Dedication Requires Good Management

Dwayne Phillips

Revision History
Revision 1.025 June 2005

No, I didn't write the title backwards. I believe that dedication among employees requires good performance from managers. Some people demonstrate dedication in exceptional circumstances. As managers, we should recognize such dedication and ensure that we do not squander their efforts.

I don't want to belittle the effort required of being a manager. Being a good manager requires dedication. I manage programs and supervise people. I work hard and long hours to be a good manager.

I want us, however, to consider another aspect of the relationship between managing and dedication. This aspect requires extra effort from a manager whenever an employee demonstrates dedication.

We recently had an emergency at work. Carol, a manager of our field users, came to me at midday with a major problem. An important opportunity had presented itself. Carol's group had been hoping for this opportunity, but had not expected it now. Carol needed a system ready for the field tomorrow, and she didn't know where or how to get one.

I knew where to find the components and how to prepare a system. Just to be safe, I called an employee named Lisa and asked her to meet me at our lab to help me build a system. Lisa agreed to drop what she was doing for the day and meet me at the lab.

What should have been easy (have you ever heard those words?) turned into a frustrating day. Inexplicable hardware problems caused Lisa and I to go around in circles all afternoon. We were still chasing problems when I had to leave at 4 o'clock for other appointments. Lisa told me that she would keep working, but she didn't know how long she would be able to stay.

The next day I went to our lab at 6 AM to continue the work. I found notes describing failures scattered throughout the lab on various hardware components. In the middle of the room was a system ready to go to the field. Carol would be able to take advantage of the opportunity that we had all hoped for.

I then checked my e-mail and read a note from Lisa. She had worked until 9 the night before. She had used every bit of hardware in the lab to piece together a system that would work. Without any prior notice, without me asking, and without any promise of reward, Lisa had worked a 13-hour day so that other people could succeed half-a-world away. Lisa was dedicated to the success of our group.

I stood there alone in the lab at six in the morning considering what Lisa had done. One thought that came to me was that I had better not blow this opportunity. Lisa had worked too hard for me as a manager to botch this operation.

Things didn't go as planned in the next few days. Carol didn't grab the system and immediately send it to the field; Lisa really didn't have to work until 9 PM to prepare a system. This was a big disappointment to me. We had to work through unforeseen logistical and political problems before we shipped the system. There were several chances for the entire situation to fall apart. I kept remembering Lisa's dedication and I pushed myself to ensure that we wouldn't waste her efforts. We overcame many problems and shipped the system the next week. The field operations people eventually succeeded.

When people show dedication and devote themselves beyond what anyone asks, we as managers better perform as well. If we let their dedication and hard work go to waste, they will never give that type of effort again. Our failure will kill any spark of imagination, creativity, and desire that exists in the people who work with us.

I recommend several things for managers like me who are privileged to work with people like Lisa. First, don't expect dedication. Dedication to quality and to colleagues is an exception and not the norm to be expected.

Next, notice dedication. This requires noticing everyone and the work they do everyday. I know that my colleagues are paid salaries for their time, knowledge, and effort. Lisa, however, showed dedication far beyond her salary.

Once you notice dedication, appreciate it. This doesn't have to be a monetary or merchandise award. It can be as simple yet heart felt as saying, "Lisa, I appreciated how you worked so long and hard to put together a system for us. Thank you."

Most importantly, follow through as a manager when someone shows dedication. Work hard and smart so that their efforts come to fruition instead of being wasted.