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    How to fit a round peg in a square hole

    Take-home: When managing your staff, it is important to remember that your employees are unique in their own way and want to be treated as individuals, so you should treat them as such.

    Dianna E. Graves

    Growing up, one of my favorite holiday specials was “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

    My mom would make sure all the baths were done, line us up on the couch, make cocoa with real marshmallows, and for one hour, we’d quietly be mesmerized by Hermie the Dentist and Rudolph. Once the Bumble emerged, my sister would spend the rest of the show watching from behind the couch—convinced the Bumble would enter the living room at any moment.

    As I grew older, and still watched, the lessons began to emerge. Subtle at first, but then amazingly, more profound through the years.

    King Cornelius and Charlie in the Box began to focus on each of our non-conformities. Now we politically correctly call them our differences.

    I no longer looked at Rudolph as the savior of Christmas and the highly coveted toys he helped Santa bring. I looked more to King Cornelius and how he gave hope to all the unwanted toys on Misfit Island.

    Each Christmas Eve there was hope that this would be the year Santa would come and take them—regardless of their nonconformities.

    Applying to real-life situations

    As I became a manager, and tried to find my practice style, I spent a long time trying to figure out how I would/could become the type of leader people would want to work for —and to follow. How could I get staff to buy in to my program?

    I bought books, took management classes and quietly listened to conversations of managers/administrators who were more seasoned than me. I took class after class showing me how to manage my staff using staffing grids and flow charts, and then I would dutifully concoct my own charts so I could work to convince the staff that these charts would help us attain our mission statement. If we followed the grids, and the flow charts, we too would succeed.

    I called it drinking the Kool-Aid.

    But, not everyone would. Some even had the audacity to question the end goal or recommend variations to it.

    In my younger days, I often frowned on this behavior for they weren’t conforming, or complying, with the mantra. Begrudgingly, I would try to change the flavor of the Kool-Aid. But instead of everyone going along with my new end goal, new nonconformists arose.

    So, out would come the hammer.

    One way or another, I would prove that you could get a round peg in a square hole. And for a while, it worked to some degree.

    Until the next holiday season, when I would watch the Island of Misfit Toys and realize that I wasn’t allowing their nonconformities to help our practice, I was beating it out of them if they wanted to stay here and work. Then the New Year would begin, and the lessons were lost again to the hubbub of keeping the staff moving in the same direction.

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