One of the first jobs I had was at the Holiday Inn hotel in Birmingham, England.
I was 22 years old. I was very proud of my job title, mainly because it was so long — I was the assistant food and beverage controller.
Basically, I helped order, store, move and count the food and beverage items at this hotel. After about a year, I was delighted to be promoted to food and beverage controller, but somewhat sad that I dropped one word out of my prestigious job title.
Wind the clock forward some 20 years, and I happened to be in the area, so I figured I’d swing by and say hello to my old friends.
Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize anyone and no one knew me — all the faces had changed. I was shocked to hear the hotel didn’t even have a food and beverage control department anymore — technology had replaced the jobs we felt at the time were so important.
Around this same time, I joined Marriott Hotels as a regional finance director, supporting about 25 hotels.
I don’t know whether I got caught up in some workplace cyclone, but — as I remember — we went through four major reorganizations in the span of three years.
I went from having one boss to having two bosses. I had to work within a confusing matrix where I served four operational directors as their finance person. I still don’t understand how this structure was meant to work, but I do remember thinking: “Forget this — I want to start my own business and move to America.” And that’s exactly what we did.
As I look back over these past 12 years — so much has changed.
We started with a business partner — Rachel, but she didn’t last more than six months here, so we bought her out of the business and haven’t seen her since. No hard feelings — we just lost touch.
We have employees now whom we didn’t have at the start. Our business model has changed dramatically. Technology has enabled us to have training platforms we didn’t dream of back in 2006. We now have a franchise over in Florida. A dozen years ago and 5,000 miles away, I thought the word “franchise” was another way of saying McDonalds in America. I never thought we’d have one of those.
Why do I share these three short stories? Well, to emphasize that change really is the only constant.
Running parallel to this principle, it occurred to me recently, that regardless of how important you think you are, or how long your job title is, people will often forget about you unless you made a positive difference and genuinely cared about people.
I once knew of a lady called Marianne who worked for a very well known organization — she was the managing director, which is a pretty cool title. The trouble with Marianne was that she was not a very nice person even though she had a grand title.
She only cared about the numbers. Marianne would cut others down to get what she needed. She would only listen to others if it were to her benefit. Marianne was not interested in developing people — only manipulating her own rewards and winning prestigious awards that made her look good.
I never worked with Marianne as an employee but I knew her fairly well due to a strategic partnership our business had with her employer. I lost touch with Marianne and hadn’t done any work with her employer for about seven to eight years up until recently.
Upon reconnecting with this company, I asked after Marianne and found she’d been “let go” a couple of years earlier. The newer folks had never heard of Marianne and those that had worked with her, told me she was never spoke of or referred to — it was almost as if she’d never existed.
What did I learn from Marianne, the ex-managing director? Well, we spend so much of our precious time at work — why not go for greatness? Not just greatness in trying to yield the best results for you and your organization, but also true greatness — meaning a life well lived in the workplace.
Ask yourself what you’d like others to say about you when you retire. Imagine people gathered at your leaving party — what would you want them to say about your character and your competence, in front of your spouse, your children and even your grandchildren?
To me, that is a true legacy from the workplace, worth leaving behind you.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].