What follows is a compilation of contributions from those who watched, practiced, and have accepted the next role.
Critical listening skills and engagement with the person you are working with is the foundation to professional communication. “Talk less, listen more” is kicked around a lot in leadership training. Mike taught that REAL communication occurs when you engage with your audience and genuinely care about the information being presented by the other person(s) in a conversation.
Much of communication is non-verbal - it is about truly focusing on the message and passion behind the information that allows us to make a connection or solution. The best part, sometimes people just need to share what's on their mind - be someone who people are comfortable sharing information with. Being a good listener doesn't mean you're a "yes person", it means people trust you and value your thoughts. Mike lived it daily.
Mike McLaran embodied the skill of listening and seeking first to understand. He taught me this every time we interacted. Whether it was an issue of high conflict or teaching he would always listen, value and seek to understand others. This is what provided his success and allowed him to allow others to succeed.
Mike and I would get together monthly and talk about life over a beer. Many, influential moments came out of those conversations for me. I can connect a “Mike Moment” every day in my life and business.
As a fast paced entrepreneur I was talking about a particular challenge I was facing. He suggested, before I take action, I slow down, become an astute “observer” and take notes. If I observed things from different angles the resources I needed would show themselves. His suggestion became a way of life for me. My life flows simply and I thank him for planting the seeds that have become my roots today.
Months later he said he had been observing my entrepreneurial skills for years. He wanted run things by me for planning his next business venture. It made me swell with pride to be able to offer my insights to Mike, who had offered so many of his insights to me.
I learned three important lessons from Mike:
1. Speak up, because if you don’t, who will?
2. No one ever wants to talk about politics, but it is what we need to talk about, especially when it comes to business.
3. At the end of the day, the work you don't finish will still be there tomorrow. What are you missing out on today that will not be there tomorrow? Do that instead.
My husband and I met Mike a few months after we moved to Salem for my husband's job. After dinner with Mike and his lovely wife, Diane, we were saying goodbye and Mike said, “I am so glad you're here."
We said, “Thanks, we like you too Mike.”
Then he said, “I meant I'm glad for Salem.”
My husband and I think about Mike and that comment often, how we are not called to just one job or just one nonprofit, but by we are called to serve and improve the whole city.
A challenge Mike left me with regularly: "Now that you understand there is a problem (issue), what are you going to do about it?" There is never a reason to wait on someone else to fix it, to assume the problem is not yours once you have knowledge about it, or to excuse inaction because you think it's not your responsibility. Once you know that something could be better there is no excuse not to start working to make it better.
Courage to Get In the Game
I asked Mike to speak with me at the Rose Garden. He spoke on servant leadership and I am still moved on many levels from that experience. After the event I expressed a fear on moving forward with my speaking career and in typical fashion he brought the conversation around to a game called life.
“You have a dream. Follow it. Do not let the fear of the past or the unknown of the future stop you from moving forward. Will you be the one that sits in the stands and just watches or will you get in the game and make positive things happen? You have a gift. It is useless if you don't share it. Get in the game and make things happen!”
Well said, Coach. Lesson learned and continually paid forward to others.
Leadership requires listening more than talking. Mike was responsive and compassionate. He continued to place my agenda first during our "catch up times". He inspired my faith to find and focus on the good in people.
Mike used to always say, "Now that you know what the problem/need is, what are you going to do about it?" I hear him say that all time and it reminds me I need to take action and not ignore the problem/need or wait for someone else to do something about it.
Twenty three years ago a new loan officer for First Interstate Bank came to town. He knew no one and was involved in nothing. His boss began introducing him to many people he thought would be important for the loan officer to know. One of these persons encouraged the loan officer to seek out opportunities to become involved and help Albany become a better place. Something struck a chord with the, not so young, loan officer. Before long he was involved in so many community activities that his boss began wondering if he was going to get any work out of him. But he continued to be encouraged.
Over the years the volume of activities decreased but the involvement continued. So did the encouragement. Mere days before he passed, Mike stopped by my wife’s place of work. He told her how excited and pleased he was that I had become passionately involved with Honor Flight. Encouraging to the end.
I miss you brother, I won’t let you down.
When others shine a spotlight on you, redirect the light on to those who helped you get there. It was something I witnessed Mike do so many times. It's humbling. It builds others up. And it reminds you that when you accomplish great things, there are always people behind you, fighting for you, cheering you on, and that you couldn't do it alone.
Mike always wrote and said “thank you for all that you do”. How many of us received those sweet little notes in our membership statements? I am currently holding one in my hands dated back from 2005 and it still makes me feel appreciated! That was one of the many special gifts that Mike possessed, the ability to make other people feel important. Thank you Mike for making a difference in my life, and yes I am “paying it forward.”
