Laura Eurich is an Associate Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Internship Director for the Department of Communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She is also serving as faculty advisor on our Food Access project
I learned about working hard from my dad.
He owned a dental supply company and I watched as he put in countless hours to make his company successful. He would never ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself, and there was no task too small for him.
I also watched as his relationships and later his health suffer from this drive. Ultimately, the most important thing I learned from my dad was about finding balance in life. He worked so hard, so much so that he didn’t often get to take advantage of the rewards from his efforts.
I learned about leadership from my boss at my first “real” job.
I like to think I inherited my father’s work ethic, so after finishing my master’s degree I was ready to enter the work force and work hard. Thankfully, I was hired by someone whose leadership style was inspiring and showed me how to achieve the balance my father never knew.
Dean Jacobus was the publisher of Peak Computing, which when I met him was just the idea of a weekly computer magazine that would span the Front Range. I can tell you another time about the role serendipity played in me finding the job and being hired, but it was Dean who hired me to be the editor.
Dean was as passionate about work as my dad; he was also passionate about having fun and keeping perspective. I was just 25 when he hired me, but a couple decades later, the lessons I learned are still with me – and I still look to him as a mentor, advisor and, most importantly, a friend when I am faced with difficult decisions.
I could probably write a book about the wisdom that Dean has shared with me, but let’s start with the big three.
First, you must hire a good team. Dean was hiring a team to launch a weekly magazine, we expected to have at least six months to prepare for our premiere issue. When we learned of competition also launching in the market, we moved to put our first issue on stands in about six weeks. What could have been an impossible task wasn’t because he had taken the time to hire the right team.
Dean often speaks of the magic you experience when you are part of a team that clicks. If you’re part of a team like that, I hope you take a minute to appreciate it. As leaders we must realize these teams can be fleeting – the stars align, the talent comes together and the magic happens. That talent can’t stay stagnant, so it’s likely that the team won’t stay together indefinitely and as Dean says, once it’s gone you will spend a lot of time trying to find it again.
The next lesson was to always have fun. We would often start or end our days playing a competitive trivia computer game; we would take long lunches; we would devise intricate office pranks. All the while, Dean was never watching the clock, he trusted that the work would get done, and he knew having fun would fuel the team’s energy.
Demanding tasks and stressful deadlines were all manageable when the atmosphere was fun and laughter was abundant. When it came to fun, Dean led by example. Sure, he was there to do a job, wherever he goes, he brings the fun.
(On another note, when it came to those office pranks, I also learned a valuable lesson: When you’re the victim of a prank, don’t plan to get even, plot to get ahead. And factor in the element of surprise, as Dean says, “You never know where, you never know when …”)
Finally, Dean demonstrated how to be humble and to give credit to others. I recall working a booth at a trade show when a reader came up and began praising the magazine to Dean. He was gracious, but he also turned around and quickly pushed me forward, “No, this is the woman you want to talk to, she’s the editor.” He was proud of what we accomplished, but he always gave credit to the people doing the work – the sales staff, the writers, the artists and page designers. The only credit he would take is hiring the right team.
I was lucky to find Dean so early in my career. If not for him, I might have known little else than how to work hard. If you haven’t found your Dean, I hope these ideas can at least provide you some direction and maybe someday you could be someone’s Dean.