By Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA

Although many up-and-coming leaders have a desire to learn from those who have come before them, accessing tribal knowledge from industry executives continues to be a challenge for next-generation employees, particularly in mold manufacturing. Between generational gaps, differences in communication, the lack of availability or an unwillingness to share, coach and train, employees who are ages 40 and under often are left to muddle along and figure it out on their own. 

As much as this “tough it out” mentality may resonate with previous generations, it can be detrimental toward workforce development efforts and retention of next-generation employees. In fact, mentorship has benefits that go far beyond leadership development. According to the blog “How Mentoring Relationships Help Strengthen Your Company,” positive mentoring relationships can result in the following:

  • Increased knowledge transfer
  • Job satisfaction
  • Smart succession planning
  • Achievement of goals and objectives
  • Stronger internal networks
  • Improved staff retention. 

In order to address the lack of this resource in mold manufacturing, the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network launched its 2021 “Meet the Mentor” series, which addresses challenges facing the next generation of leadership in mold manufacturing. 

During this experience, AMBA’s up-and-coming leaders are able to access seasoned industry executives and absorb their insights and experiences. Through guidance, learned experiences and peer discussion, attendees walk away with strategies that can help them address current and upcoming challenges in their own environments.  

“In our last Meet the Mentor session, we discussed risk and its relationship with opportunity,” said Patrick Brisson, United Tool and Mold. “Because I see myself as a risk-taker, the mentors’ messages and positive experiences really resonated with me. This session is just one example of many that, with access to the Emerging Leaders community and its resources, I am developing the knowledge and the tools that will help me embrace and prepare for future leadership opportunities.”

To date, AMBA’s Emerging Leaders have participated in two “Meet the Mentor” sessions. During these exchanges, key takeaways were shared and are listed in the Session 1 and Session 2 boxes.

The next session of the AMBA Emerging Leaders “Meet the Mentor” series will address key challenges in communication and provide coaching strategies that enable team facilitation. The session will be held on July 15, 2021, at 11 a.m. EST. Register at 

Session 1: Leadership through Ownership

Mentors: Ray Coombs, president, Westminster Tool, and Troy Nix, executive director, AMBA

  • When you make yourself a victim, you miss the opportunity to learn and get better. 
  • It’s important to raise your hand when failure happens and take responsibility.
  • Negative experiences are simply opportunities to overcome adversity and to learn more.
  • No one plans to come to work to screw up. 
  • If you are passionate about becoming a better “you,” you will lead others to become passionate about being a better “them.”
  • Transparency impacts trust. A lack of transparency will damage the relationships around you.
  • Build it like you’d be dead before it’s done. Leading from the back empowers your workforce to carry on your mission and your company without needing you to be a part of every aspect.
  • Demonstrate gratitude. Feedback should never be all negative; make sure that you’re providing positive feedback as well. 

Track what you want to work on and your progress. This will help with accountability and ownership (and will increase the respect others have for you).

Session 2: Risk Management and Decision Making

Mentors: Charles Daniels, CFO, Wepco Plastics, and Justin McPhee, general manager, Westfall Technik Twin Cities


  • Risk doesn’t just present itself in the choices you make – sometimes there is a risk in not making a decision at all. 
  • Be a part of the solution, not the problem. When you change your mindset and ask, “How can I help and positively impact the team?” it mitigates risk for everyone. 
  • When you’re a leader, it’s always your responsibility. 
  • Always, when an initiative succeeds, it’s because someone took the ball and ran with it. This mentality is a requirement for good and effective leadership. 
  • Diversification directly impacts risk mitigation. Because risk is inherent in each decision, you can’t completely remove or alleviate it, but you can prepare for the risk so that you’re in a positive mental space to take it on when the opportunity arises. 
  • Taking a leap of faith is how the best leaders reap the biggest rewards. You can weigh risk and make an educational decision, but sometimes you just have to give something a try. 
  • When mistakes happen, don’t blame the person – blame the process. Taking responsibility to fix the process moving forward will help mitigate future risk for you, the team and the company.