Just about a year ago, we were close to kicking off a big project at work and we needed an additional person to help with all the data we were going to gather. It was a temporary position and not one that would report directly to me so I didn’t expect a lot of interaction. We ended up hiring a bright young lady just out of college. As sometimes happens in large corporations, big projects get hit with unexpected delays and this one was no exception so she had all kinds of concern that we were going to let her go because there was no work. But that wasn’t going to happen so we just found other things for her to work on knowing that we’d get the project eventually.
During that time, we did have a couple of interesting interactions. My degree is the same as hers and she was looking at going back for a Masters degree and there were two options and we talked over the pros and cons of each. I think she was leaning one way and her parents wanted her to go the shorter route but I thought her route was the best and said so. There was a second time when she came to me because her boyfriend had done something stupid and was considering trying to lie his way out of it and somehow they decided to send her to me to get advice. I told her what you’d expect – which is that keeping a lie going is very hard and that people will respect you more for telling the truth even when you’ve done something stupid. Be honest, own up to it and apologize. I have to admit that the thought of me giving life lessons to anyone still makes me laugh.
Towards the end of her assignment, I had another big project I needed help with so I asked her to take it on and work on it as she had time. I don’t mean for this to sound patronizing but there is something cute about watching people when they get their first “real project”. She came to me a couple of times to make sure she was on the right track and as I asked questions about what she had done, she’d go away and do something else to give me what I want. I know I’m not always the best at telling people they are doing a good job because I tend to show it by giving people assignments. Prove to me that you know what you are doing and indicate that you want a chance, and I’ll give it to you.
Well today was her last day. She’s moving on to grad school and we planned a lunch for her today. As luck would have it, I had a big meeting scheduled over lunch and I couldn’t go. As I was getting ready to go to my meeting, she asked if I would be around later in the afternoon because she wanted a hug before she left.
Anyway, she wrote me a nice little note to thank me for the opportunity and how much she really enjoyed working on the project I had given her which was nice. I did give her a little hug then. See, even as an introvert, I can let my guard down from time to time. As I was leaving, I saw her exchanging numbers with some people. We’re friends on Facebook which always gives you the opportunity to message someone but I figured she might want a more direct method of contact, so I asked if she wanted my email. She said she had my work account and then I said “no, I meant my home email”. I think her eyes lit up a little bit at that. It takes you from being the scary boss to something a little different (not that I’m scary or anything). And, then I asked if she wanted another hug which of course she did.
I know this isn’t a very exciting story but it made me happy and I wanted to share it. One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve moved into management is that there are people who really need someone to believe in them. Strange that it sometimes seems to be the brightest that don’t always understand what they are capable of. Ultimately, everyone has to find that strength within themselves but helping someone along that path is truly rewarding. Lots of people go into management for all the wrong reasons – power, money, etc. Or, like me, you were great at the technical parts of your job so they move you into a management position as a reward. It has taken me awhile to hit my stride and get comfortable with the people part of managing and it will always be a work in progress for me. But to know that you might have played a part in helping someone find their path and maybe helping to unlock their potential is what makes this job enjoyable.
So, even though we had to say goodbye, today was a good day.