demonstrated so passionately. Now, many of the next generation of managers, we trained, carry that same influence into their own careers and apply it in teams they lead.


On behalf of myself and countless others whose careers and lives have been touched by your guidance and friendship, thank you, Larry D – forever loved and respected by your loyal flock.


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