Managers Manage and Leaders Lead

September 22, 2011

If this had not personally happened to me I might not have believed it. If someone else had told me about this, I might have said, “no way!” I went into our local Home Depot this past Friday to purchase a few gallons of paint. The guy working the paint counter, Douglas, was a machine. He had to be. He had been left alone to run things, on a Friday afternoon with customers, some contractors, lined up. He was awesome! He had more plates spinning, more orders to keep straight, more paint mixing than I have ever seen. And he kept smiling, was helpful, and professional the entire time. Now keep in mind that the paint department and building materials are the two big money makers for Home Depot.

I asked the poor guy, “Douglas, where’s your help?” He said that his partner associate had been sent home. “What happened?” I asked, thinking maybe the person got ill or injured. He said the reason was “for hours,” which means that the associate would have too many hours if they had stayed to help continue to take care of the customers. Huh? The on duty manager, in his infinite wisdom, had sent the associate home, with customers waiting, on a Friday afternoon, in the busiest department of the store, because they might have too many hours. What?

So, I asked to speak to this “manager.” When I asked him how and why he would send home an associate in a situation like this, inconveniencing me and the other customers like we had been, he basically, and indignantly, stated (in a nutshell) that he had policies to follow. “What about the customers,” I asked. His reply was, and I am not kidding, are you ready for this, you better sit down, this was his reply – “the customer is not my concern.” I am absolutely serious! And he said it in the main aisle, in front of witnesses, with a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas, and a “how dare I complain” look on his face. I looked at him incredulously and said, “and there lies the problem,” and the back peddling began. He then put his hand up toward my face, saying something like, “I don’t have time for this,” and walked away. This “manager” was the consummate bean counter. He was a non-thinking, policy observing, stat concerned “dictator” I am sure, who was only interested in serving his own interests and covering his own (insert expletive here), with, as he stated, no concern for the customer. (And yes, a copy of this editorial was sent to the corporate headquarters, district manager, and general manager of that store).

There is many times a vast difference between management and leadership, though there ought not to be, but there is. Typical bean-counting, stat-focused, sit and dictate from behind a desk managers usually serve their own needs and make sure everyone tows the line, and things operate efficiently, according to policy, so their own (insert appropriate expletive again) is covered when those above them ask questions. (If you are in a position of management, don’t be offended, be motivated to examine whether or not you are a leader). Not only did this manager have no concern for the customer, I doubt he has any concern for, and does not serve, his employees, those he considers to be “under” him. His employees are likely merely a means to an end for him, the end being his stats. What he, like so many in our day and time in positions of management fail to realize, is that the associates, those on the front line of customer service are not “under” managers, supervisors, and corporate officers. They are actually above them.

So many businesses have lost sight of the basic tenet of business, and that is service. They are in business and have business for one reason and one reason only – their customers! The result of this “the customer is here to serve me” attitude is evident in so many businesses today. Customer service in our day and time has gone down the proverbial toilet, and is all but non-existent in so many places.

It should be the job of the guy at the top of the corporate structure, the corporate officers, to serve the supervisors. It should be the supervisor’s job to serve the managers. It should be the manager’s job to serve the associates, the men and women who are interacting with the customers, to take care of them, make sure they have everything they need to do their job. Like a military leader’s job should be to make sure his troops have everything they need to go into battle, and then lead his troops up the hill into the fray from the front. (Oh, for more George S. Pattons and Dick Marcinkos in our day and time!)
I, the customer, do not interact with the managers, the supervisors, or the corporate officers. I interact with, and my customer service experience is based on my interaction with the associates, not the managers, supervisors, or corporate officers.

The truth of the matter is that businesses need to turn their idea of the business model and structure upside down, which is really right-side up because it’s all kitty-wampus to begin with. If that manager wanted to send home an associate because of too many hours than he should have put his clipboard down (which he had in his hands when he came to talk to me) and put on his work clothes, and got his hands dirty, and jumped in to help Douglas mix paint.

The truth of the matter is that leaders lead! Leaders lead from the front! Don’t tell me what I ought to be doing, show me! You set the example! Leaders don’t dictate and direct from behind their desks. Leaders don’t tell those they deem to be “under” them what to do, how to serve. Leaders exhibit and show and demonstrate h-o-w to get the job done. Leaders serve those who they are supposed to be leading. Do they have the necessary tools and help so they can be the best at their jobs. Leaders, in war or in store, are willing to take risks, violate policy if needed, put their own (insert appropriate expletive again) on the line to achieve victory, success, and customer satisfaction.

There is a famous poem by Edgar Guest that I have always loved entitled “Sermons We See.” It goes –

I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day.
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.

For questions, information regarding fellowship, or to support the work of the Bible Study Group contact us at fellowship@biblestudygroup.org

Join us online for our weekly Bible Study Group meeting at 10:30AM MST at –http://my.dimdim.com/studygroupmeetingroom

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