In a world where the media inundates us with negative news, it is a breath of fresh air to read CNN articles on the Top 10 Heroes of the year. If there is one thing that energizes me, it is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Here is a brief look at a few of the 2009 contenders for the CNN annual search for individuals changing the world.
1) A New York City school bus driver who has handed out 70,000 free meals in his mobile soup kitchen
2) A bartender who has brought a sustainable clean water system to 25,000 people in 5 countries
3) A contractor in Iraq who has distributed nearly 650 free wheelchairs to children in need.
Imagine how proud you would feel if one of these incredible people was your manager or a coworker. Reading this article immediately had me reflecting on two people from my past. They were my bosses for several years (at different times) when they held a management role in the corporate office. One is now a successful consultant and also finds the time out of his busy schedule to give back to the community. He, his wife, and some friends cook up hot dogs and buns and drive to the street corners where underprivileged people looking for on-the-spot work gather. He delivers the food at lunchtime, knowing that the people remaining have not been able to get work that day. He also takes the time to mentor a low income family. The other boss not only has an infectious positive attitude, he also gives back to the world, he has had exchange students in his house over the years, and he also has mentored low income kids to help guide them towards success. These are just a sample of the things they volunteer to do.
Why is this important to me? In my job as a risk engineer, I am continuously challenged in my quest to prevent low probability accidents. Over a 12 year period, there have been times when I have felt that my job was not valued, and that I should seek out a more satisfying job. I want to share the importance of having managers that are good human beings and good leaders, whether in the workplace or in the community.
After working as an engineer for nearly 30 years in three different careers, I learned a long time ago that there is no perfect job. Every job has its trade-off’s. You can have an excellent job (e.g. it makes you feel important, it challenges you, it provides opportunities for advancement, it provides opportunities for ongoing personal and professional development etc.), but you have a boss that is less than perfect (e.g. lack of trust, compromised ethics, questionable values, treats you like an employee rather than a human being etc.). You can have an excellent boss (e.g. impeccable ethics, goes to bat for you, looks after your promotion and pay raises, is a good human being, inspires you, has a positive attitude), but a less than perfect job (e.g. you feel that the job is not important to the company, you do not feel energized, you do not spend enough time with your family etc.). Everyone can relate to job trade-offs, and this becomes extremely relevant when companies are focused on creating a culture that minimizes the turnover of valued employees.
When companies are hiring or promoting people into a management position, it is important that the people being recruited or promoted have the right skills, the right attitude, exceptional management skills and are decent human beings. A badly placed manager can cause a significant erosion of profits if your valued employees start to head out the door and go work for the competition.
Some Traits of Exceptional Managers That Can Drive Loyalty:
1) Exceptional communicators trained in skills such as negotiation, listening, and conflict management.
2) Inherent positive attitude
3) Impeccable ethics and can be trusted
4) Open door policy where direct reports can discuss problems and get guidance (one of the bosses above once told me that part of his job was to remove hurdles so I could be successful)
5) Invites feedback and direct reports can speak openly and frankly
6) Strong healthy sense of humor and encourages levity
7) Communicates frequently
8) Have value for work-home balance
9) Treats workers as human beings rather than “just employees”
10) Recognizes and rewards direct reports at every opportunity
11) Coaches and mentors
12) Leads by example
13) Encourages the type of risk taking that will advance the company
14) Exhibiting the character traits of heroes
10 Traits of Managers That Will Drive Your Employees to the Competition
2) Withholding information that affects direct reports
3) Cannot be trusted
4) Lack of respect for direct reports
6) Sarcastic (covert negativity) sense of humor
7) Lack of communication
8) Leads by fear
10) Does not tolerate mistakes