By Ian Pearson, Employment Consultant
Last night I went to see yet another big screen remake of a small screen classic – ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, originally a 1960 and 70’s TV series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. For those of you old enough to remember the original, U.N.C.L.E. was a secret international counter espionage and law-enforcement agency. What is less well known was that you were able to join U.N.C.L.E. (for a small fee) and I was one of those men (or boy).
For a couple of shillings you could apply for a badge and membership card, choosing which department to join. The list was impressive; Counter-Espionage and Infiltration, Camouflage and Deception, Security and Protection. I went for Admin and Filing and still have the card to prove it! Well, you always need to find documents at a moment’s notice.
Of course there was a female version of the group – The Woman from A.U.N.T.I.E. This had departments such as Media and Communication and was populated by metrosexual BBC employees.
Looking back on my choice of department I can see that I wanted to be safe and secure, a bit like those Trekkies at Star Trek conventions who, instead of dressing up as Captain Kirk or Mr Spock, choose Third Yeoman Class in a plain blue top. Having said they were playing it safe, these were the most likely characters to by vaporised when transported to an alien planet.
So what has this got to do with employment law or management?
Choosing Admin and Filing may have been safe, but what it didn’t do was in any way stretch my abilities (even at the age of seven) and should I have stayed in Admin and Filing things may have been very different.
Now, scroll forward ten years or so and I started my first job at BP in London. And what department did I join? Office Management Department (OMD)! Sort of Admin and Filing without the guns.
However, what I did have at BP were very good managers who spotted that perhaps I should aspire to greater things than filing and encouraged me to expand my horizons. BP supported my studies and I became a solicitor. I have to thank the deputy head of legal department for being enthusiastic about his employees (he was a former Gurkha officer and used to pushing staff beyond their comfort zones) and I never regretted the move.
A good manager is worth his or her weight in gold. These mangers don’t have to be ‘best mates’ with their staff, don’t have to micro-manage work or adhere to the regimented HR culture that sets an employee along a certain career path. In fact most of the managers I have enjoyed working for have been intelligent mavericks within their organisations. They have also been quite ruthless and suffer fools not gladly!
Some have been natural managers, but of the two who I rate most highly, both had learned their management skills – one through the army the other by understanding the teaching of the then management gurus; Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) and Kenneth Blanchard (The One Minute Manager) and their ilk. So, there may be hope for us all!
So, as a manger look at your workforce, identify who may go on to great things and encourage them.