The Art of Career Stewardship – Knowing the Importance of Balance

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Max-eMailBefore I begin the message of this blog, I will make a brief announcement: It is with both great excitement and tempered sadness that I announce my upcoming departure from Kramer Electronics (on November 15). I have accepted a position as General Manager at Atlanta Soundworks (an integration firm here in Atlanta). With Dave Bright’s (President of Kramer, USA) support and blessing, I will be taking my career to a new level and growing in new ways.  This blog serves two major purposes. Purpose #1 is to acknowledge Dave’s management style and to share what we can learn from it. Purpose #2 is to announce that I plan to apply all that I have learned from Dave.

And, now, the blog…

There is an interesting cartoon recirculating around social media where two business men are conversing and one says, “What if I train my employees and then they leave?” The other responds, “What if you don’t train them, and they stay? This illustrates one of the toughest dilemmas in personnel management. I think we can agree that employee development is very important and a good management practice. The dilemma is when you do support your employee and their growth and then they end up growing beyond the needs of your company. How do you address this? In the following passage I will give my thoughts on how to support your employees beyond the standard needs of the business.

I have learned that one of the best approaches to employee management is to first recognize that every employee will leave your company; EVERY employee leaves. The sad truth is that death makes this an undeniably true statement.  That being said, death is the rarest form of employee departure. Thank God for that. Knowing that every employee leaves gives you freedom. Just knowing that keeping an employee forever is a completely unrealistic goal frees you from the burden of trying to keep good employees forever. Knowing this, you can focus on the more honorable goal of being as good as a leader as you can for as long as you have them. The result of that is, most often, loyal employees that stand with you as a leader through the test of time.

Another way to look at this is that good managers serve their company by trying to keep their productive employees, but great leaders act as in the best interest of employees and strive to bring out the best in them. Great leadership through service to employees results in the best employee performance and productive results for the company, win-win. I have heard this management style referred to as career stewardship. I love the term. But, career stewardship is an incredible balancing act.

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As a manager your employees have entrusted you with their career paths. They have put their faith in you. They believe that you will look out for their development needs and keep their best interests in mind (as long as these things are aligned with the business goals).  However, your management has entrusted you with their business and they are counting on you to always do what is best for the business. The good news is that these two points are not in conflict. You can serve your employees and meet the organizational business goals. In fact, these two points are absolutely dependent on each other.

The last illustration I will give to this point is where I work. Kramer Electronics, USA, is led by Dave Bright. As President of Kramer US, he is charge of all aspects of our business. He looks out for our profit and losses and provides us with strategic direction. He is an incredible business manager and leader. But most importantly, he is each and every employee’s biggest advocate and cheerleader. He has done more to contribute to the development of his employees and helps to develop their career paths more than any other leader I have ever had. In working for Dave, I have been fortunate enough to work for someone who is truly dedicated to his employees and always does what is best for them. The business result of this leadership style has been consistent sustained growth for Kramer and very loyal employees. I believe that if you were to ask anyone who works for or has worked for Dave, they would tell you he is a great example of a true career steward.

I’ll end this blog with a special thank you to Dave Bright and to say that Kramer is a great company to work with and for. Thanks again Dave and thank you to everyone at Kramer.