First Line Managers: Must Tote the Corporate Water and be the hammer?


I was talking to a close friend at my company, he said, “How could you stay in management so long? I never wanted to be a manager. I never wanted to tote the corporate water or be a corporate hammer.” Wow, this person was a very successful individual contributor.  I can understand why he never was a manager. His view of management was so narrow and so wrong.

My view of management is completely different. Let me continue his hammer analogy. I have built every house I have lived in, six. You cannot build a house without the use of a hammer. Actually, the hammer was critical to our human survival. Humans could never have made rock arrowheads and spears without the hammer. These ancient people quickly learned that if the hammer is used incorrectly they could not make arrowheads. Their time and energy could be wasted.  Sometimes they had to hit hard and sometimes they had to strike gently.  Being a manager is the same. Sometimes we have to make powerful moves and sometimes our moves must be subtle. So, my friend had a point, mangers do have to hammer home the mission of the company.

So what is my take on toting the corporate water? I think all employees have to drink at that fountain. First line managers are the ones that make sure the corporate water keg is full each day. This corporate water contains several ingredients.

Managers must know the mission of their company. They must uphold the operation standards and inculcate these standards to the first line employee. Most key strategies and performance measures come from top management. It is the first line manager’s responsibility to make them real in the workforce. Real in the field

Here are three mission ingredients in the corporate water that first line managers know lead to the perpetuation and success of a company.

The company standard of conduct is the way to conduct business.   Most corporations have a statement of how it expects employees to act toward each other and the public. There are action plans with principles and objectives to accomplish this standard.  Society and customers will measure a company by its standard of conduct. It is incumbent upon managers of a corporation to uphold these principles and objectives.

Accountability is the key to the performance. Employees are accountable to the principles and objectives of the corporation.  A First Line Manager’s success must be measured by their organizations accomplishment, or failure to accomplish, the objectives of the company’s standard of conduct. There must be consequences for not inculcating and adhering to these standards for employees and the first line manager.

Integrity must be paramount in all our actions.    The first line manager and their department gain integrity by the accomplishment of company goals. Integrity is the foundation for success. Integrity is more than honesty; there are honest crooks. Integrity leads to an internal strength for the company and its employees. Integrity is the foundation for a strong future for the company and its employees.

First line managers are on the first line of the companies they serve. They operate under and are subject to a unique obligation to make sure they understand and represent the company to the first line employee and customer.

It is key that managers hammer home the essential motivations and desires of the corporation to their employees. Successful mangers know how to tote the corporate water and encourage their employees to drink it. They do not use their hammer on employees in a detrimental way; they use it to build effective employees and organizations.

A first line manager is a builder of teams. Also, they are individual contributors on a mission. That mission is a passion to create a team of winners for the company they serve.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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