The First Line Manager: Trust Begins a Process That Leads to Success

What can trust do for a first line manager? Trust opens opportunities for you.

As night auditor at the Ramada in Tuscaloosa, I thought management did not care about how I did my job. I performed night audits prior to the Ramada at two hotels. These prior hotel managers required me to balance the books daily. Here at the Ramada, they let me a carry “out of balance totals” forward. I was not required to balance the audit. I started to not care. My figures on the sheets were sloppy. I did not care if I finished the audit on my shift. I would come back and finish the audit during the day. A fellow employee told me I was going to be fired. I needed this job to pay for my college. I went to the manager. I told him I was sorry about my performance, I would do better. I became energized again. I regained control of my attitude about my job. I learned that my attitude was mine to control. The manager renewed his trust in me. This trust led to his faith in me.

Trust leads to faith. I graduated from the university. The next week the manager promoted me to a management trainee position with the company. This was because my trust worthiness led to his faith in me. Two weeks after this; the manager quit.

The day he quit I came into the restaurant. I saw the owners sitting at a table in the restaurant. They motioned for me to come to the table. I sat down. They told me the manager quit. Then, Mr. Edmondson asked me, “Can you manage the restaurant and lounge?” I think they would have not asked me the question if they did not trust me. Their faith in me; gave me faith in myself. I said, “Yes, Sir.” I was the restaurant manager. Trust leads to faith. Their faith in me; and, my faith in myself.

Faith leads to action. The owner’s faith in me, led me to take actions to make our restaurant better. I took actions to learn the business; thus, to justify their faith in me. I took the restaurant from a business with a primary cost of around 72% to one of 65% in three months. Their faith led to my willingness to take action to become knowledgeable of the restaurant business. My actions increased the faith the owners had in me; I got a chance to manage a larger restaurant. I eventually became a general manager for the company. They gave me the restaurant manager’s job because of their faith in me. Their faith led to my actions.

Action leads to change. My actions, most importantly, led to changing me. Your actions let you make change. First line managers get to implement changes from others; and, they can formulate changes. Change is not an option in today’s world; it is mandatory. Mostly this change is not necessarily innovation. These changes are mainly small improvements in existing processes; or, changes you are instructed to do by your manager. You are there to maintain the status quo. This does require changes to support the activities of the operation as business processes change.

There is a need for caretaker management and for innovation management. These first line management types are very different. Let me explain.

Bill, a manager at the bakery where I worked, is a good example of what I call caretaker management. His station was at the panning machine. This machine took the raw dough cut it, and placed it in pans. Workers placed these dough pans on sheet pans before they went into the proofer. Bill stood there during the shift. He hardly every moved. He listened to the machine and watched the workers. Mostly, he did not have to do anything. His role was to do just make sure the machine was working properly. He managed change by making sure nothing went wrong in this process. He was a caretaker. If something went wrong he made changes to restore the process. Otherwise, he only made changes given to him by the plant manager.

Change leads to innovation. Innovation is change to better ways of doing things; new paradigms in thinking. A first line manager can be an innovation manager. It take courage to change paradigms, because you are stepping out of the traditional way of doing things. This is the first step in first line leadership; when, change leads to innovation.

For example, I changed the way we sold appliances at the West Blocton office. These innovations lead to an increase in sales from $47,000 to $213,000 in two years. This sales increase required a new marketing paradigm. My Vice President questioned some of the innovative processes; because, other mangers did not know how to do them. He did not think that was fair.

Here is the difference between a caretaker manager and an innovation manager. For example: if a company hires a caretaker manager for a cemetery, they mainly want someone to make sure all the processes work. The grass is cut regularly. The hedges are trimmed. The grounds keepers perform all the burial routines. The cemetery is open at sunrise and closed at sunset.

What would they get if they hired an innovation manager? This innovation manager would perform all the routine duties. This manager knows how to manage a cemetery. But, in addition, this manager might make innovative changes. Install lighting so the cemetery could be open at night. Fireworks on the 4th of July. Have spring and Fall fairs. Companies that hire this innovation manager you might not be happy with these innovations; and, the innovation manager would not be happy if the innovations were not made. Companies should not hire an innovation manager, if they want a caretaker manager. The innovation manager might make the cemetery a lively place.

But, remember, innovation leads to more successful change. A change that may preserve a department or company’s future. Companies’ need both types of managers; and, both management styles are valuable.

Innovation leads to success. Innovation gives you a chance to be the best. Innovation sets you apart from other first line managers. Innovators find new ways of doing traditional processes. They create new paradigms that lead to their department and company’s success.

Here is what innovation might feel like. I and our division supervisors formulated a new training system. This program is to replace the traditional corporate training program. My manager approved the process because he had faith in my ability. Our new training requires the employees to take an active part in training for a new computer dispatch and order management program. Our training program is only four hours instead of the traditional corporate 8 hours.

The day before we were to start or training classes; my manager called me on the radio. He asked me,” was I sure the training course will work?” I told him I am confident the training is more effective than that being done by corporate trainers. He then told me the corporate team would be in the class watching me. If they did not like the program, “They were going to jerk the training from under me.”
The new way of training was very effective. It saved our company over $18,000. But, more importantly our employees were trained better and more effectively.

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