May 14, 2013

Walk a Mile in Who’s Shoes?

By Paul Bieber

In my shoes?  In her shoes?  In over-sized-bright-red clown shoes?

How about the shoes of your foreman, or the shoes of the bookkeeper, or how about the shoes of your salesman?  Would you let someone walk in your shoes?

I saw a neat segment on CNN the other day where a student was given the opportunity to be the Mayor of a small city based on an essay she wrote.  Each year this city has students take over leadership positions in various departments to let them see what really goes on in their municipal government.  All of the interviewed students, and the elected officials thought it was a great idea and worked really well.

How does this 3-minute news story affect you in the glass industry?  It could be a good role model for you in your company.  Each year, try to have each person in your company fill the role of another person, for just a day. There are many benefits to you as an owner or manager, and even more benefits to your employees.  Let’s look at these benefits, based on the ‘student’ and the ‘teacher’:

  • The teacher has to be organized enough in their daily work routine to be able to have another person step into their job.  The teacher needs to prepare a teaching manual for the student.  This manual should be part of the teachers’ personnel file, used as a resource in their annual review and in helping to fine tune their job description and duties.  It is also helpful in hiring or training a new person when the current teacher wins the lottery.
  • The teacher will learn to share their knowledge.  One of the biggest problems every company faces is senior employees keeping their knowledge bottled up as a form of job protection.  To me, the person who shares information is much more beneficial to a company than one who builds walls around themselves.
  • The teacher’s reports on the working day will help senior management pinpoint students who learn well and want to grow within a company.  Most jobs will require some homework on the student’s part, and if successfully completed shows a strong interest to grow in the company.
  • Students will learn that the job they look at as easier than theirs, really isn’t.  Or in some cases, an office person who goes out on a field install, will understand why glass and metal doesn’t always fit on the first try. Students will see there is opportunity in the company and hopefully will be motivated to continue their education.
  • Friendships will blossom across previously divided groups.  And respect will be earned by all.
  • Yes, one day is not enough to learn completely about another’s job, but it does give a strong sense of the position.

A program like this takes time and the strong support of senior management or owners.  It is absolutely worth it.