Mentors and Mentoring

Alicia Boler Davis’ career is filled with moments of mentorship. Here are three recommendations to follow when attempting to be a quality mentor or mentee.

1. Walk the Plant Floor

When Bill Boggs first managed General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck plant, there was a lot of work to be done. The previous plant manager, he says, “sat in the office, pulled everybody into the conference room and beat them up and sent them back out on the floor. He didn’t get involved.”

Boggs saw Boler Davis as talented but “rough around the edges.” He wanted to prepare her for the challenges ahead. So when he started reforming the management structure, he made sure to teach Boler Davis a core lesson: You have to win the assembly line workers’ hearts and minds.

This included walking the plant floor every morning, implementing a daily staff meeting and getting to know workers one on one.

Boler Davis also learned how to work the levers of the factory floor. “We developed a quality operating system,” Boggs says. “No matter what the challenges were, Alicia took them on.”

2. Share Your Experience

Boler Davis recruited Christine Sitek from elsewhere in GM, asking her to make a jump into customer experience. Sitek was unsure.

“Alicia knew exactly how to talk to me about it. She said to me, ‘Christine, think about it. You’ve run plants. Now you’re going to run call centers. They’re similar to plants.’  ”

Sitek found herself coming around. “She helped me kind of relate. I think she could do that because she had done it herself.”

3. Keep Your Role Models Close

One of Boler Davis’ earliest inspirations lived in the same house growing up — her older sister, Kimberly.

Whenever Boler Davis would start a new school year, the teacher would invariably comment, positively, “Oh, you’re Kimberly Boler’s sister, so you’re going to be great.”

Boler Davis credits her sister as being a role model growing up. She recalls that Kimberly was a straight-A student who chose to attend Harvard University for undergraduate studies, a rare college destination in their community.

“She set the bar high,” Boler Davis fondly recalls. — S.A.

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