Kent Stickler has been an L.E.T. Trainer for many decades. Over 10,000 leaders have graduated from his L.E.T. classes, making him the leading L.E.T. Trainer in the world. “In most of my classes,” Kent says, “one of the first things I say is, ‘The L.E.T. book is probably the most practical, best book you are ever going to read on leadership. I challenge you to find one thing in the book you disagree with.’ I’ve never had anyone, not one student, come back to me with anything they disagreed with. I have had a couple students point out to me, ‘Well, this book is copyrighted in the 1970’s. That’s more than 50 years ago!’ And I say, ‘Well, good literature lasts and the principles last.’”
“My dad was involved in the ministry,” continues Kent. “Tom Gordon, who wrote Leader Effectiveness Training, his dad was also involved in the ministry. It was a connection between us. My dad used to tell me as a young kid, ‘The scripture is inerrant – without error.’ The L.E.T. book is like the good book. It’s inerrant. There’s not one thing in the book I think is flawed.”
“I’m a person of faith and I’ve memorized 273 scripture verses. I started memorizing verses about 10 years ago. I’m 82 now and I started doing it as a technique to keep my memory sharp. What it has taught me is that it’s very clear there’s a lot of truth in the Bible.”
“I feel that way about the L.E.T. book too. I am constantly amazed by the way it is written. It is amazing. To this day, I have not read any other leadership book, and I’ve read quite a few, that even comes close to the combination of the philosophy and the skills and the presentation in the L.E.T. book. The L.E.T. book is genius. And Tom Gordon was a genius.”
“Tom and I connected because we were both tennis players. We discovered we both had played in a Central Illinois tennis tournament at the Washington Park Tennis Courts in Springfield, Illinois. He had played on the court in the early 40’s and won. And I had played on the very same court in the early 70’s and won. We had played the same tournament, on the same court, about 30 years apart! And here we were together, three decades later, because of L.E.T. That really bonded us.”
“Tom sent me a note in his later years; I think it was several years before he passed away. The note said, ‘I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to play. That would’ve been a lot of fun. And I think you would have beat the hell out of me.’ That was his humor. He played, I think, until his 70’s. When Tom passed away, they found his old tennis hat – his DePauw Tiger Tennis hat. They gave the hat to me. I still have it. It’s sitting prominently on a shelf in my office. I respected Tom a lot. I think he was a good listener. His voice wasn’t loud, and my voice is not loud. People sometimes have to ask me to repeat things. I’ve always felt that a soft voice is a gift. I sometimes think people with a soft voice tend to listen more and better.”
“As I said, Tom and I bonded. He gave me one of his textbooks many years ago. It may have been the first edition of the L.E.T. book. He autographed it for me. It was the book with the gray cover. When the new book came out, I cut Tom’s note out of the old book and pasted it in the new book. On the note, he simply said, ‘To Kent. With thanks. Tom.’ But I have kept that note. I bet I first got that signature back in the 80’s. It’s kind of a special thing. He meant a lot to me.”
“Kent has been one of the strongest advocates of the Gordon Model we’ve ever had,” says Linda Adams, President/CEO of Gordon Training International. “And he’s been our most successful L.E.T. trainer over many years.” Michelle Adams, Vice President of GTI, agrees, “Kent has been a phenomenal ambassador of GTI and the L.E.T. program. He has the utmost respect for L.E.T. and what it does for companies. He knows L.E.T. works.”
Adds Kent, “My wife, Jane, and I were certified as L.E.T. Trainers back in 1979. Who would have ever thought that 40 years, and 10,000 graduates later, we would still be excited about L.E.T.? Jane and I have been married 64 years, and we tell people, ‘There are two things that have made our marriage successful. Those two things are L.E.T. and our faith.’ Jane and I credit L.E.T. for our long, successful marriage. If I Roadblock Jane, she’s out of the room! If I send her a ‘You-Message’ she’s gone!”
Kent and Jane’s children, Guy and Sara, were raised on the Gordon Model skills. In fact, the Stickler family is the only family in the world where every family member is a certified L.E.T. trainer. Guy, who passed away in 2009, was the Executive Vice President of Stickler Learning, the family business, for 20-plus years, and Sara is now an L.E.T. trainer. “My daughter, Sara, lost her husband about 10 years ago,” says Kent. “He died suddenly of heart failure. He died in Sara’s arms. It was a difficult time for her.”
“Sara tells this story in her L.E.T. classes: ‘After I lost my husband, everybody was telling me what to do. They said, Sara, you need to do this. Sara, you need to do that. Sara, you need to get a will – and on and on.’ I was going crazy! Everyone was telling me what to do. Then I called my dad.”
“I called my dad and he didn’t tell me to do anything. All he did was listen. And it was like a watering hole in the desert. It was like an oasis. He just listened and listened. And, two days later, I had total clarity of mind and I knew exactly what to do.”
“Without my L.E.T. training,” says Kent, “I would have been telling my daughter what to do with the best of them. The L.E.T. skills work.”
Long-time L.E.T. Master Trainer, Steve Crandall, has known Kent for many years. “I took my first L.E.T. class through Kent – and I thought, ‘God, this L.E.T. stuff is really great!’ This notion of understanding others, of mutually beneficial relationships, the concept of non-hierarchal management in terms of needs satisfaction – it just speaks to me. L.E.T. fits how I think, how I dream, and how I wish things were. The concepts are still revolutionary for a lot of organizations. But Kent embodies L.E.T. He lives it. He walks the walk as they say. Kent has had a lot of heartbreak in his life. He’s had a lot of challenges in his life, but he’s a glass half-full guy. In fact, he’s a glass always-full guy. It may not always be that way, but that’s how he looks at it.”
Steve adds, “Kent is an extremely generous, giving, kind person. He really makes other people feel special and important. It’s hard to escape an affection for a person who is so genuine and so giving of himself and so complimentary to others. He’s a great guy.”
“Kent attributes much of the success in his life to L.E.T.,” adds Michelle. “All good things in his life, he would say, are because of the Gordon Model. It’s enabled him to have a hugely successful career, a very happy marriage, and great relationships with so many people.”
And yet, as it has been said, all good things must come to an end. Kent has decided, at age 82, to retire. “I love Kent Stickler,” says Michelle, “and I hate that he is retiring. Not just because he’s a great L.E.T. trainer and salesperson, but because I love working with him. I love hearing his voice. When he calls, it always puts a smile on my face. It’s always a better day when I talk to Kent.”
While it may be true that all good things must come to an end, we also believe that with every ending, there comes a new beginning. It is our hope this ending will be only the beginning to an exciting new adventure for Kent.
Kent Stickler, you have made a positive difference in the lives of more than 10,000 individuals through your dedication to promoting the principles of L.E.T. over the past 43 years.
To Kent. With thanks— and love — from the whole GTI family.
You have spoken softly, and with gratitude, we have all learned to listen.