One morning, my District Manager came into my office, he stated, “if someone told me about all these employee problems, I would not want to be a manager.” This was in 1986. Over the years, I heard this statement made by many managers. I always wanted to manage people, this is management. I thought everyone knew, maybe not.
Welcome to my world. I am a first line manager and have been for over 40 years. Your life changes when you become a first line manager. You are sandwiched between employees making a career; and, employees just trying to make a living.
First line managers are the backbone of a business. These managers are usually the only ones that really 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 business in business day to day, hour to hour. If someone in middle or upper management is absent, no problem, the business will still function at the first line. But, when employees that work for a first line manager are absent some part of the plant or service process will suffer, and thus, the business. When the production line or the service line back up; the first line manager is expected to get it moving again. First line managers stand in the gap between the business and the customer. They are the real deal makers in any business.
A young first line manager came into my office recently. He was struggling with a problem. He was caught in a disagreement between his manager and a higher level manager on a performance issue. I told him welcome to the bottom of the pond. He asked me what I meant. I stated, “You and I are like a catfish at the bottom of a pond. Catfish know the bottom better than any fish. Catfish are not pretty. They usually live in a hole. They do not have scales; but, 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. But every time they attempt to get off the bottom they fall back. It is hard to catch these flashy fish; people spend a lot of money on bait to catch them. Catfish on the other hand are so hungry they will eat anything they find on the bottom, and every now and then they have to eat crap.”
The young man laughed and said, “What a description?”
In the book, “How I raised myself for failure to success in selling” by Frank Bettiger, he states, “experience is the best teacher, it just costs too much.” He meant, if we read about someone’s experiences we get that experience cheaply. If we get experience by our hard knocks in the real world, that experience is too costly.
My blog is about catfish management. How we can survive at the bottom of the pond. This blog about the people I have worked with and dealt with over the years. When you search the web you will not find many first line managers talking about their problems. This is what first line managers need. I hope my stories about my experience will save you time and money.