Dick McGlinchey – Mentor and Friend

Uncategorized Posted Dec 7, 2009 by metropolis

On Friday, I learned that Dick McGlinchey had passed away earlier in the week. Dick had been battling a progressive neurological disease, Multiple System Atrophy, but he died suddenly from a heart attack.

Earlier this year, I read a profile of NBC news anchor Brian Williams. Williams observed that few of us can point to a single individual to whom we’d attribute our success, but Williams could. In his case, Tom Brokaw had plucked the young Williams from a rather obscure news job at CBS to bring him to NBC. Brokaw served as Williams mentor and advocate, guiding him to his future success in the news business.

I remember thinking at the time that Dick McGlinchey had played that same role in my life.

Like so many people, I got to know Dick at one of the early local software companies, McCormack & Dodge, but I didn’t actually work for him there. After M&D, I went to work at a smaller software company, DMS, which was led by the dynamic duo of Bob Weiler and John Landry. When DMS got acquired by Cullinet, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work for the much larger company. I called Dick for advice. He changed the course of my career when he said, “Why don’t you come work for me instead?”

And so, I joined McGlinchey & Paul when there were a total of six employees, including Dick and his talented partner Lois Paul. I had no background in PR, but Dick believed in me, and taught me to believe in myself.

Dick was the right mentor for me at a point in my life when I was mature enough for the lessons. I blossomed under his management style. If he had faith in you, he had a tendency to toss you into the deep end of the pool. I learned so much from that approach, becoming more confident in myself and in my ability to think on my feet.

I’d been on the job for just a few weeks when he turned to me in the middle of some heavy, strategic discussion with a VP of marketing and asked, “Barb, what do you think?”

Bear in mind that I barely understood the client’s technology at that stage, and I’m sure that I didn’t fully grasp the subtleties of the discussion. After my blood pressure shot through the roof, I found myself saying something moderately substantive and they nodded in agreement.

Dick’s question at that point in the meeting was brilliant on two fronts. It showed the client that Dick cared about my opinion, and it set me up as a credible contributor. And it was a shot in the arm for me – I knew that Dick wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t feel I’d make a good showing.

Then there was the time that a client (an EVP), with whom I’d always had a good relationship, became unpleasant to deal with. He was testy and cranky and downright rude on a few occasions. I complained to Dick, who said, “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to call him out on his bad behavior. Tell him he’s being a jerk and you don’t deserve it. Tell him you want to meet for breakfast or lunch and talk it out, so that you can have a better working relationship in the future.”

Dick could have easily called the client and sorted this out for me, but instead, he gave me the tools to fix the problem myself. I can recall being so nervous when I called the irritable client, but I stuck with the plan, and we met for breakfast one morning. His company was going through a tough patch – they weren’t making their sales goal for the quarter – and he was under a ton of pressure. He apologized for taking his stress out on me, and we had a really lovely and constructive relationship ever after.

And that’s just the serious side of Dick’s workstyle. No one was a better storyteller or more fun to travel with than Dick. Nothing was more fun than a company Dairy Joy excursion with Dick on a fine summer day.

The phrase “joie de vivre” was made for Dick. He grasped the joy in life, and he helped the rest of us remember to stop and smell the roses. He was an invaluable mentor and friend. I’m so grateful and lucky that I had the opportunity to know him.

Here is another tribute to Dick by Alison Moore.