Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I thought I was going to write about what I want to get out of my supervisory experience.

But it's turned out to be about what I want others to get out of my supervisory experience.

A few years ago I applied for a position in which I would be supervising other financial aid counselors. I didn't get the position because I didn't have any (actually very little) supervisory experience on my resume. When I talked to my financial aid career mentor, she suggested that I get involved in some volunteer activity that would result in my supervising people, which I could then indicate on my resume when applying for associate director- and director- level positions. Later I decided that I didn't want to be a financial aid director while I was listening to a speaker in a professional development seminar talking about how the "subject matter experts" get promoted away from the things they love to do. I realized that directors generally have very little student contact and a lot of administration contact. Now I don't know if I even want to go back to FA, in any capacity.

At the food bank I am suddenly supervising a whole lot of people, ranging from two to ten individuals per day. I think the food bank has about sixty volunteers, including drivers; technically, by my being Program Coordinator, I'm their boss. Not that it feels that way - the food bank is definitely an ensemble production, and most of the current volunteers have been working at the FB much much longer than I have been. I've told some of them that the only decision they could make of which I would disapprove would involve them putting their hands on a client.

I've decided that I will not be the kind of boss who asks others to do tasks I am not willing to do myself. I hate mopping floors, but I asked someone to do it because I know he likes to do things he knows how to do, and then I told him he is my hero because I hate mopping. This afternoon when I was moving our trash bins around (we have four kinds of trash bins, and probably a dozen bins total) to bring the empty ones to easier access, I was thinking to myself that I don't want to be a person who tells someone else to do something like that just because it is icky, or a "supervisor-only" type boss.

The kind of boss (and I use this term very very loosely) I want to be is one who is willing to do any of the jobs in the place. I want to lead us further into a culture of inclusion and welcome, and I don't mean that in terms of some diversity BS listed in every college mission statement I've seen. I want our mentally ill and disabled volunteers to feel like they are participating in "normal everyday life." I want to encourage people to make good decisions and to trust the decisions they make. I want people to have fun at the FB because we aren't paying them in anything other than thanks. I want the people who come to work some community service hours to want to come back, or at least give us a cash donation come Christmastime, because they remember our project with fondness. I also want the clients to feel respected and recognized as human beings with a story and characteristics beyond "being poor."

When people come to the food bank, I want them to feel fed in their bellies and in their hearts.

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