The First Line Manager: Define Yourself

I applied for but did not get a promotion. One interviewer said, “Jim, we think you are more valuable to the company in your current position. Also, we did not think you would be happy just supervising four employees” I said, “I never let a job description define what I do. I am going to do what I am capable of doing no matter what.” He looked confused. In the corporate world most employees and managers let their job descriptions define their actions. Successful managers and employees do not let this happen.

My first awareness of a company trying to define me was in 1976. I sold chemicals for a large national chemical company. I told my supervisor I joined the Tuscaloosa Jaycees. He stated, “You know the Jaycees are always doing something, maybe these activities will interfere with your sales.” He was right; I did take a lot of time as chairman of the first air show to come to Tuscaloosa in years. What I learned from that experience changed my life view. I learned when a group of volunteers in this country wants to do something they can. This is what makes our country great.

I started with a utility company in February of 1978 as a Junior Accountant. In six months I joined the company speaker’s bureau. Junior accountants did not do this. In November I gave my first speech to the Northport Lions Club. I remained a member of the speaker’s bureau for years. One of my District Managers asked me why I stayed a member for so long. He said, “Most member of the speaker’s bureau joined to get this on your resumé.” I said, “I am a member because I learn from all the members.”

In 1980, I asked permission to run for office of president of the Tuscaloosa Jaycees. By this time, I was the Assistant Accounting Manager in Tuscaloosa. The District Manager said, “This is not something Accounting employees do, Marketing employees do this kind of thing.” He did give me permission and I won the election. Now, some thirty years later, the Accounting Managers are Business Office Managers, community involvement is their responsibility. My father taught me that community service is an obligation of life. I took the opportunity to serve. I did not let the company define what I could do for my community.

Here is the point. Define yourself, lead yourself. You never know when or how your can use your talents to serve your company, your community, or your family. I do know this bible story. As a boy, I read in the book of Matthew chapter 25:18 about the unfaithful servant. This servant, afraid of his master, took his masters talent and buried it. When the master asked the servant what he did with the talent, the servant said he buried it. The master became angry at the unfaithful servant. The master took away the servant’s one talent. I know if we are not always looking to add to our abilities, we lose the abilities we have. Fear of failure limits us. Allow others to define you; and, you limit your ability to grow new talents.

First line managers do not know the abilities they will need in the future. Lead yourself. Seek opportunities; take advantage of opportunities. Define yourself; challenge yourself. Then you will grow your abilities.

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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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