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Staff Work Principles
Lessons From My High School Teacher

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2019-07-18
Just about everybody had one special teacher when he or she was growing up, the caring adult outside of one's parents who instilled some values or ideas that really stuck. For me, that teacher was D.J. Wightman, my high-school journalism teacher.

He ran his high school newspaper, magazine and yearbook staffs like a professional journalism enterprise. Mr. Wightman expected more out of us than most adults do out of 16-year-olds. And he got results. While most of these lessons were ostensibly about journalism, they've stuck with me and my friends from those classes, even with most of us never embarking on careers in journalism and reporting.

One thing about writing that I definitely remember is that he often claimed that one particular edition of the Sears Catalog was the only verified instance of a publication with no typos or errors. That seems tough to prove, but point taken. Typos are pernicious for even the most diligent professional writers and editors.

In Mr. Wightman's classroom there was a large poster over the blackboard. It contained the "Staff Work Principles". I was fascinated by the rules. At first my friends and I would obsess over them with half-amusement and half-observance. Within 2 years (and for the rest of my life), these were the start of a good foundation of how to behave professionally. A couple (e.g. #8) may be outdated due to advances in technology since then, and you might combine a few (e.g. #s 1, 17 and 18) in the interest of concision. But these principles endure.

See if these resonate with you and try living by them in your career. Maybe even, as an exercise, think of your current most important project and see how these relate. Or just peruse once and move on. No matter how you would employ these, please enjoy ...

1. Communicate!
2. Eyeball-To-Eyeball
3. Into a Human Hand
4. Date and initial all pieces of paper
5. Keep a written record (phone calls & conversations, too)
6. Set up a file and use it
7. Doctrine of Completed Staff Work
-- a. Understand basic instructions
-- b. Do complete and thorough research
-- c. Present Complete Plan
8. Always have pencil and paper
9. D.I.N. (Do It Now) - It's already late!
10. M.A.T.D. (Meticulous Attention To Detail)
11. Be unobtrusive - Staff is visible only when they goof!
12. DEADLINES - (A coordinating device)
-- a. Assign them (with concurrence of your subordinates)
-- b. Enforce them
-- c. Meet them
13. Make and use CHARTS - Keep them up to Date!
15. BE HERE - There is NO substitute for presence
16. Be kind to secretaries - They run the world
17. Listen!! Clear your mind and listen!
18. Cooperate!
19. "If an order can be misunderstood, it will be misunderstood!" - Gen. Ulysses S. Grant