ST. LOUIS, Jan. 21, 2016 – My road from new employee to management was shaped by an amazing mentor. His influence shaped me as a manager and a person.
When I finished serving in the Navy in the 1940s, I had a hard time getting a job as a data processing machine operator. Finally, after many months, I got a job at Anhueser Busch as a punch card operator.
I was grateful for that job and for having the ability to care for my family.
As a young man with a wife, I wanted to get ahead in my career. I realized quickly I was “wet behind the ears” and had a lot to learn when it came to the corporate world. I started watching successful people and noted what they did to succeed.
That was when my magical career moment happened: I got a new manager, who made an instant impression on me. His appearance was impeccable, as was his attitude. He was charismatic and caring, and he interacted with people in a very positive manner.
The day after my son was born, I had the opportunity for a one-on-one interaction with this manager. When I came in to work that day, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned around and it was Mr. K. He said, “Charlie, I understand you had a new little baby boy, weighing nine pounds and measuring 11 inches. I’m glad to hear your wife is doing well, and I want to congratulate you both.”
I was in orbit, thrilled that Mr. K had taken the time to speak with me, a low-level employee, and that he was aware of what was happening in my life.
I was so elated by Mr. K’s comments, I walked on air all day. When I got home, I proudly told my wife Mr. K had spoken to me and congratulated us on his baby. I felt like I had received a pay increase and a bonus all rolled in to one.
Eventually, Mr. K did call me into his office to give me a pay increase. He told me I had earned the raise based on my performance, and he enumerated my accomplishments. He also reviewed areas where I could improve, and at the very end, he asked for my comments.
Later that night, I reviewed the conversation in my head, and I was impressed by the discussion. Mr. K made sure to highlight my strengths as well as any weaknesses I had, and to frame all of it in a positive light. I realized he was right on all accounts. What most impressed me was the way he not only asked for my comments, but how he listened intently when I spoke.
Mr. K impacted my life dramatically. He established a standard for management that I never forgot, even when I was a manager with more than 300 “techies” working for me. I always remembered the way Mr. K dealt with people and how he interacted with everyone at all levels.
Mr. K taught me to remember the simple things, like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and the importance of integrity. Be a good listener, work as hard as those who work for you, exercise sound judgment and don’t pre-judge anyone.
These lessens helped my career, and they also helped me in my daily life.
Mr. K shaped my definition of management, which is the ability to get things done through other people. Value people and their contributions, let them know it, and you will be a good manager.
However, that’s a time and place I am from.
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