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National Association of Counties • Washington, D.C.      Vol. 34, No. 21 • November 11, 2002

The H.R. Doctor Is In

Learn As If You Will Live Forever

There are two common elements found in the most successful public or private sector organizations. The first is an environment created within the agency in which every manager and employee is challenged to excel in behavior and performance. The second is recognition and support for innovation, learning and fun.

The two elements go together. An organization may excel at challenging people to do more, or to do more with less, as often happens; however, without a learning and innovation environment, challenge alone will lead to HR trouble.

Likewise, an organization which is a fun place to work, where regular staff meetings take place amid an atmosphere of comraderie and “We Are Family” sing-alongs, will be unsuccessful unless there is vision and expectation for success in specific and measurable ways.

The reality is that the best managers — the ones with the most successful careers and the most fulfilling personal lives — are those who have learned the importance of challenging, educating and enjoying their employees, and have taken deliberate steps to create an environment in which these components flourish.

The HR Doctor had the honor and the fun to attend and graduate from the University of California in Los Angeles. The period of my attendance at UCLA was also the time when one of the greatest coaches of all times — perhaps the greatest — John Wooden was producing amazing and unmatched results in collegiate basketball.

Coach Wooden, who is now in his 90s, is still speaking and inspiring others. He said recently, on a trip to Florida, that a person should “learn as if you will live forever and live as if you will die tomorrow.” That quote is worth repeating: “Learn as if you will live forever and live as if you will die tomorrow.” See! A little redundancy is good! What do these words from Coach Wooden mean as a lesson for public administrators?

The HR Doctor believes that the coach’s wisdom tells us that every opportunity to learn is an opportunity to grow, and to make better decisions based upon new knowledge and new experiences. It also means that when we don’t seize these opportunities, we are at a personal and professional disadvantage in a fast-changing world.

How would your organization stack up if a report card were issued today on how effectively employees are challenged to keep learning, growing, accepting new responsibilities, and finding advancement and recognition within the agency?

Here is an HR Doctor guarantee
More and more of the best employees will find that recognition and opportunity elsewhere if they cannot find it in their own organization. They will leave the organization and perhaps the community. By allowing their skills to be lost, the agency will be worse for having failed to inspire them to excellence within the organization. Most counties lack a sustained organizational and employee development vision. No county should ignore this compelling need.

Implementing a learning organization is easier and more cost effective than ever because learning and teaching can be empowered through technology and innovation. Just ask NACo about NACo Internet University.

Counties may not be able to out-compete some private corporations with salaries, bonuses or stock options. However, with e-learning, there is no reason that any county in America should not be able to compete favorably at bringing quality training and improved skills to current and future employees.

NACo and the HR Doctor will be happy to work with your county to create a plan that makes a great difference for a surprisingly reasonable amount of money. Don’t believe me? Call (202) 942-4267 and ask.

The HR Doctor wishes you a career full of learning — and teaching.

All the best,
Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •