If you ask almost anyone locally where to go to play at a park, teach your child a new sport, learn to cook, swim or get healthy, one name regularly pops to the top of the list. The Regional Recreation Center comes up on a regular basis. When there are three other recreation centers in the metro area, one has to ask, why there? When asking around, one name quickly follows, Mr. William Thomas.
Known as Will to everyone he meets, he is quick to give off a positive impression. You will never see him out in jeans and a t-shirt, his version of dressing down is khakis and a polo, which you will see on a rare occasion. Quick to say hello to all he meets, he is regularly welcoming people in and talking about his department.
Will is the director of the large department managing over 400 employees. While he has spent his career throughout the region moving up through various positions, he has been with the department for the last 10 years. He is one to rarely say no when new opportunities or suggestions arise. If you ask his goals for his department, he will talk about working to continue to prove that they are not just the best regionally, but on a state and national scale. Working toward continued success and recognition give him and his department continued drive to make positive things happen.
The department he manages is recognized for having a positive atmosphere, hardworking employees and happy internal and external customers. Within his organization, he lays out expectations and expects his management staff to meet those objectives. He trusts their ability to achieve goals and manage staff, expecting the job to get done without being involved in the day to day workings of the individual departments. He will tell you that he looks for the “it factor” when hiring staff. If asked what exactly that is, he will just smile and say “I know it when I see it.” When pressing a bit further, he will tell you that he frequently asks questions geared toward determining the applicant’s integrity, determination and leadership style to determine if it fits with what he feels is needed within the department. He is more prone to hire a less experienced employee who has the right personality and attitude than one that has been in the field for a longer period. The staff’s success seems to reinforce his belief and their buy in. His management team will bring up the “it factor” when they speak about hiring staff as well.
As a directive leader, he sets goals and expectations for his management staff and expects the work to get done. He has an open-door policy if staff has an issue or needs further direction or support. He shows supportive leadership by making sure everyone knows they are welcome to stop by his office when needed. This gives employees more confidence in him and in the department working harder to succeed (Northouse, 2018, p. 120).
He will also tell you that he believes education and training are important to the success of his staff. Continued education give staff more confidence and helps them to be more confident in their contributions to the team. Since his management team is included on all major departmental decisions, he feels this is an asset that can’t be overlooked. He believes that by allowing for the sharing of opinions and ideas, helps to increase group performance through feeling a part of the team and sharing group goals (Northouse, 2018, p. 120).
With this positive work environment, you may be surprised to learn that this department has fairly frequent turn-over with most upper-level staff working there for an average of 5 years before moving on. When asked how this affects their department, Will just smiles and takes it in stride. Most of the employees who have left, have done so to take higher positions in other regional departments. The experience they have received working for the department has allowed for them to be greatly desired outside of the organization. He sees this as success. His department continues to hire great staff who continue to achieve positive goals, allowing for their growth in the process. He sees it as doing something right.
Whether it is the way he carries himself, his open-door policy, the goals he sets for his staff or the guidance opportunities he gives them, something right is happening at The Regional Recreation Center. Don’t believe me, you should really check it out for yourself. We are confident you won’t be disappointed. And tell Will we said hello!
Northouse, P.G. (2018). Leadership: theory and practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage.