In the olden days, when I was the controller of a division of a subsidiary of a major appliance manufacturing company I supervised an accounting department that had myriad responsibilities. Some not traditionally an accounting duty, but one my staff wound up doing because they were so darn competent.
Upwards of twenty people took care of receivables and payables, of course, but also payroll for five hundred, order entry, invoicing, domestic and international shipping, and even HR, when my payroll supervisor was found to be doing that job.
When I took the job I was employee number was seventy three or seventy four and I supervised four people. One of them told my boss, “She goes or I go,” so I built on that core of three. When I needed people I posted the job on the cafeteria bulletin board and interviewed everyone who applied from out in the factory.
If they showed desire to succeed I’d hire them, train them, support them and watch them grow. Some former assemblers went on to supervise other employees; that payroll clerk who became payroll supervisor eventually used her education benefits to finish college and then become an attorney.
My boss asked me once how I’d managed to assemble such a crew and I smugly responded people tend to rise to your expectations. I thought it quite the clever deduction.
I listened to an NPR interview recently with Wes Moore, about his memoir, The Work. He came from hard times and through hard times in the Bronx and in Baltimore. Before he hit upon his working model of life, he said, he spent his time hurting people who loved him to try to impress those who did not.
His adult career essentially has been public service, and he has many years left to serve. In the interview he recounted visiting a childhood friend, who is in prison. In the visit he asked his friend if the two of them were the product of their environment. His friend replied, upon reflection, no, they were the product of their expectations.