I have helped shift the focus of our HR department from a transactional one to more of a developmental and proactive approach. Early on, performance issues kept coming up that should have been dealt with much sooner. It was clear to me that we needed to be more proactive and developmental in our HR services to best practices and build supervisors’ supervisory skills by designing systems, processes, and tools to simplify and clarify supervisors’ HR responsibilities. I also began to meet monthly with department heads and department administrators, a practice that has been extremely helpful in addressing emerging issues. The result is an increased commitment to quality supervision across the organization, more efficiency, and increased effectiveness on the part of supervisors, and problems being dealt with more proactively.
My boss went on medical leave just as we were starting to wrap up a three-year comprehensive plan. In addition to just getting up to speed on the basics of the job, I was doing data presentations, monitoring agencies that reported to us, and ensuring that expenditure reports were accurate. I had to quickly pick up on the various service categories, understand which agencies provide what services, and prioritize resource allocation. My supervisor ended up taking 12 weeks of leave, so I was running the show. I called my supervisor from time to time for some advice, but I organized and ran the meetings, provided support for other meetings, went out to the agencies, figured out how to do all of the monitoring, ensured that all the reports were in on time, made sure other reports were in on time, developed good relations with the agencies. I couldn’t have anticipated all of the things that would be happening during the time my supervisor was out. I was essentially working two positions.
Using Storytelling to Cope with the Stress of Change
In July 2006, Business Week published a cover story on company mistakes and failures in which author Jena McGregor listed sharing personal stories of failure as a best practice in dealing with mistakes. “If employees hear leaders discussing their own failures,” McGregor writes, “they’ll be more comfortable talking about their own.” The cover story features several sidebars in which executives describe their favorite mistakes. Mistakes and failures can, of course, be a great source of learning when future changes roll around, as in the following example story: