If you want to truly be remembered by those who work for you, teach life lessons, not just task execution.
In 1979 I was a college intern, working as a computer programmer on Human Resource systems at Honeywell Information Systems. During my time there I was trying to learn about business and how to make my mark in the world. I had a manager named Larry whom I will never forget. He was my first manager in a true business setting. He also took the concept of a “college internship” very seriously and felt a responsibility to teach me about more than just my daily tasks. He also tried to teach me about business and life in general.
On the business side, he told me to be ethical and good to people because, after a few years, it would seem that only 250 computer people worked in New England (I’m in Boston) and they just cycle from company to company. At first glance, this may seem like a meaningless piece of advice, but it was actually incredibly insightful, very true, and extremely valuable to me. Certainly, there are tens of thousands of computer people in New England, but over the years, you run across the same people again and again. Therefore, good, bad, or indifferent, your reputation precedes you in almost every professional endeavor, particularly if you stay in the same industry and technology throughout your career.
On the personal side, Larry asked me “If I wanted to know the trick to becoming rich?” I, of course, said “Yes” and asked him to tell me. He told me “That the key to becoming rich is to spend less money than you make. If you do this, you will one day be rich. “ This also seems, at first glance, to be a very simple concept. It is simple, but it’s not always easy. Making financial ends meet, particularly early in your career, can be very hard or impossible to achieve.
The trick here is to have a savings mentality and try to live financially conservatively and below your means. If you can do this, then by definition you can save money.
These two pieces of advice, and others like them, were of great value to me both professionally and personally. This advice was given to me almost thirty-five years ago and I remember it and Larry like it was yesterday. I have not seen Larry for over thirty years, but I have thanked him many times, for his advice and his willingness to share it with me by paying it forward. Over the years I have since shared this advice with countless other young professionals that I have worked with throughout my career.
I don’t know whatever happened to Larry, but I think of him fondly every time I pass his wisdom and advice through me to others.
The reason I told you this story is to illustrate the true positive effect that you can have on those that work for you if you are willing to make the effort. Larry wasn’t perfect, and not all of his words of wisdom were worth remembering, but some were. Larry always, however, cared enough about me, others who worked for him, and his responsibility as a manager to have a long-lasting positive effect on those he managed.
In closing, my advice to you, as a manager or future manager, is to be a “Larry”. It’s good for those working under your supervision. It’s good for your company and it’s good for you.