Get your hands dirty

Writing yesterday’s post about Susan sparked a memory of something I experienced years ago when I worked as a bank teller during my summer breaks from college. One summer the bank brought in a new branch manager. She was responsible for all of the activities at the branch, and all of the employees there (resident executive excluded) reported to her. Pretty standard stuff.

What I found remarkable was the training regimen she had to follow. She had to work as a teller and master the job. She had to learn the vault transactions. She had to open checking and savings accounts. She had to process loan applications and build files. She had to run the change counting machine. In a few short weeks, the branch manager had to learn every job in the building even though she wouldn’t be doing those things in her daily routine.

I loved that idea then and I still do today. Isn’t the best manager the one who can empathize with her employees? The one who knows enough about the jobs she is supervising that she can easily come up with workable action plans when things go awry? The one who knows what it takes to fulfill a request she makes?

If you want to be an effective manager, take the time. Learn the day-t0-day tasks of the people on your team. Get your hands dirty. You won’t regret it.

**P.S. Even if the people on your team have specialized skills that you won’t master–I’m thinking of my graphic and web designers–you can still do a lot to gain a deeper understanding of their jobs. Don’t be afraid to try.

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