4 Tips for my Younger Self

Don Harkey of People Centric writes a note to his younger self with 4 tips on being a better employee.

By Don Harkey | Photo courtesy Shutterstock

May 11 2017 at 10:25 a.m.


Roughly 20 years ago, I started my career as a supervisor. I’ve often thought about the lessons I’ve learned and mistakes I've made back then. So, I decided to write myself some tips from my current self to my past self. I'm figuring out how to send this note back in time, but maybe in the meantime you can find some use in these lessons.  


Hi Don,

Surprise! It's me from 2017. Congrats on your new position at ADM! You'll do really well, but I wanted to send you some thoughts that will help you do even better.  

1) Time is Your Friend: Look, I know you are anxious to solve problems and rally your people around a cause, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Sometimes, time is your friend. This is true when working with anyone. Sometimes it’s best to float a thought or an idea and let the other person think it over and add their own ideas to it. Slow down a bit. It’s not about the idea as much as it is getting buy-in from people you work with. This is true for employees, co-workers and managers alike.  
2) You Don't Have to Have the Answer: Try these three words on for size: ”I don't know.” Say it to yourself. You know that it’s true, but you might think that you need to have the answer because it is your job. Actually, that is not your job. Your job is to work with your team to find the answer. Do you know how you can tell who are the most experienced and knowledgeable people at work? They are the most willing to admit that they don't know the answer.
3) Let Your People Win: Sometimes, the best way to develop your team is to let them solve problems. You might come up with the solution quickly, but let them figure it out and take the credit. When your team is successful, you will be successful.  
4) It's Complicated: People are complicated. On TV, there are heroes and villains. You want to put people in those categories because it is nice and convenient. The truth is always more complex. Sometimes good people do bad things, but they do it for their own reasons and often for good reasons. It’s hard to be a manager. Don't be overly judgmental of people.

There it is. I wish I could send you some even better info from the future, but I think these tidbits will serve you well. I'll leave the rest a secret so that you can enjoy the adventure.