Why My First Week Was (Almost) a Failure


By Phil Harwood

I’ll never forget my first week on the job with a large commercial landscape & snow contractor. I spent most of that week with one of the company’s top crew leaders. It was early spring so he wasn’t leading a crew yet. It was just the two of us together for the week. His job was to show me the ropes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Prior to joining this large commercial landscape & snow contractor, I had accumulated 15 years of business experience in the green industry. I had hired, trained, managed, and developed hundreds of people in my career at this point and was well-acquainted with best practices in these areas. I had a good idea of what the first week on a new job should look like. 

As I was riding around with this crew leader for a week, my focus was to keep my eyes open, ask questions, and take in whatever I could. It was a chance to learn more about this company I had committed myself to. I don’t believe in job-hopping so I knew I would be with this company for a number of years unless something went seriously wrong.  

The week turned out to be actually quite enjoyable in some respects. This crew leader, who was my mentor for the week, had a great sense of humor and was very knowledgeable. Plus, he had considerable experience in some areas I was unfamiliar with and so I learned a great deal from him. However, the overall experience was probably not the experience that was intended  for me.

You see, he had been pretty beaten up over the years. He was pessimistic, a bit disgruntled, and took pride in taking shortcuts (cheating the system). The example he showed was the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be exemplifying and he didn’t care one iota. In fact, he would most likely have said that he was doing me a favor by telling me how it really was. 

By the end of the week, I was relieved it was over and glad to end this week-long mentorship experience. At the same time, I felt sorry for this guy. He was in the later stage of his career and clearly was not in a good place. 

However, even though he didn’t set a good example for me and our week together probably missed the mark of being a great onboarding experience, it didn’t slow me down because I had had enough business and life experience to understand what was happening with this guy, to be able to appreciate his contributions to my education, and to leverage this experience in a positive way in my career path. 

I was motivated coming out of this week because I recognized a great opportunity at this company and in my career to improve the lives of people like him. I knew I was going to be in a position where I would be impacting lives and I often thought of this crew leader over the next several years as my career unfolded. 

But, what if the newly hired person wasn’t me? What if it was a young, inexperienced person, with a hunger to learn but no frame of reference for what was going to happen? This week would have been a disaster and probably would have resulted in another casualty from our industry. Just think of how many great, talented people have left our industry because of experiences like this. My head hurts just thinking about it. 

What this crew leader needed was a fresh start--a way to jump start his career as a leader, trainer, supervisor, driver, and worker. He had slid into a bad place and needed something to pull him out of it. 

We, at Grow The Bench, created our Great Crew Leader course for crew leaders just like this. There are so many crew leaders in our industry that have the raw DNA to be great but they need something to give them hope, inspiration, and a fresh start. 

We are planning to hold a virtual bootcamp event this spring to take crew leaders through our Great Crew Leader course and to help them be successful as they do. This virtual bootcamp will include all of our course material, available online and on demand, along with a series of live (and recorded) sessions to discuss in more detail, look at examples, and talk through some of the challenges that come with making changes in our approaches. More details to follow. 
If you can’t wait for the bootcamp, our Great Crew Leader course is available right now at GrowTheBench.com. We also have a Crew Leader Onboarding course available right now for free. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of these resources. 

Now go forth. 

Tags: Failure , Opportunity , Experience , Career ,