Help Employees Get the Most from Their Career and Life

Rex M. Gallaher

While giving an update on the successes of a maintenance leadership mentoring program that was celebrating its ninth anniversary, I was told that the program caused four employees to leave the company. This challenge involved two important issues that should be shared at this time of industry turmoil and the possible need for employees to find new jobs.

The first issue relates to the company’s sponsored program. It was designed to fast-track bright potential candidates to be in positions to replace retiring maintenance managers. Over the first eight years, the two-year program with about 80 graduates recorded more than 120 protégé promotions. Not only were the protégés promoted, but the mentors were promoted. Both groups had grown personally, professionally and organizationally. However, the company’s value received was minor compared to the participants’ value received.

One protégé confided that he was not really interested in a promotion and was concerned that he would be asked to leave. I addressed this by saying: “This program is designed to help the individual achieve his or her potential in life. That life includes family, community, work, education/learning and spiritual growth. We cannot focus on the promotion. You must develop yourself to be able to handle the ramifications of a new position and balance all the other factors.”

All I asked of the participants was to take their experiences, new skills and knowledge back to their family, community and workplace with the hope of helping others to grow. That attitude and behavior would be what would get them promoted.

I met this protégé and his wife three years later, and what he said confirmed my intentions. He had become the go-to supervisor, the unofficial mentor of new and old employees; worked at various positions outside of maintenance; had changed his health habits; was more in love than ever (35 years married); and loved life. He was one of many.

This was the same program that caused four employees to leave the company. However, in helping people find themselves, we use a technique championed by Richard Bolles in his book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” Bolles’ approach is based upon finding your God-given gifts (your parachute) and understanding that you will be most satisfied in life if you are using and expanding them.

Through an exhaustive exercise of defining your skills, values, desires, expectations and possible jobs that fit your profile, you are able to evaluate and identify the gifts that you truly have. Gifts are skills and include writing, teaching, coaching, helping, accounting, working with your hands, planning and any of the remaining hundreds.

Next, you will discover where and when you use these most effectively: alone, in small groups, in large companies, inter-group, in startups, in structured environments, in nebulous situations, etc. Then, what types of people do you work best with? What company values do you seek? What location do you prefer geographically? Where is your family in all of this? (They are foremost.)

When you have worked through the exercises to discover these things about yourself, put down on paper the ideal job defined by the above factors. Then, describe how a typical day would go from the time you awoke, walking through the office door, the work day (interactions, using gifts, how you measured accomplishment, etc.), coming home and the evening activities.

So there you have it, a parachute with many colors. You are laying out a vision for your life. Have you thought about doing that? Isn’t it time to do so? Can you help your employees do the same? Maybe give each a copy of the book and workbook and have periodic sessions on finding yourself.

We had four who did so and discovered they were in the wrong company and line of work. I was personally humbled to have had that much effect on them and their families. Each has done very well since. It was a lesson for the company.

Remember, humility overrules pride.

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