Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ripple Effect of Setting High Expectations

One day last week I received about 10 emails in my in box begging people to employ 14-15 year old teenagers. The teenagers are employed through Texas WorkSource so there is absolutely no cost to the organization. They only have to be supervised and given work. Yet, WorkSource is having a hard time finding placements.

Thinking about my dad and the blog post I wrote recently, I inquired about the teenagers. Katrina explained that 3000 teenagers had applied, but they had only been able to take 1400. She kept asking me to please take more than one, explaining that they were having a hard time placing the kids because no one wanted 14-15 year olds, even though the younger ones are often the best workers because they are so eager to have a job.

She did explain that these are "at-risk" teenagers so they do need coaching sometimes, but as the supervisor, she would step in at any time. If they didn't improve, they would replace them with one of the other 1600 on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, I could only agree to take one. Katrina told me he would report to me at 10:00 a.m. on Friday.

Shaquomm showed up precisely at 10:00 a.m. As he walked in, the first thing he told me was, "Fred said hi." Confused, I asked him if he was talking about the Fred that I knew...the Fred that I've known since he was 9. He explained that Fred was his step-brother. And then I had to laugh as Shaquomm reiterated the lecture Fred had given him before leaving the house. "Pull your pants up. Make sure and wear a belt. Do your job. Janet doesn't play."

I love it when the kids set the expectations for me. I'm sure Shaquomm is a great kid. In the right setting, my experience has been that the majority usually are. Shaquomm came in knowing the expectations put forth before him, without me saying a word.

Shaquomm's job is to scan in and label all of the photos I have taken of the kids over the last 14 years (about 40+ photo albums worth). I was afraid this would get extremely tedious and boring. But as I showed him the process, I saw him grin at one point. He mumbled half way to himself, "I can't wait to see my cousin." I asked him why. "I can't wait to tell him, 'I know more about computers than you do!'"

I smiled, knowing that that's exactly why I love interacting with and employing teenagers for the summer. Shaquomm's a quick learner and a quick worker. I left him in "his" office scanning away, listening to his mp3 player through his headphones and singing loudly (obviously not realizing others could hear).

Since I'm the only other person in the office, we'll work later on the professionalism and appropriateness of his singing-in-the-shower type performance. :)
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