As a young department head, I had a lot to learn about how to get people who were a lot more experienced than me to follow my lead. I had people working for me, looking for leadership, who had been in the business 20 years more than me. So, it’s not surprising that I always had a soft spot for the young, less experienced underdog. The person who had little to brag about on the resume – no advanced degree from a fancy school, no sexy competitor experience, no real signs pointing to potential stardom. But if you looked really, really closely you could see a spark of cleverness. A yearning to do more, be more, but who met few of the “qualifications” of a promotional job description.
Which brings me to Tim. Tim was good on the computer and did something for us we called “desktop publishing” back then. Tim had opted out of going to college. Just as smart as any college kid and in his early 20’s, it was perplexing that he’d skipped school but at the time it was what he felt right for him. So, he took a job in an in-bound call center taking customer orders. In a world where a BA/BS is the price of admission, Tim was firmly planted in the minimum wage bottom.
But he was bright, and he had decent computer skills, something our fast-growing company highly valued. So when he moved over to our department as the desktop publisher of our training materials, it was considered a plum move out of the call center for him. He did a great job working with our training designers to produce slick materials and was genuinely liked by everyone, both for his skills, his work ethic and his willingness to jump in on whatever we needed done. When I sat him down one day to ask what he wanted to do with his career, he stared at me blankly. A mid-twenty-something, he had no idea, no plan whatsoever.
Tim continued to grow in the role and we briefly considered putting him in a position to train new call center reps just like he had once been trained but standing in front of a classroom 8 hours a day simply did not suit his skill set or personality.
During the pre-Y2k war for talent, our company’s IT department was finding it challenging to fill technical jobs. They decided to grow their own technical skills and offered a two-year program to train internal staff in specific and valuable skill sets in IT in exchange for commitments to stay at the company. It didn’t take much to convince Tim to apply and he was quickly accepted, despite not having a college degree.
That was 1998. His resume today is as impressive as anyone’s, featuring career advancement in the IT world, a bachelor’s degree earned a few years ago in only 3 years (finally) and a full family life. He’s gone on to do the amazing things you would expect in the dynamic technology sector at a well-known company.
A couple of weeks ago I got a social media message from Tim. Apparently it was our “Friendversary.”
“…when I look back at who really got me on my path to my career today, it was you. Thank you for believing in me.”
His single comment, one which I presume took about 15 seconds to write, meant more to me than any plaque on a wall, or award in front of a room of 5,000 people. To change a life – make a difference in the lives of the person and their loved ones all while helping your company grow – well that’s really what it is all about to me.
Look around – who’s your Tim? Do you see a person who could blossom if you provided some sunshine and a little water? Who shows the drive, the energy, the desire to do more and be more, despite the lack of the obvious pedigree? Grow the people around you – it’s a legacy anyone can leave if you just take the time to invest in people who are hungry to grow.
And by the way, if someone made a difference in your life or career, saw your potential before you saw it yourself, take 15 seconds to let them know. It will mean more to them than any trophy. Believe me, that’s the truth.
Want to learn more about how Good Trouble can help you? Check us out at www.thegoodtroublecompany.com, or follow us on Linked In: linkedin.com/company/thegoodtroubleco or twitter @_GoodTroubleCo.