Having spent the good part of a decade researching management and two decades training management, leadership and communication, I thought it would be worthwhile reflecting on what the limits of my knowledge of management and leadership would be had I remained in my first full-time job. The experience has been a lifelong guiding light. Hopefully it explains why I think an appreciation of irony is an important business skill.
Disclaimer: I have not included this job on my LinkedIn profile and the company I worked for no longer exists.
What I Learned from My First Job
1: The First Day: When you are employing somebody new at the company, do not tell any other members of staff that they are arriving, so when they walk into the centre of the office at ten o’clock everybody assumes they are a disgruntled customer carrying a gun and dives for the panic buttons. Do not give the employee a chair or mouse for his computer, saying there’s no budget for it and that standing and learning CTRL / Function Key combinations will be good for their health and future career.
2: Role Descriptions: When explaining their role to the new employee, do not give them a job description. Instead, tell them to surreptitiously learn how their immediate manager does her job as you want to sack her and can’t until somebody else has an inkling how to actually run the office (as you certainly don’t want to learn how to do it). Tell the new employee if he pretends he’s James Bond he’ll have fun and it won’t be stressful.
3: Cost Cutting: If you can put together a cost cutting scheme that saves circa $100 a week whilst creating at least 60 minutes of extra after-hours work for the salaried office staff every day, immediately implement it. They will appreciate the importance of a cost saving of up to $5,200 per annum and won’t mind not getting home to see their children before they go to sleep. Your customers will likewise not mind the decreased level of service as they appreciate you have to make a buck.
4: Presentations: When you put together a presentation for your team, don’t worry about correct spellings. The first option the spellchecker gives you will always be the correct word. The rapt attention the staff show when you make your presentation has nothing to do with them not being able to turn their heads in case they make eye contact and burst out laughing at the gibberish in front of them.
5: Teamwork: If a member of staff is patently being taken advantage of and bullied by other members of the workforce, ensure that when you talk to them about it everyone in the office is in the room. There’s no better way to get somebody to open up about about a personal issue than letting them share it with the whole team, including those who are making their life a misery. If they mumble and stutter into silence, the problem probably wasn’t a big one in the first place.
6: Processes: Make sure that when filing, your employees must match and staple together four different documents that arrive at the office days, sometimes even weeks, apart. Fridays are quiet sales days and your team won’t mind sorting through piles of randomly stacked documentation and filing for six straight hours. It’s far more important to give them something to do than allow them to develop a quick, easy and efficient filing system that would let them be lazy all afternoon.
7: Communication: If something interesting happens when you are explaining something to your team, walk off in the middle of…
It might not be the done thing to trash a job on LinkedIn as recruiters and companies might think you’ll tell stories about them in the future. However, we all have horrible tales to tell and sharing them can be therapeutic and helpful to others. Hopefully they might even raise a smile. After over twenty years and living 10,000km distance from where this experience took place, I hope it’s safe enough to reveal that I really, really didn’t enjoy this job!
Having spent a over a decade trying to develop a holistic perspective on the opportunities and perils of organisational change, I try my best to stand back and reflect upon the reams of supposed “best way” practices inundating the change management and transformational leadership market. I hope to meld techniques and tools of business transformation with a deeper appreciation of the value of the experience and skill sets of those going through change, reduce the psycho-emotional stresses accompanying change and inject some humour, sensitivity and critical thinking into the process of change.