Around this festive time of year I reflect back, nine, years ago when I retired from Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. I had been employed for 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks. I was so happy to have finally reached a milestone that I, sometimes, thought would never happen. But, I was sad to leave a department that I had put my heart and soul into and the members of the department that I had cared for, like family, for my 25 years in management/administration. When I looked at the nice crowd that had gathered to tell me goodbye…I feared what would happen to them, once I was gone.
Now, I was not worried because that I was extraordinary in management skills or any particular abilities that I had, rather on the contrary…my meager abilities would not make a good short story! My concern was regarding the dangers that lay ahead for my colleagues that I had identified myself with for over 32 years.
I understood the place that the housekeeping department has in the university community and the team work that we had accomplished to raise that profile. I knew the professional motivation of the Building Service department and the dedication that each member had for the success of SIUC and our most precious citizens, our students.
I understood that the wolves of budget shortfalls, poor management, and the insidious proclivity of Departments, and Schools and Colleges consuming each other in order to save themselves.
I feared that some would compromise their principles and sedate their moral code…to facilitate their advance. I worried that leaders would stand silent while people were abused and intimidated and cowed down by fear and a hostile work place….
Principle should be more important than; profit, or patronage, or promotion, or the peace of those who lack courage. There are janitors that love SIUC as much as chancellors….And both are equally important to the success of the institution!
One of the most difficult hurdles that many managers have to jump is the ability see past personalities and peccadillos, and focus on people. I was extremely wary to not crucify a co-worker for a slight infraction that I had been guilty of!
There is macro/management and micro/management. In good management…’Less Is More!’ When you illustrate and model and empower members of your staff and embolden them with your candid confidence in them…’the sky is the limit,’ as to how high they will fly! If you sit on them like a mother hen…you will demoralize them and both the person and their work performance, will suffer.
When management philosophy is clear for all to see that, some people can do no wrong….And others can do no right…everyone that can….Will flee the work-place!
I have spoken to thousands of people in my life. One of the peculiarities of the university setting was that, more often than not, I found myself speaking to their representative, rather than the real person. I do not mean their assistant…I mean the person with whom I was speaking was tailoring their words to fit, either what they thought that I wanted to hear. or what their vision of their position dictated for their speech, or they spoke ‘down’ to me as an individual of low culture or education or position in life.
The key to what little success that I enjoyed in speaking with chancellors and presidents and university elite…it that I never brought my representative…they always heard Jay Brooks…unvarnished.
What if as a Christmas Present to each other, that we vow to recognize excellence wherever we find it? What if we forget the past and and little hang-ups that have caused us to see others through a distorted prism?
To this day, when someone asks me what I did at the University….I answer that I worked in the housekeeping department. I was, simply, the janitor that was honored…for a time….to perform the management duties.