My first encounter with management was when I was 16. It was my first encounter with Big Bad Pete and it is why I got in to management.
Those were the days.
Long days. Days with little to do. A gap year between College and University.
A gap year for me to earn some cash ready for the heady long days of University.
So I got a job in a supermarket.
The gangly, young, pony tailed, post-grunge, tie-dyed t-shirt wearing me; working full time.
But it was also a year in which I realised how bad management could be.
The manager of this store was called Pete. Big Bad Pete. He was awful. A real tyrant. People would do anything to avoid being shouted at by Pete.
Someone flung themselves down stairs, breaking their ankle, just to avoid Pete.
He made grown adults cry and he didn’t seem to care.
A customer once complained, so he threw a case of wine at them.
Poor old Terry, the freezer manager, in a moment of panic and fear as Pete approached, shut himself in the upright freezers with the frozen vegetables. He couldn’t get out. It was 4 hours until some found him. We had to defrost him by the bread ovens.
Pete ran the shop with a command and control mentality. And anger. And hate.
The problem was it didn’t work. His staff hated him. His financial numbers were dwindling. He shouted at customers. Good people left.
And despite all of this he was loved by his regional manager (even though he rarely hit his targets).
You see his regional manager was just like Big Bad Pete.
Angry. Aggressive. Dominating. Controlling. Adamant he knew everything. Unwilling to a better person. (Remember, your management will never be better or worse than you as a person).
I soon realised that managers attract other people who are like them.
If you’re not careful the whole organisation becomes like the manager – this can be good or bad. Pete’s supermarket was going from bad to awdful quickly – and I was stuck working there.
So when I became a manager after leaving University, I was determined not to be like Big Bad Pete.
I was determined to do things differently.
After a few months of working in the supermarket (which by the way was an amazing experience apart from Pete) Big Bad Pete got promoted and left the store. The whole store rejoiced.
In his place arrived a man called Steve.
Steve was kind, clever and people focused. He cared about people, but he also knew the bigger system of how the supermarket operated could either help or hinder the staff.
He taught us all about flow, goal setting and good customer care.
Under Steve the supermarket flourished. The financial numbers went in the right direction, rapidly.
People enjoyed their work and people didn’t leave very often. Customers no longer had wine thrown at them.
Pete had become the area manager by this point so was technically Steve’s manager, but Steve didn’t become like him – he stood for what he believed in, good custodial care of his staff, the store and his customers – another lesson there.
Steve and Pete fought. But the numbers were good so Steve was generally left alone. After all, Pete, was now busy being a tyrant to other store managers who were easier to bully.
Steve demonstrated to me how to be a good manager.
No, scrap that.
He showed me what it takes to be an excellent manager.
And still to this day I remember Steve.
In a nutshell, you don’t have to be disliked to be effective.