A Worker Always Has Work

A Worker Always Has Work

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published June 2023

Photo by iStockphoto.com/metamorworks

“A worker always has work”—so says Jessie King. If what Jessie says is true, does a manager always have work? If so, why? If so, how? If you ever have the opportunity to spend the day with Jessie, he would likely tell you “yes” and give you answers to your questions. He’d tell you there are three general principles he follows, and that’s why he has never drawn an unemployment check. His principles are as follows: 

  • First, workers aren’t afraid of being out of work.
  • Second, workers aren’t afraid of being embarrassed.
  • Third, workers aren’t afraid of being inferior.

     Jessie will tell you these three principles bleed into each other, and it’s kind of hard to tell where one ends and the next begins. But he’ll try to explain them like this.

     First, workers aren’t afraid of being out of work. Why? Because they always find ways to give work away—to help people. By the time Jessie finishes helping you, you realize you can’t do the rest of the project without him. So, he gets hired.

     He takes time to spend with people, to find out what they need help with, to find a way to alleviate their “pain,” so to speak. He has a good ear for listening. He is nonjudgmental. People ask his opinion because he seems wise. He offers feedback instead of giving his opinion. After people have spent time with Jessie, most people answer their own questions and find their own course of action. They think he helped tremendously, but he knows he didn’t solve their problems at all—they solved their own. All he did was ask questions.

     Jessie isn’t afraid of telling the truth. There is just something about the way Jessie shakes your hand or gives you his big bear hug that makes his plain, kind truth palatable. It’s the same type of truth that if your sister gave it to you, you’d argue and defend yourself for the next two weeks. But when Jessie gives you the truth, it’s different somehow. Jessie was consulting with a group of board members—all powerful businessmen in their day who made dozens of tough decisions every week—but who couldn’t decide whether to paint the lampposts a different color. Jessie stopped them dead in their tracks and said, “What happened to you all? Surely you didn’t waffle like this in your respective businesses. If you had, you’d have never been successful. Decide. Sure, there will be those who object. Anticipate the objections and plan for them just like you did in your businesses.”

     Second, workers aren’t afraid of being embarrassed. Similarly, he has no qualms about entering the dangerous part of the conversation. He’ll expose the elephant standing in the middle of the room. If a board member consistently shuts down the conversation with negativity, he’ll address the fact openly with everyone in the room. That type of open intervention is usually welcomed by others who have wanted to say something about it for a long time. Most people are grateful when Jessie brings the touchy topic out into the open.

     Third, workers aren’t afraid of looking inferior. Jessie will tell you he is not perfect. He makes mistakes. There is no use pretending a mistake wasn’t made—everyone already knows. Admit it, fix what you can, and move on. He’ll tell you often it’s not about who was responsible for the mistake or the poor decision. It’s more important to acknowledge a mistake was made and fix it and move on toward the goal. He’ll tell you it is important to review the mistake to ensure it won’t happen again, but he is good about keeping the main thing the main thing. Getting bogged down in petty blame wastes time, emotion, and money.

     Jessie says he makes his work about the other person—about being a servant to them and a team player with them. It’s not about how good you can make yourself look but how good you can make the other person look. It’s about how successful the team can be.

     When Jessie takes on a project, you can expect to see him involved at some point in most aspects of the work. It’s not that he is codependent and can’t say no. It’s not that he is an enabler and lets you get by without doing your part. He is a good manager of time and projects. Delegation is an easy skill for him. You just know he is willing to do any part of the work—whatever it takes. He’ll empty the trash cans, scrub toilets, answer the telephone, or meet with members of the legislature regarding condominium law reform. He’ll crunch the numbers for the budget and run to the café to pick up lunch.

     There is some work I have seen Jessie turn down, except he doesn’t really turn it down. He refers it to someone else who is competent in that area. You won’t catch him bluffing his way through a reserve study. He’ll call on a licensed architect or engineer. You won’t see him answering a legal question that really should be referred to the association attorney. 

     Jessie is always learning. He knows that the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn is the greatest skill needed in the 21st century. But he knows he can’t do it all. So, he collaborates with other experts, which brings Jessie back to not being afraid to be without work.

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Owner, Florida CAM Schools

     Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999 Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call (352) 326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.