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National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C.         Vol. 32, No. 16 * September 11, 2000

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The H.R. Daughter:
Passing and Sharing the Torch

Dear Elyse,

Congratulations on your new Master’s Degree in Public Administration! I also congratulate you for choosing a career in public service, in HR and in local government management. You know from our many talks and walks that this is a noble career in which you can see the positive effects of your work everyday. No job is without frustration and risk of failure. If there is any guarantee in life, it is that at different times in our careers we all will fail and some work project won’t come out as we had hoped.

The good news is that failure, strangely enough, can be more valuable to us than success. With constant success we tend to get arrogant and self-centered (see the HR Doctor Article called “Hubris — Arrogant Pride,” published on May 24, 1999.) When we fail, on the other hand, if we seize on and learn from the experience we can grow as individuals and as professionals. In science and in life in general, it is more often out of initial failure that we achieve the greatest successes of our lives.

Since I am offering free advice as the “HR Daddy,” I urge you to also keep recognizing the critical importance of balance and fun in work and in your personal life. You are already a champion fiddle player and singer. The musician’s phrase “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” is something important to always remember.
Never stop playing and never stop learning. The most enjoyable people to be around either at dinner or at work are people who are “Renaissance persons.” Their interests are diverse. Their outlooks on life are broad and they are willing to share with others. They follow the concept of “find thyself a teacher.”

It is essential as you gain more experience in our profession, that you never stop learning from others and always try to surround yourself with people from whom you can learn. The opposite is also extremely important in your career — be a teacher. Be a champion for sharing your knowledge and for helping your colleagues at work and the young people who are just starting their careers in school and at work. Challenge them and help them learn to appreciate the power of knowledge, how to use it, and how to give it away to others.

Your very strong and well developed sense of humor makes you a colleague people want to be around and someone who can defuse intense situations with a respectful and unexpected display of humor. You never laugh at someone else’s expense, and you use your powerful skills in verbal and written communication in ways that show respect and joy in living.

You will be an extraordinary HR Director, or City or County Manager, if that is what you want to do. If it isn’t or if you find yourself in a work setting with people who don’t give you the chance to grow or who aren’t respectful, attempt to change their views by helping them see a better way to do things.

If you can’t change that environment despite your efforts, then find another job. Don’t spend the precious productive hours of your day and your life doing something you don’t enjoy or working in a place where you are not appreciated and where you can’t make a contribution.

You are my friend and my professional colleague as well as my daughter. It has always been an honor to be your dad and now to watch you grow as a fellow practitioner in a fast expanding and very enjoyable profession. I am very proud of you.

(Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County, Fla.)


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