Leadership- Yesterday vs. Today

When I was a kid, there was probably little I wanted to do more than play football.  I fully enjoyed the sport.

We didn’t have much money as a family, so I waited until I was entering Junior High School and was ready.

I remember my dad took me for the required physical.  The doctor had to sign off on my health and didn’t really want to.  He told me I was healthy, but I was small.  He suggested I wrestle instead so I could play with kids my own size.

I have never been interested in wearing a unitard which fails to cover one’s nipples.

I insisted that I wanted to play football.  Basketball in the winter.  Baseball in the spring.

The doctor tried one more time and signed what he needed to sign and my dad signed the waiver and I was ready to play.

One thing I knew was that I was fast.  I wanted to play receiver and defensive back.  We all went out on that first season and ran and ran.  For two solid weeks.  The amount of kids who were running around the football field probably dropped in half after ten workouts.

It was real work.

The people on the television make it look easy.

But I won the job of starting receiver and safety that season.

It was in my second season that I really started to learn about myself.  I was upset that I showed up on that first day of practice and was somehow not the starting receiver.  But I worked for it, got the attention of the coach, and earned the job.

The coach of that team ran the ball almost exclusively.  In fact, I remember him attempting only one pass and he had only one passing play in the playbook.  Similarly, he put seven people on the defensive line.  He was taking advantage of the fact that we were all too young to really throw the ball effectively.  This coach was in his 60’s and this was back in the mid-80’s.  I’ve always understood that he came from another generation.

He wasn’t of the high flying San Diego philosophy of the time.

So much had changed in the time that television started broadcasting football.

So I had to take a position on the defensive line.  Something I wasn’t all that interested in.  Yes, I wanted to play, but I wasn’t all that big, as discussed above, and wasn’t interested in the struggle at the line.

Here’s where I’m pretty much ready to shift.

We were practicing one afternoon.  I was on the defensive line.  The coach told the offense to go on one.  As the ball was snapped, I felt his foot hit my ass.

He didn’t know who Red Foreman would be, but apparently that was his thinking

I got the point.  Get off the line faster.  I think he could have delivered that message better.  But this is back when teachers beat children rather regularly.

In a different point I may make another time, I didn’t finish a third season.  That’s financial and I believe it’s a timely discussion.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  I’m watching a Spring Training baseball game.

I’ve written often how much I enjoy baseball and how much the beginning of the season means to me.  This is also how long I’ve been thinking of writing on this topic.

The announcers were discussing the stark contrast of the current management and the managers from when they played 20 plus years ago.

Baseball managers have long been known for having a temper.  There’s videos of many managers red faced, kicking dirt, throwing bases, and on and on.  Such great comedy.  These old school managers were foot in your ass managers.

The announcers were saying that the current management was more interested in staying calm, analyzing statistics and trends, and creating a comfortable atmosphere for the players.

The announcer continued, with the amount of money these players make, if a manager pushes players too hard, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Over 600 words.  I want to get to my point.

I’ve had many different kinds of bosses.  People learn from those whom they responded best.  Some people like to get kicked in the ass.  There’s a whole bunch of people who enlist into the military.

The military was never for me.  Neither was getting kicked in the ass.

I’ve been a leader for many years.  I believe in analysis.  I believe in measurements and metrics.  I believe that people need to go to work, be on time, and do their part to achieve the goals of the group.  Can’t start a game late.

But, much like the announcers on the game were saying, I’ve always believed if I treat those who report to me well, they will perform better for me and come back.

Unlike the argument about baseball players making so much money they can just refuse to play, wages are so low in this world that there is simply too much competition at the minimum wage level.

The minimum wage in my state is $11/hour.  One may be able to get up to $12.50 or $13 someplace.   While an extra couple of dollars can be a couple months’ rent and certainly helped with bills, there’s another job around and it’s not worth getting your ass kicked on a daily basis.  The young change jobs so often.  This wasn’t always the case.

Think about that minimum wage.  $440/week.  $1,760/month.  One can’t even find an apartment in this area for less than $1,000/month.  And there will be taxes taken out of that wage.  Gas.  Food.  Life.

Even at the extra $320/month at the high end of the scale, you better not need anything extra in your life.  Better not get sick.  It’s definitely not going to give anybody a great quality of life.

In fact, management really should take into consideration that the people reporting to work these days are already getting their ass kicked in life.

But this about management style.  This is about old school “kick you in the ass” because good luck getting a better job than this one vs I take care of my people and give goals so they will work for me tomorrow.

