Why did I change jobs? Because you asked.

Tom Salzer
Tom Salzer

Several years ago, a friend asked how I felt about my job with a soil and water conservation district in Oregon. I said it was the “bestest” job ever. I got to lead a group of quality board directors and professional staff in serving the needs of a very diverse and large community. We had funding. We had vision and purpose. We had heart. It was a great position with plenty of responsibility. We kept very busy.

And then you came knocking. “We need you.” And the phone calls and emails just kept coming. Dozens of them.

I felt chosen. Invited. Honored. Special. Most of all, I felt appreciated.

That’s the fundamental concept in this short post this week: appreciation. About the time you came knocking, I was having a change of heart in my job. I was feeling less appreciated, despite some astounding successes we had achieved together.

What was once the bestest job ever had become not so great. I didn’t feel like my contributions were recognized and appreciated. And then you came calling, asking for help and expressing appreciation for the work I had already been doing to support your efforts. It was a full-court press with dozens of individuals encouraging me to make the switch.

The key moment came while attending an NACD summer meeting when a Washington State conservation district supervisor invited me out to dinner. When I accepted, I thought I’d be catching up on the news about my many friends in Washington. It was that and much more. The pitch was strong and compelling: come join us, we need you. That was the moment I decided to throw my hat in the ring.

Why? Because you asked.

As the day-to-day work of serving as WACD’s Executive Director hammers away at my energy, I often remember that moment of feeling invited. I immediately feel recharged as I recall those moments.

There are a few takeaways from my experience that might affect your job, your board, or your staff: say thank you more often, and invite people to help your district succeed. They don’t know they are appreciated if you don’t tell them. And you don’t know if someone will help you succeed if you don’t ask. Appreciating people and asking them to help can be very powerful.

How can you retain great people or gain new great people? Appreciate them. Ask them. Express your needs and tell them they could help solve those needs. Help them feel welcome, honored, invited, and appreciated. When you do that, you build bonds that can endure the occasional rough spot. Your efforts to appreciate people can create an environment where they will enjoy being in the bestest job ever for a long, long time.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity to return to Washington and support our incredible statewide team of people who deliver local, voluntary, incentive-based conservation every day!

Always yours for conservation,

Tom Salzer, WACD Executive Director

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