I’ve had my fair share of management mistakes over the last 15 years. Some are far too epic to openly admit via this blog. Mistakes, while horrendous in the near term, can serve you well later on. Looking back on some of my doozies, I remembered some more substantial ones from my days as an entry level manager in the hotel industry.
The point of sharing them is twofold. First, I’d like to give all of you the opportunity to laugh at me. Second, I want to emphasize the point that you can make mistakes and they aren’t 100% negative. The two mistakes below helped shape me as a professional and a manager. One caused me to think deeply about what kind of job I wanted to do, to care about being passionate and engaged in my work, to pursue more than just a paycheck. The other helped shaped my desire to reward employees for good hard effort and consistency with forgiveness and a second chance when they inevitably stumble.
As strange as it sounds, I was fortunate to screw up so often early in my career.
Here we go…
Between my freshman and sophomore years of college I took a job as a maintenance man at a Howard Johnson’s Hotel. I enjoyed myself at that age and liked to go out frequently with my friends. This social interaction often left me very sleepy during the day. Each day around 3pm I would climb into a closet in a hotel function room, drape a tablecloth over myself and have a nice 45min nap. This was fantastic until the day that a function started in the room while I was asleep in the closet. You can imagine the shock of the attendees when I staggered out of the closet in the midst of a speaker’s presentation.
Business Lesson: Pick a job you care about. If you aren’t engaged enough in your profession to be able to stay awake for 8 straight hours then you may have selected a job that doesn’t suit you. This donned on me as my boss screamed at me for my idiocy. Perhaps I should try to find employment that I found more engaging.
The Drunken Van Driver:
When I left college, I moved to California to manage the front desk of a hotel. It was glamorous stuff. One of my responsibilities was to manage the bellhops and the drivers of the hotel’s airport shuttle bus. One bellhop, who was a great guy, was really struggling in life. He had hit hard times and was going through a lot of stress. One day I caught him drinking alcohol outside during his lunch break. Company policy would have allowed for us to terminate him immediately, but we opted to just give him a warning. This guy was a buddy and had worked so well for us for so long that we decided to try and pick him up by offering him a change of scenery to the Van Driver’s position. The obvious business lesson would be that you probably don’t want to move someone you’ve just caught drinking into a role that involves driving a company vehicle, but that’s not it.
Business Lesson: Compassion and kindness to your team is huge. My idea to move him into a driving role was idiotic, but the concept of giving him another shot wasn’t. He was a good guy, a hard worker, and treated his co-workers with nothing but class and courtesy. For those reasons he deserved another shot. Had he had another infraction we would have had to terminate him. The change of pace had the desired effect and he was a model employee from there on out.
If you think back on your past I’m sure you’ll remember some times when you simply made a bad call or did something purely stupid. My guess is that some of those instances have helped make you a better person today.