| AWWA Career Zone -- Exploring outside your comfort zone can be a good thing
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AWWA Career Zone -- Exploring outside your comfort zone can be a good thing

By Stuart Karasik

AWWA Career ZoneThere’s no question it’s been a difficult, historic, epic year. The pandemic has taken from us a comfortable, traditional work environment we all took for granted. But the months of confinement and “going virtual” have also provided confirmation of our resilience and ability to operate outside our comfort zones and learn new skills.

For example, as I’m quick to point out, I am not a “techy” guy. I prefer face-to-face communications rather than virtual, and hard-copy documents rather than pdfs. But I recently realized this was a good time for me to take the advice of our adult “kids” and try listening to podcasts. Why not?

My first surprise was the sheer number of available podcasts about any conceivable subject, including some I would never have thought would see the light of public consumption. I started with the topic of “workforce,” and after more research finally settled on one that sounded interesting and relevant to my work projects.  

My second surprise was that the podcast I selected, A Relentless Focus on Culture to Drive Results, was hosted by a local colleague, Jordan Goldrich, with whom I’ve previously worked. Even better, it was related to the water sector, and the speaker is another colleague and AWWA member, Pieter Van Ry. With a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Syracuse University and an Executive MBA from the University of Denver, Pieter brings a unique perspective on leadership and management.

My third surprise was that many of the points, actions and results discussed in the podcast were remarkably like those in my previous columns. It was affirming to see there are tried-and-true blueprints for success.

In the podcast, Pieter, who is general manager with a Colorado water utility, had a lively discussion with Jordan about principles that an organization’s leadership should follow to create a culture that supports the ability of its employees to enjoy their work and achieve their goals. Some of these are listed below:

  • Identify the components of a successful corporate culture, then create and nourish it within your organization
  • Speak the language of your employees
  • Identify and understand the management and communication styles of your employees
  • Communicate with others in terms that they identify with and understand
  • Establish personal and professional goals for yourself and your employees
  • Communicate about the organizational goals continually and consistently  
  • Recognize that not everyone will agree with the common goals or be a good fit for the organization
  • It is okay for someone to leave the organization and the doors should be kept open for future communication and professional relationships
  • Hold everyone accountable, including yourself
  • Create an environment where “everyone likes and wants to come to work”
  • Understand that in your organization, what you allow is what you become

Your homework assignment is to recklessly abandon your comfort zone and nurture your career development by listening to this podcast. It takes less than an hour and will be time well spent. 

I also recommend listening to other podcasts on Jordan’s list, which can be found on his website. They represent a variety of business experts and critical thinkers.  

Having ventured where I never went before, heck, I may even continue. Watch out world, once I figure it out, I may have my own Twitter handle and stream of tweets!

Stuart Karasik spent most of his career in the human resources/personnel arena. He has a Ph.D. in education, a master’s in biology, and was the training program manager for the City of San Diego. More career resources and job opportunities are available at AWWA’s Career Center and at Work for Water.