One very good reason to be nice to your staff: you never know where they might end up…

I-believe-in-karmaIt makes sense to be good to the people you manage, and one selfish reason for that has been brought home to me recently, with some moves made by former team members at Edinburgh council.

Mike Pinkerton has my old job as the council’s news manager. Alice Robertson is on the health desk at the Scottish Government. Gareth Jones is now a client, as head of corporate communications at Lothian Buses. And Katie Spence is managing the council’s communications for the tram (which will be run by Lothian Buses).

Of less recent moves, Ruth Macleod is the head of comms at Scottish Fire and Rescue, Kelly Murphy is the comms manager at Education Scotland. Lynn Mcmath works in Scottish Labour’s press team, and Shona Cameron is the head of comms for Edinburgh Bioquarter.

Aside from the one current relationship, all are potential clients or current/potential stakeholders in work we do for clients. And that’s just a small group of former colleagues from one organisation, in a career of 18 years to date.

To be clear, none of them owes me anything; the point of this isn’t about obligation based on previous connections. But, all other things being equal, it certainly does no harm to be on good terms with your former charges (and that’s the case to the best of my knowledge!) The same is true of many other professional relationships of course, but as a manager you have a unique opportunity to screw that up in how you treat people.

Indeed, there have been times where my management of someone didn’t go as well as we all might have liked. In some of these cases, I doubt there was anything I could have done that would have made much difference. There were others where I should have done better, although these instances taught me some valuable lessons.

So, back to the title of this post. I try to treat people well because that’s how I’d like to be treated and because I think it gets results. But even if it wasn’t for that, a bit of enlightened self-interest (thinking about the long-run) would be reason enough. 

At a practical level, I’ve tried to to support people to progress their career if opportunities didn’t exist where they were, share out the jobs that provide experience and kudos, make sure everyone got proper credit for their achievements, and be honest when explaining decisions or giving feedback.

Maybe this doesn’t matter quite so much in other spheres, with larger or more disparate professional populations. However, the Scottish comms world is small and it doesn’t help to offend people if you can avoid it or for no good reason. (Regrettably, it’s inevitable that you can’t keep everyone happy – and if you are, it’s quite possible that you’re not doing your job right!) Conversely, if you can help folk along their own path, then there’s much to be said for doing that.

For the record, this post is no slight on those who have not furthered their career. One of my best friends, who is excellent at what he does, has declined a deserved opportunity for promotion because it would mean doing less of what he is passionate about and more management, which does not float his boat. Others have their own personal and professional reasons for not climbing the ladder and I respect those. (Perhaps some current managers ought to have done similarly, and organisations should offer different progression routes, but that’s a separate post.)

Nor, lest it be thought, do I claim any credit for the progress made by those mentioned above. That is down to their own skills, experience and attitude. I have tried to do what any good manager should do, which is to create the circumstances where the team can perform. That’s not always easy, but it doesn’t half help when you’ve got very good people to work with in the first place. And in a business that’s all about relationships, a little bit of good karma can go a long way.


One Comment on “One very good reason to be nice to your staff: you never know where they might end up…”

  1. Fiona says:

    This struck a chord with me, having moved from managing a team of 20 to working in a team of four. Think it’s also particularly relevant in the small media/PR village of Edinburgh. Wise words, Stewart.

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