Diving into HRD as a 19-Year-Old Recreation Center Manager

My journey into the field of training and development began some years back when I was a college kid working in an apartment complex recreation center.  I have always been a kinesthetic (“hands on”) learner you might say.  My duties ranged from running senior citizen events to backwashing pools and scrubbing algae off the tile, to helping lease apartments in the sales center.  Varied you might say.  It was here that I learned the value of good training.  At age nineteen I was given the chance to run this little activity center and health club.  Perhaps I was not ready for the challenges of managing peers and workers three times my age.  But ready or not, I plunged head first.  This experience taught me one incredibly critical lesson.  Never undervalue the ability of a person just because of age.  Respect and calling a person up and out to new and strategic possibilities at work is a key to leading learners and creating a workforce that can actually achieve excellence. My motto is to always train my replacement and never be threatened by my team members, but rather to champion their success even if it surpasses my own some day. I was a youngster someone believed in once.  That belief put a passion in me to do the same for others. No matter what others say, anyone can achieve success if they put their minds to it.  Brilliance and break through strategies accompany drive and creativity, not age.  I have since in several companies trained my replacements and coached for success.

In any event in my management job of youth I learned quickly that to succeed I had to figure out how to hire workers, keep workers and train workers well.  Health club jobs at older apartment complexes in the 1990’s didn’t pay too well.  Minimum wage was pretty normal, no more.  So I had to take what I could get.  To survive and create an environment for success I starting compiling work instructions for all kinds of things.  Never backwashed a pool before?  Well, you can.  And I created step by step instructions.  Add to that list all kinds of technical training to operate this facility.  Of course given the level of workers I could hire on my no benefits, minimum wage, shoe string budget I learned that the extra secret sauce was making work fun and being a coach along the way. I soon came to delight in training my team members and making that place shine with joy and fun.  We put on fashion shows for the senior citizen club.  We had beach volleyball tournaments across the parking lot (sans the beach!).  We had kids holiday parties that included Easter Egg Hunts, Dress Up Parties and more.  We hosted interns from local businesses and created social get togethers for them. My minimum wage team members got a chance to bond with the residents at these parties.  I taught them to host and create a joyful environment and it worked.  I discovered at the very young age of nineteen that by training well, coaching well and even daring to become a “friend” at work, one can create a recipe for success.

Well, from here my journey into the formal world of training and development evolved.  I eventually went into the field of HR by becoming the part-time HR leader for this little property management company. That led to some consulting gigs, and eventually  I moved into larger corporation HR leadership.

The funny thing is that it’s the same thing.  Whether it is a nineteen year old kid teaching her 50-year-old workers to backwash a pool and have fun, or a HR Manager hiring new employees and helping train and equip them for success, the secret sauce remains unchanged.

My personal recipe is as follows: People + Shared Knowledge + Joy + Thoughtful Structure around a Solid Strategy = Workforce Performance

So, I am beginning this humble little blog as a way to start the discussion at a new level.  I am in the process of earning my masters degree in HR training and development, fifteen years after beginning my peculiar journey.  I invite you, the reader and fellow blogger, to join me and share your thoughts!  I will be posting as I continue to learn about learning.  The journey never ends.  And that makes it all the more fun.

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