Labor Day Musings - People Matter
I wrote the following post in 2006. There is not much I would change 11 years later other than to observe that an effective boss must both manage and lead. Management involves things and processes; Leadership involves people. A boss's authority is positional; a boss's influence is relational.
As Labor Day approaches I reminisce a bit about the jobs I have held over the years. The list as I remember it includes several part time and summer jobs, beginning with a paper route in the 6th grade. My mother and sister helped quite a bit for the five years that I had a paper route. It was an evening paper and I had practice after school for whatever sport was in season all through junior high and high school, so my responsibility was primarily summers, weekends, and collecting payment; they did a good job with my paper route...
There were also the occasional odd jobs - lawn mowing, fence painting, etc until the spring of my sophomore year when I began working after school and on weekends at the garden center of the area's largest florist. That summer I worked at the nursery owned by the florist for $1.85 an hour - minimum wage was $2 but they had an agricultural exemption to pay less than minimum. The following summer I was set to work again on the farm and had actually worked for a week when I was informed that I would be required to pay union dues. Labor unions have served an important function for the workers in this country, but have at times lost sight of their purpose; this was one of those times - I was a high school kid working a summer job for less than minimum wage, would receive no benefits, and would have to forfeit my first 2 weeks earnings to the union. In the righteous indignation of youth I refused, and no longer had a summer job. A couple of days later I found a job for the summer with a home builder, made more than minimum wage, and spent the summer learning what goes in to building a house, from foundation to roof and everything in between.
Beginning the summer after high school graduation I worked as a summer laborer for the gas company each summer until I graduated from college. I also worked in the university media center, at a Bonanza restaurant, and later as a stock boy at a pharmacy while I was going to school. The summer after I graduated from college I worked as a teacher's aide in a migrant head start program and umpired little league baseball. The next school year I got my Masters while working as a graduate assistant and part time as a custodian at a church. After graduating with my Masters degree I paid the bills working in a plastics factory until August, when I started my coaching/teaching career.
I worked in a lot of different conditions during all these part time jobs. Some jobs were physically exhausting, some consisted of mind numbing repetitive tasks, most involved interactions with people. There were lessons to be learned in all of them, but I think the most valuable is the importance of how you treat people. Whether employer, employee, customer, or co-worker, to treat others as you would want to be treated is one of the teachings of Jesus that applies to any situation.
I also worked for a number of bosses and experienced a wide range of effectiveness and ineffectiveness. The most effective have been those who treat employees with dignity and respect, communicate clearly the expectations and vision of the goals to be accomplished, and to the degree within their control provide the resources or to accomplish the task. And did I mention treat people with dignity and respect? I have been somebody's boss for most of my career; I haven't always done a good job on the communication part, and sometimes have been unable to provide adequate resources, but I have always tried to treat everyone as I would want to be treated - with dignity and respect.
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