There’s been too much change over the last forty years.  The distribution of wealth has changed the landscape.  And, furthermore, the need for a more robust working class has changed the landscape of the workplace.  People have to be more sensitive.  They have to take others into account.

Mad Men and All in the Family is the past.

Our leaders should all evolve.



Leadership and the Collection of Right Arms

This has been on my mind lately.  Mostly because my boss is not a very good boss.  He has no realization of what it means to be a good leader, but I think he’s been taught.  Sometimes his actions do not match his words.

He, for instance, will talk to me calmly with condescending words.  He has obviously been told not to yell at people.

This, though, isn’t about how to be a good leader.  It’s what I’ve learned as a leader.  It’s the little things that I use as measuring sticks.

I believe I’m an alpha male.  I hate to say that, but I’ve been a leader as far back as I can remember.  Although, when I’ve heard the term “alpha male” used about people over the years, I’ve found that person is so desperate to be respected they act overly aggressive.

Big and loud only instill fear.  While fear is a valuable tool, it’s not nearly the first one I go to.

Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know. Keep your mouth closed. Guard your senses. Temper your sharpness. Simplify your problems. Mask your brightness.

I’m the boss.  I don’t need to tell you.  You know.

I also don’t require to be the boss.  But I have issues with authority.

All that aside.

Although I’ve been in a leadership position much of my career, it was when I went into a management position that I saw things change.  I learned that how I present myself and how I’m treated were suddenly different.  I didn’t ask for it.

The first thing I learned is that my mood affects everybody’s mood.  Related or unrelated.  It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t help that I’m hard to read.  It doesn’t help that I’m generally all business at work.

One part of my operation was struggling not long after I got my promotion years ago.  A woman in another part of the operation asked me if it was her I was mad at.  I wasn’t mad.  I was stressed.  I was trying to solve an issue.  I hadn’t even bothered to worry about her because she was doing her job.

I quickly realized that in a position like that, people always assumed I was upset at them.  I had to make a change and engage people.  I had to let them know I was not upset.

Everybody will screw you out of an hour to save themselves ten minutes.  This is truth.  There is nothing worse than when people act selfishly.  If allowed, people will generally act this way.

This is where I try to engage my work groups as if they are a sports team.  Why would anybody leave the game before it’s over?  Why would you expect me to go around and finish everything you weren’t willing to?

Constant struggle.  Honestly.  But I always get there.

Always take care of those who take care of me.

Simple rule.  But it’s one that I have not seen in practice by others often.  People go into leadership roles for purely selfish reasons.  Generally money.  Often power.

I have always found that if I treat people well, the team works better.

But that means fighting for what the team needs even if it doesn’t fit with the management philosophy.  It’s a fine line.

They are, after all, a dysfunctional family, and need to be recognized as such.  We don’t get to pick who is in our family and we don’t get to choose who we work with, but we spend an extraordinary amount of time with people we work with.  Sometimes far more than we spend waking hours with those close to us.

This can cause tension.  This can cause fights.  This can also cause work groups to act closely.

I have one last thing I’ve learned I want to put here, but a little history and an answer to the question you may be asking.

Why are you writing this?

Years ago (going back more than two decades), I was in my first leadership position.  It took some adjusting and I was very young.  They gave me this line that it was on a trial basis.  If I did well then I would get the promotion.

We all want to be recognized and paid for the work we do.

At the time I was not making very much money.  A little relief would be good.

I was sat down and told I would not be getting the promotion.  I was told I walked too slow.  I was told I had a bad attitude.  I was also told that everybody who reported to me would give their right arm for me.

So I moved on.  My leadership was recognized at the next job and I was offered a promotion rather quickly.

Let’s fast forward to current day.  That is, after all, what is driving me to write this.

My boss is a micro manager.  He gives me no room to breathe.  I have experienced this before and it didn’t end well for me.

He pulled me to the side about a month ago and told me that my office is a mess and I walk too slow and I needed to get more done while cutting hours.  He would show me how to do my job since I haven’t figured out how to do it.

My boss has been on jury duty this week.  The whole place has been calmer.  It’s been lighter.  My team has been finishing quicker and going home earlier.  They have been taking care of me.  I’ve seen an increase in production.

Or maybe my mood affects their mood.

One of my guys told me the other day, I don’t care, bro, you are a very good boss.  I would work for you anywhere, anytime.

Nobody is offering their right arm to my boss.  Nobody.

And I guess that has been my number one measure of success.

How many right arms could I collect?