I was reflecting this morning on my years as a supervisor/manager/administrator. First I never felt that I had the ability to perform any of the leadership positions…but God was kind to me. I remembered what it was like to work for a Boss who I could never please. More than one Boss…actually. There is nothing more demoralizing than to work your hardest and at the zenith of your abilities…and never hear from your Boss…’Good Job.’ I have started going to a Doctor in St. Louis and one of the reasons I chose him was that he said in his biographical statement that he believed in treating people like he wanted to be treated…this is a Platinum Precept of a supervisory position.
During my 32 + year career at Southern Illinois University, I was determined to work as a colleague with my friends at Building Services. Many of them were unhappy and their morale was at rock bottom. My three primary goals as Superintendent were to; Improve Customer Service, Treat each person as I wanted to be treated, and Produce Clean buildings for our precious students.
My contention to the University Administration was that if our goal was to recruit and then retain our students…we fundamentally must have clean buildings for them to attend class. To me, this singular precept seemed as natural as breathing. Telling one of our customers to, ‘Just put your foot in their overflowing trash receptacle,’ was anathema. I believed that the happier our housekeeping crews were and the more appreciated that they felt…was vital to the customer service that we produced. My motto I borrowed from the old Hertz Rental Car Commercials where they said, ‘Hertz puts you in the driver’s seat.’ Or the old McDonald Restaurant Motto, ‘We do it all for you.’ There was an additional motto that I strove to attain during my career, ‘The customer is always right.’
We spend much of our lives at work. It has been said that we spend the best years of our lives at work. We should be happy at work. It baffles me how anyone can think that good management involves frustrating the people who are performing the tasks that will decide if you are a successful department or a despised one. I have heard the excuse on several occasions that the reason a manager does not bond with their staff…or a preacher with their congregation…is there are just too many names to remember…and it takes time that they do not want to spend on the most important capital that they have in their organization… on truly knowing who in reality…their success is commensurate on. We make time for what is important to us.
As a manager, you are enrolled in the Construction Business. Be a Builder…not a Demolisher. The popular Motivational Speaker, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘I really do care how much you know…until I know how much you care…about me.’ My friend and former Chancellor, Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger, knew how to connect with all members of the University Community. She would stop what she was doing and trudge out into a field of tall grass that a Grounds Worker was mowing and shake his hand and introduce herself and tell him or her how happy she was to make their acquaintance and how much both she and the University needed them… When she was unjustly terminated…the Physical Plant came out in force to support her.
Open Door was my policy…but I was in my office a minimal amount of my day. I followed the creed, ‘The Best Management Takes Place Where The Work Is Being Done.’ I not only knew all of my full-time colleagues by name, at that time about 140 but most of our wonderful student staff, over 200. I did not do surveys…I talked to each integral member of Building Services on a personal and one-on-one basis.
A supervisor or a manager or an administrator is in the Human Resources Business. If you take care of your staff…they will take care of you…an excellent work performance will follow.
Now you may ask…Jay…did you never focus on disciplinary actions? My answer is yes…with a department of 300 -400 people, there are going to be some disciplinary actions. However, Disciplinary Actions were not my primary focus and when they occurred there is a humane and kind way to handle them. My colleague told me when she heard me terminate one of our student workers that had become very upset with her…as she had initiated the termination…that she had never heard a person perform a termination in a more kind and considerate manner and that the student not only had become calm but that he understood that the termination had nothing to do with his worth as a human being.
Praise in Public…Constructive Criticism In Private…and do not discuss what was said behind closed doors with anyone that is not essential to the mission of Building the Colleauge and making them a Roaring Success. Those leaders who have notches on their belt for the people that they have fired…should hang their heads in shame…for their personal failures in not convincing those human beings…how vital and essential and necessary to the organization that they were.