I was elbow-deep in a sink of washing up when the realisation hit me that there is currently a parallel between my life and one of my favourite books.
Anna Sewell’s classic novel Black Beauty wasn’t intended to be a children’s book, though that is how it’s now largely regarded. Sewell had hoped that the story would serve as a morality tale for her contemporaries, teaching her generation and perhaps ones beyond to be kind to the humans and animals they interact with.
As I washed the dishes, I thought about the voice of Sewell’s book – how the horse was grateful to and always remembered fondly his first “master”, whom his mother also regarded highly, and who was responsible for his early training. Sewell encourages the reader to consider the groundwork made early in one’s relationships with people and animals – a case of first impressions counting for a lot and that training someone correctly at the beginning of the cycle can ensure good habits.
I thought back to my previous post about the importance of good training and positive role models at work, creating a strong outlook for the future, and the realisation hit me that I’m now in that position of responsibility. I am the first manager that some of my colleagues have worked with – I’m setting the tone for them. The penny should possibly have dropped sooner, but I blame the fact that part of me is still convinced I’m 21 for my wilful ignorance!
Continuing with my task, I mentally flitted between Black Beauty’s newly-fitted shoes and the ones I stand in now, trying to re-trace my steps and remember how it felt to have a boss for the first time, what it was like to learn new tasks and try to impress someone, or to have orders barked at me constantly. How I wished I’d been treated, and how I liked to be managed. I thought about expectations and realities and communication. And the whole thing began to terrify me.
But, I realised, what it comes down to is simple: train your colleagues well, offer them encouragement and support, ensure that they understand the aims you have for them and the business, and hopefully all will be well.
Black Beauty’s mother, Duchess, advises him to, “never learn bad ways”. I hope to teach good ways, learn from the treatment I received – good and bad – and help the next generation to move onwards and upwards with confidence and contentment. They won’t work with me forever, but I would like their memories of me to be good ones.