Timeless Lessons for Printers and Managers (Part 2)

The big show is over and it’s back to work for North America’s printers. Read Sudhir Ravi’s recap on page 17 and also see our New Products section (pages 22-26). GRAPH EXPO 2011 ended on September 14, but already it seems like it was a long time ago. Conversely, as if it was yesterday, I remember embarking on my career journey more than a quarter-century ago, bright eyed and bushy tailed at RR Donnelley’s graphic design subsidiary in downtown Chicago. (Apple had introduced the Macintosh computer a year earlier; we shared one ‘office PC’ that ran DOS.) As a kid, I’d ask why my immigrant grandparents settled in Chicago. “Jobs,” my father would say with a sense of pride. “You can always find a job in Chicago.”

Back in August, I highlighted some early career advice he gave me about what a manager should expect from his or her employees. But what should they expect from you, the boss, in return? On the other side of the desk, Dad later (upon my promotion in the mid-1990s) shared his list of supervisor do’s and don’ts.

Maintaining Perspective

Not a product of excessive formal education, Joe Vruno had a 38-year civilian career in quality assurance within the U.S. Department of Defense. He always stressed that experience is the best teacher, and much of my level headed father’s experience came from the rough-and-tumble streets of the inner city, which he and his cronies roamed often with hungry bellies during the Great Depression in the 1930s. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941 (he was 20), he enlisted in the Army, where his education continued in World War II. As a radio operator on a bomber plane, he learned a thing or two about managing people and their expectations while flying “sorties” over Germany. These six managerial points bear repeating, no matter the industry and no matter the decade:

Do give praise when someone does a good job.

Do not admonish or reprimand in a public forum.

Do keep a written record on each employee. Document and date conversations regarding performance—good or bad.

Do be open and truthful to employees. Be discreet and prudent in your answers to questions.

Loyalty is reciprocal: Go to bat for and stand behind people in whom you believe.

Do be a friend to your subordinates, but not a buddy or pal. And be very careful not to show favoritism to anyone.

Joe Vruno’s final two tidbits of workplace advice to me: a) the ever cliché, yet true, “Lead by example,” which sat comfortably well with this former collegiate quarterback, and b) “Find out whom you can trust—and whom you can’t.”