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Letters to a New Manager

I can honestly say I don’t know how these letters ended up on the front doorstep of my home that snowy winter morning. But there they were. To be more precise, there IT was; that antique-looking leather hat box staring up from my front step, lightly covered with about an inch of the first cold breath of December resting on the top. It sat alone, with no footsteps on the ground to reveal the path of the unknown courier of this mysterious package.

And in the box I found the letters. Each one carefully numbered; written on yellowed paper, and printed clearly and carefully with a penmanship that seemed to convey the aged wisdom and gentle kindness of the unknown author whose only identity, to this day, is simply “Uncle Josh.” But whoever Uncle Josh is, he taught me all I know about management. His nephew, Simon, appears to have been the original recipient of these leadership pearls, and who knows how many others have benefited from the sage advice of Uncle Josh along the way. How old, exactly, are they? I have no idea. But having profited from them myself, I’m now prepared to share them with others.


To my dear nephew Simon,

Words cannot express how proud I was to hear from your mother about your recent promotion to “manager”. And at such a well-respected health system! When she asked if I would be willing to write you a little letter with some encouragement and advice, I was more than happy to comply. Though I shall spare you the advice for now. If you want to discuss management with me, you are welcome to ask me any questions you want. After spending nearly 30 years in healthcare leadership I would be happy to pass along the few little tidbits I have picked up along the way. But that I leave up to you. I believe that advice is something people ask for. When imposed upon an unwilling recipient, it isn’t advice, it’s just information. And often unwanted information at that. Far be it from me to presume you either want or need such things from me.

But encouragement is another thing altogether. Inspiration needs no invitation. The world has far too little good will presently, and so never worry that you will over do it in this rare jewel of encouragement. Spend it liberally. Spread it broadly. Be no miser with your words of compliment or comfort. When it comes to good cheer, we enrich the recipient, yet strangely become richer ourselves. Gratitude pays the giver double. You never lose when you invest in praise.

So allow me the blessing of wishing you the best of success in your new career as a manager. Did I say new career? Yes, and I meant it. You will soon discover, if you have not done so already, that those who launch out into the ocean of leadership have set their sails for entirely new shores. You have left the safe harbor of individual performance and begun the wild ride of a lifetime in leading teams to greater heights and deeper fulfillment than they have ever experienced before. The rules that applied on land will do you no good when your ship is dancing upon the waves of the deep blue sea of management. Toss your old atlas away. Landmarks look different when the sky is your map and the wind is your engine. Yes, it is a new career you have begun! And the success of a leader is charted by a new compass.

I think I have said enough for now. Know that I could not be happier for you. Get ready for the best adventure of your life. As a manager you will see heights and feel depths that you never thought possible. Do reach out if I can be of any service. Keep in mind what I said about encouragement. That should get you started in the right direction.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Last modified: April 21, 2023