You might also like

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

People tend to rise


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.

And, I stand corrected. 


24 comments:

  1. I have great expectations for myself but I never seem to meet them lol.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like you were a good supervisor whoever did the motivating ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. A complicated topic.
    Expectations (our own and those foisted upon us) can be very powerful indeed. Powerful incentives and disincentives.
    Love (and am unsurprised) that you were an incentivator (and if that isn't a word it should be).

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think I would have like to work for you.... I was payroll/accounts payable manager for a community hospital (500 employees)... had a boss who still lived in the dark ages (the only thing he used his computer for was to play solitaire)... and was a tyrant. To this day I'm not sure what his expectations were, but if any of his "underlings" had expectations or even hopes for change, we might as well have quit right then.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The lad in prison might have had only low expectations to rise to. So your deduction could still be valid.

    It's a complicated mix, though, isn't it? genes, expectations, environment, and chance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That and you apparently saw something in the people you chose.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wish you'd been my supervisor.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  8. You were right though just incomplete. People will rise or sink to expectations.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Like the terrific grandmother you are, I am not surprised that you were a great, inspiring boss. I do believe that we can rise to great expectations because of, or in spite of, those who guide us. It is something within us.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I agree with you about people rising to your expectations. Seemed like you were a very effective manager; I'm sure much respected by those you managed.

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello Joanne,
    As teachers we both thought it terrifically important to have high expectations of the pupils. And, in many, many cases it did bring out the very best in them. However, it is not the case with everyone and, even if the conditions were the same, there were some who were just lost souls. Nature or nurture.......always a battle to see which one wins.

    The photograph of the accounting department is absolutely splendid. Not so many years ago but how the office of 2015 would be different in appearance compared with this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'd say you were essentially correct; people usually become who we tell them they will be.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a different world it would be if our environment were encouraging and supportive and we all blossomed.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hari OM
    Both right. It is true that each can only rise to their expectations - however, WHAT those expectations are may require managing and 'reality checking' - and that's where folk like you come in... Not all benefit from a positive mentor. Not all who do have the gumption to grab the opportunity offered... YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Congrats on finding such good workers to work for you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. You did very well Joanne.
    I always had bosses who expected far more than I was prepared to give. I was good at my work and they wanted me to train as supervisors, managers and I always said no. I knew myself better than they did and I'm not comfortable being the boss. I was prepared to teach new hires how to do the job so they could then man their own station, but that was enough for me. Who would do the work if everyone is a boss?

    ReplyDelete
  17. expect good things and rise to them, I like that as a motto

    ReplyDelete
  18. You sound like a great boss. I agree with the teacher up above, you can have all the expectations in the world, be supportive and caring and still some students will not thrive--nature for sure, nurture too and the fact they're only with you so many hours a day and the outside world is often a driving force.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is a marvelous topic for a good philosophical discussion. I could comfortably take either side and offer a good argument. I believe the real truth is somewhere in the middle.

    ReplyDelete
  20. The comment before mine - I agree about "somewhere in the middle". The expectations need to be applied with respect and understanding. I'm sure you did that. I've seen management screw-up by insisting on the impossible just because they think it will move workers to produce more.

    ReplyDelete
  21. My heavens, I have know you for 30+ years and learn something new with each posting. As i told you recently, your brain won't die. I picture it in a glass case with Formaldehyde and it keeps thinking and working. Thanks. Sort of a Frankenstein thing.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "he spent his time hurting people who loved him to try to impress those who did not.."

    I will be thinking about this notion, and various people in my life, for days to come.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I always take the view it is both nature and nurture that matters, and I reckon that what your family expect can be very important. Some people have it in them to defy their families expectations, most of us probably go along with them. It just depends on their nature. Or at least that is how it seems to me.....

    ReplyDelete