31 Days, 31 People
Day 12: ERIC

Eric Johnson. Photo Credit: http://parks.nv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/2012-02-15-NM-PARKS-8160.jpg

The summer after my eighteenth birthday, I got a job as a Seasonal Park Ranger at Spring Valley State Park. My boss was Eric.

I’d had a lot of jobs working for my dad throughout the years before, and also as a dishwasher, then waitress at the town restaurant. I have no complaints about my bosses in those situations. Eric was the first boss that really showed me the value of solid leadership and teamwork. And he was really fun to work with, too.

Each season Spring Valley would take on anywhere from 4–6 seasonal rangers to help keep the park clean and ready for a high volume of visitors throughout the summers. The season would start around May and end anywhere from August to November. Most of the seasonal rangers, like me, were young and working between school semesters

Here are 4 really awesome things I learned from Eric:

#1 List Making
At the parks, we kept log books. We each had our own, and it helped us keep track of who did what, and when. Every day we’d start with a quick 5-minute gathering, discussing what we needed to get done. We’d close out our gathering by opening our little red log books, writing the date at the top of the next new page and we’d make a list of all the things we needed and/or hoped to get done that day. The list from the previous day was a great informant to the following day. Starting the day with a list renders my most productive and organized days, even if it’s just penciling in time to think. I thank Eric for that.

#2 Teamwork
Eric was fantastic at inspiring and motivating his teams. Our team makeup changed from season to season, each year we’d almost always be working with one or two people we didn’t know and one or two people you’ve worked with before. If you’d been there before, you could just walk in and roll. The great thing was, he hired by trusting his instincts and he led by doing, it didn’t take long at all before our team, no matter the season or makeup of the team, was a lean machine working super hard and having tons of fun.

#3 Lead by Example
Eric got in there and showed us how to do the job, and to do it well. And he’d work right along side us. We did the basic stuff like clean toilets and campsites and pick up tons of trash, but we also did a lot of restoration and building stuff. We restored an 1800’s stone cabin, we built really nice wooden fences, we wrangled escaped cattle and rebuilt the barbed wire fences that held them in, we cut firewood, we router-and-painted new park signage, we led interpretive hikes and talks. We worked hard. Eric worked hard right along with us.

#4 Trust First
I’ve experienced different variations of this throughout the years and my many different bosses. Eric is one of maybe three that rocked it in a way that still absolutely inspires and motivates me. By trusting me first, I was allowed to show what I was capable of beyond what the job required.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve spent a lot of time executing on specific, over-managed situations where finding opportunity to demonstrate I’m capable of more, is squashed. Eventually, if you don’t feel trusted to do what you were hired to do, you grow unhappy and tired, and you move on. Eric was awesome at knowing when to let go and let his team run for a bit. He was great if we messed up, and we did mess up, he’d show us how to fix whatever it was or figure it out with us if he didn’t already know.

These are just a few things that I took away and still carry with me after working with Eric. I’m not sure I appreciated him as much at the time as I do in retrospect, after having had many different bosses and jobs through the years. Eric was a good, honest, hardworking guy and he left a big impression on my life. He became a good friend, too. I couldn’t be more grateful for the foundation of work values Eric helped shape in me.



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