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Riding with the boss...


Joseph Fearn

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I recently toured campus here at Drury University with my boss. The touring was nothing unusual as I try to see the whole campus on a regular basis. What was different this time was what I learned on the tour. I saw the campus through another person's eyes, and an important person's eyes at that. I came away with a conclusion that I didn't particularly like. Campus never looks as bad as when I tour with my boss. He saw things that I had seen, but had put a different priority on. He also saw things that were important to his reckoning but hadn't been as important to mine. While I was moderately distressed and disappointed by this tour, I saw it as one of several opportunities for rethinking my working relationship with my boss.

 

Campus never looks as bad as when I tour with my boss. He saw things that I had seen, but had put a different priority on...

 

When Seeing Something Bad is Good

Our tour resulted in seeing some situations on campus that were not up to snuff. My initial reaction was to be disappointed with my performance, and to be frustrated with my crew's lack of attention to detail. But what I realized was my boss wasn't assigning blame, he was simply bringing issues he had noticed to my attention. This is a good thing. He didn't go to my crew, or to his boss, but came to me. This shows he has confidence in my ability to correct these issues. It also shows me that he is paying attention to what the grounds crew is doing on campus. My boss?s awareness of our work is good for us. The old adage of 'when there is silence you should be worried' applies here.

 

Bad: Weeds in a bed of perennials

 

When Seeing Something Good is Good

In my professional experience, most grounds managers (including golf course superintendents, of course) notice the good works our crews perform. We make a point of recognizing our teams for hard work, and accomplishing goals. But we almost never seek affirmation for our own works, or direct acknowledgement by others for our own part in achieving success. When I ride with my boss, the vast majority of what he sees and takes note of is positive. Our time together allows him to express appreciation of our team's hard work, and my contribution to that success. Another aspect of seeing successful efforts in the field is it builds common knowledge of the job that is being performed. My boss is not a grounds professional, but he does have comprehension of what work and resources must go into our job. His awareness of our work is beneficial.

 

When I ride with my boss, the vast majority of what he sees and takes note of is positive. Our time together allows him to express appreciation of our team?s hard work...


Looking Through Someone Else's Eyes

One of my greatest challenges in performing my job is to avoid trap thinking. Another way to say this is to avoid predetermination of methods and goals. Because over my career, my efforts and plans have achieved desired results, I think I have some proven answers to achieve results. However, continually using my answers to problems excites and validates me, but may not be as exciting or satisfying to my team (and my boss is on my team). Touring the campus allows my boss to contribute, even if it is usually only in non-physical ways. He has a track record of success and a wealth of knowledge about grounds work in relation to Drury's organizational goals. He has seen other methods achieve results. This knowledge helps strengthen our job processes, plus allows him to contribute, thereby giving him some belonging also.

 

Bad: Nutsedge in a bed of liriope

 

A Chance to Communicate

My days are very full. My boss is busy too. Being able to get one hour per month touring with my boss is about all I can expect. This lack of time to communicate has potential for undesirable results. I could be putting effort into a job that is not where my boss thinks we should be focused. Even if it is what he wants us working on, the results may not be close enough to what he wants. Another concern could be working on a project that may have been made unnecessary or obsolete by a decision made higher up the organizational ladder. Without my boss acting as an information conduit, I may not have access to all the facts. Plus the opportunity to have some personal interaction is positive. Many personnel management experts say that some level of personal relationship helps bond employees. I may not hang with my boss, but I want him to see me as a unique individual, and me him also. I also communicate with my boss in other ways at other times, but touring the campus grounds puts us in my element.

 

Good: Bed of coriopsis along our Alumni Science Center

 

At The End of the Day

My immediate team goes in two directions organizationally. My crew, and my boss. Too often employees fail to recognize that their actions can influence their boss. By keeping problems off his desk, I keep them off mine, because we all know how problems usually roll. I also believe that by pursuing my boss's goals, I can expect, and should expect him to pursue mine, even though he is the boss. While it can be unpleasant at times, riding with my boss has benefitted me more than it has hurt me.

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