In the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi are the words, “Know Thyself.” This is an admonition to people to remember they are not God; and, to enter the Temple with humility. Ben Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard; steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Most first line managers struggle to define themselves.
“Knowing myself,” as a manager is a challenge for me. This challenge started when I was twenty-four, and is still a challenge for me today. I have made progress. I know first line managers are all different; we come to the job with different expectations and experiences. I bet most of us know we have to define ourselves to the people we manage. To do this, we must first know ourselves. I am a first line manager and have been since 1971, except for two years. I can give you my perspective on some of my learning moments. I hope you can gain some insight in my progression to “knowing myself.”
Being a General Manager of three motels taught me; the more managers you have between you and employees, the further you are away from the actions of the employees in the departments. I know I must transfer my energy through managers to have an impact on their department employee actions. This is hard to do. My expectations are high. I hired a college fraternity buddy of mine to manage the restaurant in my first motel. He was not effective. We discussed his lack of performance in my office. He started to cry. I learned I did not want to manage my friends. Also, I learned, I did not like being removed from the employees on the front line. This is my first realization; I missed being a front line manager. I was the restaurant manager and the General Manager of the last motel I managed. This is the best of worlds, a general manager and a first line manager.
From 1976 to 1978, I work as a Territory Sales Manager for a chemical company. I am just responsible for my actions. There are no employee problems. The only employee I must motivate is me. This is easy. Each morning I get in the seat of the car at seven o’clock. I work my daily sales plan. The first year I have a forty percent sales increase in my territory. This is a lonesome job. I am alone each day; just me, a sales bag, and a car. My second realization, I miss the manager’s role; that is, working with employees to accomplish company goals. Even thought I am successful selling, I prefer managing people.
Years later, the Vice President of my division said we need to get you to the corporate headquarters for more experience, my prompt answer, “I do not want to go.” I know I will not survive at the corporate headquarters, might as well admit it. I am sure this ended my journey up the corporate ladder. I am where I want to be; a first line manager, close to employees and customers.
Thus, I know, I want to manage employees that are close to the customer. Even with all the issues involved with the job. Some first line managers do not come to this point and dislike handling all the issues with being a manager. Maybe they are in the wrong job.
This is the point. Being true to myself makes me happy and passionate about my job.
“Know Thyself.” then, “To thyself be true.”