I had a rather insightful and educational conversation with a co-worker a few years back while working in the north of  Queensland. We were tasked with removing large rocks (15kgs minimum) from the dirt so the grader didn’t have to push them out. You can imagine how shit this job truly was in the 40 degree heat, but to this co-worker’s credit he lapped up the chance. He was around 50 years old and a previous manager of a civil construction company that serviced mining roads (making him way over qualified to be moving rocks from a dirt pile) and only needed a week’s worth of work before heading home for christmas. It was he that taught me some vital skills I’ll never forget.

As we made our way up and down the parched landscape with litres of sweat pouring out of us leaving little darkened red stains in the dirt below us we began to talk.

I had no real idea who he was at first as he was new, but quickly realised this was a man with experience. He was angry at something, and it so happened it was at the same thing as me – the owner of our company. There he sat under the only shady tree in the vicinity in his 90k vehicle with air conditioner blaring and sipping his coffee as he watched us march up and down the road. This was a typical occurrence and he wasn’t exactly known for his kindness, patience, gentle ways, or paying well either.

“That right there is an example of terrible management”.
He said with a pointed tone.

“I’ve learnt a few key lessons in my time working with people and these are some of them:

  1. Lead by example. Don’t sit in your car watching others slave away and expect them to maintain any sort of loyalty when the shit hits the fan.
  2. Be generous. You’ll be surprised at how much more people will do for someone that isn’t afraid to give back.
  3. Be approachable. Not everything is going to work out the way you want it to, but if people feel like you can be spoken to about mistakes everything will run a whole lot better.
  4. And lastly, say thank you, and mean it. It isn’t just a job to those who work hard. It’s a testament to their character and dignity and by saying thank you, you tell them that you truly do value it all.

And this guy does none of those things.”

He didn’t stay with us long, in fact I don’t believe he even made the full week as he quit on his 3rd shift. The lack of pay (underpaid), lack of breaks, lack of aforementioned management, lack of people skills and generally a lack of silver lining lead to him quitting. It wasn’t just any resignation though, it was his 5th and last lesson for me:
– Don’t do something because it makes you money. Don’t stay somewhere that makes you miserable. Don’t compromise on yourself and what you want for someone else’s gain. –
And he left while telling the boss exactly what he thought of him and his way of doing things.

It was inspirational.

After nearly 6 years I still remember his words and will always keep his lessons true to my heart. I want to manage/run my own business one day and I think this man gave me some of the keys I need to unlock it’s potential. Whether he knew it or not he really was helping me out in that disgusting North Queensland heat. I don’t remember his name and I don’t remember what he looked like, but I’ll always remember what he stood for. I hope he had a wonderful christmas with his family.