At the end of every day in Leadership Salem, Mike would come in to talk to us, and make us think. After 'History Day' many of us were fired up about saving all the historical sites and buildings around town. Mike understood, but his lesson of the day was "when do you let history go, to be able to grow and progress into the future?" To this day I understand that it is not just about buildings, it's about almost everything in life. I had the chance to have coffee with him two weeks before he passed. I told him how much his words meant to me, and how I applied them to many life situations. That was the last time I saw him, walking down the sidewalk of our state capitol. I will never forget. Thanks Mike.
While undertaking the role of president for my Rotary club, Mike sat down with me and talked to me about what it was to be a leader. The thing I remember most of that conversation (and have carried with me into presidency of a different Rotary club), was when he said that a good leader is not the one who makes everyone happy, a good leader is the one who listens to everyone and then makes the hard decision, for the betterment of the whole. This has proven to be a very valuable piece of advice.
Mike gave me the strength and confidence to believe in myself. He was a wonderful buffer for me. He liked my passion and taught me to control my negativity and work on positive solutions. Take all that negativity and write it down. Throw it in a drawer and read it the next day. He was right. By the next day I could process it better, and think of much better solutions. I know I had been told all that before, but coming from Mike, it sank in, because I knew he cared. Now, go out there and "sizzle", he would say.
My last words spoken to Mike: “I appreciate you.” Last words from Mike: “Remember, I picked you for my team. I picked you.”
What an honor to be part of his team and to play a role in the big canvas that he allowed us all to paint.
Mike personified the saying, 'It's amazing what you can accomplish, if you don't care who gets the credit." He was always promoting others, and that got others to accomplish much.
~Michael Duane Brown
Being on the staff of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce for 17 years was pure joy because of Mike McLaran. He believed strongly that TEAMWORK MAKES DREAMS WORK.... and he was absolutely right! Under his leadership, I feel our staff worked well together and were one of the closest knit groups you'll ever find. Our Monday morning staff meetings were fun, inspiring, encouraging and positive. The staff retreats were also important as we set new goals and visions for the Chamber. Life-long lessons were taught and learned in these meetings, and with the amazing leadership of our CEO, the Salem Chamber rose to great heights and received numerous awards and recognition throughout the entire Northwest and beyond.
It has been said that it's not what we have in our life, but WHO we have in our life that counts. I feel so blessed to have been a part of the Salem Chamber staff and work with a man who changed my life forever. My hope is that I can be the sort of friend and mentor that Mike was to me."
Mike was a big supporter of mine during my campaign in 2012 for HD 21. He challenged me, encouraged me, and motivate me to be successful during my campaign. He open doors where I would have never thought of opening, which gave me confidence in running for office. I only knew Mike for a year, but it felt like I knew him my whole life. I really looked at him as a brother, friend, and business partner. When he talked, you listened to every word he said. As a businessman, father, and husband, it is always great to hear and speak with a man like Mike, a Christian Man with strong faith, honesty, truthfulness, integrity, and promises that are genuine. I'm proud to be able to call him my friend.
A few months ago, I found an old newspaper clipping that had an article about the Salem Chamber. Mike was quoted in it and I now have the quote in my office so that I can read it whenever I need to refocus my energies into putting the interests of others before myself.
"It is not what you do individually, but how well you facilitate the success of others."
We were created with two ears and one mouth. If Mike's true listening to talking ratio were accurately represented by his anatomy - he would have had many more ears.
Mike had a surreal ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the world and that it was his duty to lift you up and encourage you. The patience and commitment required for that level of focus separated him as a leader. Leadership is a journey like so many other things in life. Stronger focus, like that exhibited by Mike so consistently over the years, has the ability to make us all better people.
Mike trusted those he worked with. He gave people jobs to do and trusted them to give their best effort, That gave those who worked with Mike the encouragement and confidence to do and be their best.
"If you have an appointment, be there early!" (Vince Lombardi time)
Have fun at what you do. Even dancing.
Mike exemplified that one can teach by example, and that by accentuating the strengths in a person, you enable them to work on their weaknesses and become the person they were meant to be.
Grace under pressure. There is so much more power in keeping your eye on your rally cry than the obstacles that line the path to your goal.
In my life, knowing Mike more professionally than personally, he was a great leader of consistency. I think his message was able to be the same because he knew what he was about and what was important to him. So even through the wind tunnels and cement mixer situations he might have found himself in, his emotions were in check and his eye was on the prize.
It's my biggest weakness and I look FORWARD to creating this strength.