“If you don’t risk your job about once every two years, you are not doing your job right.” As an Engineering Intern in a modern tire plant, this comment from my boss, Paul Ruble, startled me. My naive perspective of “work hard on the right things, and good things happen” conflicted with the tone of reality in his voice.
Paul was a great leader, and equally important a great first boss not only to learn how to be a good engineer from, but to learn good values. Paul was a true mentor. Originally from the mountains of Virginia, he was silver-haired and focused. He was quiet until his mission required him to be feisty, which I learned could happen quickly and often. Paul was an engineering graduate from Virginia Polytech. He served in WW II, where he navigated into the position of a cook so he “wouldn’t get shot at so much.” With his unit being under General George Patton, Paul’s superiors would hide him when Patton showed up, because Paul irreverently wore only a tee shirt and ragged pants for a uniform. His team protected him because they liked the cook!
…But, “risk your job? What do you mean?” Paul went on to explain that your decisions, principles, new ideas, and practices would seriously push the limit and be challenged about once every two years, unless you were a wimp. To achieve big results, you must take big risks. If you never push the limits, you are either not bold enough or you are investing too much energy in playing politics. Unless you are the perfect risk-taker, leader, and communicator (which Paul said he had never seen), job risk is an inevitable reality.
Paul went on to explain that, fortunately, logic usually prevails. However, the probability is that you will lose your job once or twice in your career. When that happens, just learn from it and go on. I saw Paul in action risking his job more than once. I don’t know whether he knew he was pushing the limit, but the rest of us knew and respected his passion to do the right things right.
I believe in today’s work world many people lack confidence or are paranoid about job security to the extent they are too conservative in pushing the edge, even being prone to kowtow to the bosses. They are not bold enough, fearing negative consequences. The boss can opt to take advantage of this easy way through the situation, although encouraging bold engagement brings higher quality results.
More than once I knew the consequences for my decisions or actions were risking my career. Yes, logic usually prevailed. And yes, once I lost in a way that shocked my career and life to the core. However, I remembered Paul’s advice. And, yes, there was a life after, and I surfaced with a new career where God had more important purposes for me. It’s OK to push new ideas or to respectfully disagree with the boss as long as you remain focused on principles and logic, not on competing personalities.
Everyone who knew Paul Ruble respected him as a great leader. Those fortunate few who worked for Paul loved him and his bold passion to make a difference his way. I was blessed to have been one of those few.
And Paul was right …a leader seriously risks the job about once every two years. Be bold with your purpose, new ideas, principles, and decisions, but don’t be reckless in unnecessarily risking your job. You must work right and hard to make it work, but realize that you may lose. When you lose, then move on with new wisdom and resolve.
…And Pass It On!
Quote of unknown origin: “There are too many people praying for mountains of difficulty to be removed, when what they really need is courage to climb them.”