General News

30 Years In The Workforce

As I near my 45th birthday this November, I find myself looking back upon the nearly 30 years I’ve been in the workforce. I started working at the tender age of 15 because my family did not come from money. As a single mother, my mom did her very best to ensure there was food on the table and a roof over our heads, and that I graduated high school.


Personal Ownership

I had a lot of different experiences during my mid- to late-teen years, and then entered the corporate world at 20. While working full-time, gaining valuable experiences – good and bad – I also continued to pursue a college education attending classes at night and on weekends.

As I’ve aged, and although I don’t exactly have a ton of free time, I continue pursuing additional educational opportunities, as time permits, in an effort to always continually learn, perhaps I’ll some day get a PhD.

I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to have worked with companies and individuals from various backgrounds, and throughout various levels of management from the front-line to the C-suite. The best thing about these past and present experiences is that no matter the good or bad I always learned something positive from the experience. Fortunately, nearly 100% of my experiences have all essentially been good, in my personal opinion. Some might question how that is possible, but it is what I believe.

Quiet frankly, it surprised me too as I looked back, but what I’ve come to realize is that not one manager or co-worker is 100% perfect, and I certainly recognize that I don’t know everything, but what I takeaway from the 30 years in the workforce is that the individuals I have worked with respected and recognized (and still do) that each person brings something to the table, and collectively the team helps to move things forward, whether its the leaders, peers, or subordinates, each person had something to contribute to the team. I guess there is some truth in the phrase, “there is no me or I in team”.

So, what have I really learned?

I have worked with some wonderful managers and mentors in my 30 years that have taught me to always own my mistakes and learn from them in order to grow. As I grew into management roles that led to supervising others, I too, found myself guiding others to learn from their mistakes as well, but to always look to others for guidance versus thinking that they know everything and will be able to do it all on their own.

If I had to narrow down the key takeaways from the last 30 years:

Respect the individual(s) you’re interacting with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to personally like them;
Foster an environment where your peers and subordinates are truly free to disagree with your opinions or point of view, and are given the opportunity to explain why without fear of retaliation;
Offer guidance and counsel, but be willing to also accept guidance and counsel yourself;
Recognize and appreciate that just because you may be the boss, doesn’t necessarily mean you are always right; and,
Continually offer your team, as well as you, opportunities to grow and thrive in an environment where if mistakes are made individuals understand the importance of accountability, but also how to learn, grow and move forward from those mistakes.
But, the thing that I will probably keep closets to my heart, as the number one and most important takeaway, is that if the individual(s) working for me are qualified and doing their utmost best, and are contributing to the success of the business, then they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. All too often, you hear and read about the horror of managers that let their personal feelings get in the way of performance reviews or properly running a business. If someone is experiencing performance issues, then as a manager, it is your responsibility to guide and counsel those individuals on how to improve, but do so without inflecting your personal feelings about that individual – good or bad.

There is obviously no doubt that personality conflicts is part of the work force, and sometimes people will clash, but in the paths I have traveled, my superiors and peers have always seem to set aside personal opinions about their interactions with others because of a keen focus on wanting to successfully accomplish the tasks or projects before them as a team.

As a small business owner for nearly 4 years, and the CEO/manager, I find that I am mimicking the traits of the managers that groomed me to accept each person as they are and encourage their contribution and participation in the process. Don’t get me wrong, it has its challenges, but the reward for me is watching each individual grow and blossom. I am fortunate to surround myself with both employees and business colleagues that may not realize that they are continuing to help me grow as well.

The underlying message I hope you, as the reader, glean from this story is that you should not let your personal feelings dictate how you treat your leadership, your peers, or your subordinates. If the people around you are focused on making a positive contribution, give them the appropriate encouragement and guidance. If they fall down, help them back up.

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“Continually offer your team, as well as you, opportunities to grow and thrive in an environment where if mistakes are made individuals understand the importance of accountability, but also how to learn, grow and move forward from those mistakes.”

The hardest thing I’ve seen some CEOs and managers deal with in various settings is letting a subordinate receive praise from others or the attention. CEOs and managers that learn to allow others to reap the “glow”, in my opinion, have learned that key factor that when you have taught the people around you well, and others recognize their success, it is attributed to your success as a manager/CEO. You may not have directly received the recognition, but should take pride in the fact that those you’ve groomed are succeeding under your guidance and leadership.

I have had many great past experiences, including some of the most wonderful managers and mentors, and will continue to enjoy the good and the bad of whatever the future has in store for me, my company, my employees and my life. Appreciate and respect each others’ differences, and favorably leverage them.

Remember, as the manager/CEO, YOU set the tone and expectations of acceptable behavior in the work environment.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your day!

All the best,

Patrick Callahan worked for Fortune 50 companies for nearly 25 years before starting his own political compliance services firm in 2011. Follow the Centurion Group DC on LinkedIn or via Twitter.

Image source: University of Washington; Institute for Health