In February 1979 in Albany, NY I presented my very first CRS course. Del Bain was the Senior instructor and LeRoy Houser was the Junior. Del was, and remains, the master and commander of the RS instructors. He is one of the originals who started the program and is the spiritual leader of the group. He is also very direct, intimidating and unafraid to tell exactly how you screwed up. The new instructors dreaded having to be watched by him.
It wasn’t until after you grew from his tutelage that you appreciated his “tough love” approach to mentoring.
The evening after my first presentation I had one of these famous confrontations with Del. I was looking forward to all the compliments that he must be ready to shower upon me. He had a legal pad filled with pages of writing so I sat eagerly awaiting his praise. After a long pause he said to me: “This is the first time you’ve spoken to a national audience isn’t it?” Yes. “Well it shows.” Uh oh, this doesn’t sound good.
He then said to me: “Let me start by telling you what you did right. You got up there.” My heart sank. After a long pause he asked, “Dave, do you really want to DO this?” Ah, yes, I sure think so. “Then you have a lot to learn. I think you may be in over your head.”
For the next two and a half hours he went through his legal pad telling me point by point all the things that I did wrong. At one point he asked me if I noticed the audience’s reaction to me. Audience? I hadn’t noticed. “Well half of them got up and left the room and one woman actually asked for her money back.”
I returned to my room holding back tears, wondering how I could have been so unaware of my incompetence. I stayed up till 2:00 a.m. working on my next day’s presentation and improved a bit.
In April 1979 I was assigned to an RS course in Columbia, SC. My senior instructor was again Del Bain! This time I vowed to improve. I wanted to give my best performance and secure the approval of my toughest mentor. My opening topic was on how to get listings priced right. I had worked until midnight for thirty days in a row preparing for this one. As I began, Del stood in the back with his arms folded carefully watching me. At about twenty minutes he raised his arm and gave me the OK sign! That evening he said that he would recommend that I be promoted to junior instructor.
Del had a choice that night in Albany. He could have given me some false approval and avoided the evening confrontation. Instead he chose to invest his time, tell the truth and give the tough love that changed my life. I call Del just about every February and thank him for being a true mentor to me. He continues to be one of my best friends and I cherish the time we spend together. He continues to be my “Yoda” and help me grow in life. Thank you, Del.