I have completed the process to self-publish a book I have worked on for over ten years. I have been a first line manager for over forty years. Below is the introduction to my book and comments from my team members on my management and leadership. These are the comments that count for managers and leaders... what their team members think about you.
The First-Line Manager
A young first-line manager came into my office. He had to make a decision that his manager and a higher-level manager disagreed on and he did not want to make it. He was in the middle of the argument. I told him welcome to the bottom of the pond. He asked me what I meant.
“You and I are like catfish at the bottom of a pond. Catfish know the bottom better than any other fish. Catfish are not pretty. They usually live in a hole. They do not have scales they have very tough skin. Catfish have long whiskers to feel the bottom when the water gets muddy. They can see the flashy and pretty fish above darting around. However, every time they attempt to get off the bottom they fall back. It is hard to catch the flashy fish; people spend a lot of money on the bait to catch them. Catfish, on the other hand, are so hungry they will eat anything they find on the bottom, and now and then, they have to eat crap.”
The young manager laughed and said “what a description.”
My book is about catfish management. How I survived at the bottom of the pond. It is about the people I have worked with and learned from for over forty years.
Here is a key question, “Is everyone cut out to be a manager?”
One morning, my District Manager came into my office. He said, “If someone told me about all these employee problems, I would not have wanted to be a manager.”
This conversation happened in 1986. Over the years, I have heard this statement made by many managers. I always wanted to manage a team. This is management. I thought everyone knew people management is critical to the success of a manager, but maybe not.
I was a first-line manager for over 40 years. My life changed when I became a manager. I was sandwiched between managers making a career and employees making a living.
First-line managers are the backbone of a business. These managers are usually the only ones who understand what it takes to make a product or provide a service. They are the ones on the shop floor or customer service office who keep the company in business day to day, hour to hour. If someone in middle or upper management is absent, no problem, the business will still function on the first line. However, when first-line managers are absent, some part of the plant or service process will suffer, and thus, the business. When the production line or the service line backs-up or slows down, the company expects the first-line manager to get it moving again. First-line managers stand in the gap between the business and the customer. They are the dealmakers in any business.
Why should you want to read my book? I was a first-line manager of several businesses for over 40 years. There have been many changes in attitudes and business practices over these years. Therefore, I believe this saying is true “experience is the best teacher, it just costs too much.” It is my wish that my experience and my stories will save you time and money.
I learned a great lesson by reading Psycho-cybernetics, a popular book several years ago. I did not agree with some of the writer’s conclusions. I looked at his credentials. He was a plastic surgeon. I have never read a book since that time without looking at the writer’s qualifications.
Stephen King, in his book on writing, wrote this, “This is not an autobiography. It is rather, a kind of curriculum vitae – my attempt to show how one writer was formed.”
This book is my attempt to show how one manager was formed, me. It is my opinion of how I moved through several companies. I learned to defer to experience. I am grateful for all my bosses and employees that supported my career. I worked for seven district managers, six vice presidents, five CEO’s and numerous department line managers. The book contains real life examples of my interactions with hundreds of individuals.
Confidantual comments from my team members abouit my management style and leadership, These are from company management performance surveys.
GREAT DECISION MAKER TAKES INITIATIVE PEOPLE ORIENTED
Forward vision always learning
Honest, good listener, provides employee empowerment
Knowledgeable - Honest / Fair – Dedicated
Very knowledgeable of companies business, has wise visions very courteous
Dependability Cares about Company and people
Jim handles a changing environment well. He tries to help with difficult situations
Dedicated to what he is doing prompt in getting answers to problems
Allowing us to manage ourselves as a group. He is our leader, but he does not dictate. If we come up with a solution to a problem that affects us as a group, he allows us to handle it as long as we as a group agree on it.
He's an excellent leader.
Empowerment and Encouragement
Listening to employees problems and working with us when we have personal needs
> Following through with special request & projects. Jim is a wonderful supervisor whom I feel truly cares for his employees, as a co-worker & a person. He is someone I know I can count on.
> ACTING IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER, ALWAYS MAKES DECISION THAT'S BEST FOR THE WHOLE WORK GROUP, AND ALWAYS WILLING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE TO GET THE JOB DONE. I CAN TRULY SAY, I FEEL BLESSED TO HAVE JIM AS MY SUPERVISOR. HE IS DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB. I AM VERY GLAD HE IS APART OF OUR WORK GROUP.