Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.

 

September 2017
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This isn’t your last job.

I haven’t directly managed large paid staff in any of the positions I have ever held. But in several positions I was responsible for the hiring, managing and day-to-day care and feeding of one or two paid staff members. Sometimes I was paying them out of my own pocket and sometimes the organization I was part of was their official employer. That particular distinction never mattered.

In looking back I find there was one thing I did that had a tremendous impact and was in effect the best management technique I ever used, although I don’t think I ever actually thought about my actions in terms of ‘management techniques’ and this process did evolve over time.

Basically it worked like this. Shortly after each new person started with me I had a one-on-one discussion with them. I started by informing them that this would not be the last job they would have in their career. No, I wasn’t already planning on firing them. In fact just the opposite was true. At some time in the future I was hoping that they would have the opportunity to ‘fire’ me. I made it clear to them that I wanted them to grow during the time we worked together. I wanted them to develop their skills to the point that other businesses would be knocking down their door with offers of better and even more challenging opportunities in the future. I not only encouraged them to reach for their next career opportunity, I offered to help them do so from day one. 

I also wanted to stress to them that this position they were starting was going to be exciting, fun, challenging, rewarding, somewhat unpredictable and more of an adventure than a job. This wasn’t a dead-end job. This was a pathway to ‘somewhere’.

I asked them to think about ways they could use this job to develop their skills. We always had a training budget and I told them that it was their responsibility to bring me ideas on classes they would like to take or conferences they would like to attend on our nickel. There were some guidelines as well. I asked them to just show me how this would also benefit our current situation and I would find a way to say yes. If you want to finish your degree in another field that might not be appropriate.

I ended by giving them some homework. I asked them to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up and to write how they could use this current position to help make that happen. I asked them to think about what they wanted from this position. They had to return that document to me within a week and I then kept it in my top desk drawer.

Bottom line is this. I had the opportunity to work with some of the finest, most talented, creative and motivated individuals one could hope to be associated with. Every one of them made me look better than I ever had a right to deserve and every one of them grew during the time we worked together. And every one of them went on to new opportunities.

And to this day, none of them has had their last job.  

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