The Elemental Manager (#2 in my Customer Service Series)

I believe that it is important for today’s managers to be managers in the simplest form.

I believe that a good manager needs to be like a good coach.

A good manager is akin to a coach.

A good manager is akin to a coach.

The Free Merriam Webster Online dictionary defines the word “manager” as: “someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.” Yet, I use the word “Elemental” as the subject of this discussion.

I trained managers for years in the U.S. Navy. I started in 1987, as what is known as a “Team Trainer”. Ask any Navy veteran about the skill level and style of “new managers” in the Navy, and the answer is the same. New managers tend to act like managers of “yesteryear”. That is, new managers tend to use a more coercive style of management. New managers in the Navy tend to be young (19 to 21), so their interpretation of a manager is often one of the following:

  • Raising their voice
  • Belittlement
  • Derisive tone in their voice
  • Harassment
  • Physically pounding their fist on an inanimate object (during times of stress)
  • Threatening their subordinates

Unlike many articles I have read on the web that seem vague and inconclusive at times, I was trained to understand specific leadership styles and trait definitions that I would use to mentor my junior managers:

  • Coercer
  • Affiliator
  • Authoritarian.
  • Pacesetter.
  • Democrat.
  • Coach

My goal was to create leaders with a strong coaching style of leadership. This style would lend credence to how the group was run (90 percent of the time, I was able to show the junior manager the effectiveness of the coaching style, vs. the leadership style they displayed).

The environment many of these managers are (quite literally) thrust into, is filled with a lot of noise from at least 30 possible radio channels going on at once, a higher echelon manager demanding critical decision-making information within minutes, people wandering in and out of the work space and a physical environment of overhead fans and duct fans adding to the confusion. Working conditions are challenging for any manager, so the young manager, like a football captain, will either succeed or fail at their job, depending on their reactions to the various stimuli around them. In this environment, the personal friends of the manager are the people who are treated with a modicum of respect. Any people outside of the manager’s circle of trust are not only ostracized, but consistently belittled in front of their peers and treated with no respect, thus affecting the performance of their job. Yes, these managers can often get the job done, but at the expense of creating a negatively-charged atmosphere that every new person outside of their sphere of influence, wants to walk away from.

In the Leading Chief Petty Officer Leadership Course, given to all Navy sailors, once a professional plateau is reached, the characteristics of my “Elemental Manager” are discussed in great detail.

Forbes also discussed the Navy’s elite rank of manager, the admiral. In this article, Forbes focused on the difficulty of attaining this rank, as well as the responsibilities admirals face.

There are people who may be placed into positions of leadership that are not ready for the position. Leadership.

I recently stumbled across an article in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin online newspaper column written by Philip Chard, a multi-faceted columnist with some sages words of advice in regard to leadership, entitled, “Leadership isn’t given by power; it’s earned”. In his article, Mr. Chard brings up some very important points and qualities about leadership and leaders. He uses words such as Inspiration, Joining (the team), support (encouragement), Include (tapping into the wisdom of those you lead) and Connecting with emotional intelligence.

It is because of my 20-year history as a U.S. Naval manager, that my time as a teacher has been so successful.

As a teacher, I manager all kinds of students in all types of classes. There have ben times, when I had to adopt a coercive style. But, I did not remain in that style, if my students were able to respond with respect for my position. There have been times as a classroom manager, that I have also taken my peers aside and taught them the finer points of classroom respect – including the managers I worked for. I am a firm believer that leadership and customer service go hand-in-hand, and I demonstrate those traits, every time I teach a class. My students often refer to me as having a lot of patience. My patience is based on my knowledge and empathy of the student. I respect the student for having the drive to attend my class and learn what I have to share with them. I refer to every student as “MIster” or “MIss”, a trait I absorbed from my years as a part-time retail sales clerk. I work on displaying my passion for the software program I am introducing and focusing on the many skills of my students. I point out the importance of attention to detail, when working with our templates that we train our students to use, and am constantly striving to ensure that I emulate what I teach. I treat each student with respect, sometimes taking them to one side in order to point out skill flaws, or even student weaknesses.

I strive to be a coach.

I believe it is important for a manager to achieve the same “peace of mind” that I bring to my students. I also believe that it is important for a manager to listen to their subordinates, for after all, we too, are their customers.

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