Columnists, Thom Finn, V2I4

Never Trust a Skinny Manager

Show me a skinny manager and I’ll show you a man who is neglecting some of his true management responsibilities. I’m exaggerating, of course, and perhaps I am just jealous of anyone who can still see the tops of their shoes.

But I do struggle at times to explain to folks that always “doing it, doing it, and doing it” isn’t the best course of action for someone who has management responsibilities.

The guys who struggle with this concept tell me it goes back to the way they were raised—always on the go, always showing proof of their industriousness by the sweat of their brow. Anything that
even appears to be lazy, like sitting and reading a report, walking and observing workflow, or the worst, simply sitting and thinking, is to be avoided.

I try to point out that once a man accepts management or leadership responsibilities, the focus needs to go from using the muscles below the neck to using the ones above the neck.

When a manager uses the below the neck muscles, he is probably lifting, squatting, carrying, hammering, pushing, pulling, running, jogging, or stretching. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s an idea I should try more of.

But consider how the muscles above the neck can be used. The eye muscles can observe a bottleneck in production or the frustration on the newest employee’s face. The ear muscles can listen when things are just a little too quiet over in part of the job site or to hear the tone of annoyance in a customer’s voice. And the mouth muscles can communicate an expectation you have that hasn’t been met or sooth a misunderstanding between two employees.

Of course, the biggest muscle of all—the one that controls those I just mentioned—is the brain.

Using the brain is how you will solve the inefficiencies in the shop layout for this new job. It provides the thoughts you’ll need in creating the new system that will save you days in the future when it comes to purchasing fasteners.

Consider some of the responsibilities of the manager/leader that are not as important when you were a working employee. An effective leader/manager will put on a few pounds because he is now:

  • Filling out the yearly employee reviews to motivate his men.
  • Thinking about the production schedule for next week, month, and year.
  • Figuring out a solution to the bottleneck.
  • Thinking about what to say to the two employees in conflict.
  • Making a system that will simplify his book work.
  • Standing and watching the guys work to see if he can find out where all that waste is coming from.
  • Standing and watching the flow to see how he can get the time reduced by 15 percent for efficiency.
  • Sitting and calculating what his actual efficiency rate is.
  • Sitting even more to figure out where he needs to improve it.
  • Spending more time on a quote back in the dark office than up on the roof laying shingles.
  • Sitting and listening carefully to the inquiry that came in to see if he really wants it.

The men I have seen who have accepted added management responsibility usually do put on a few pounds. They often are the object of mild ridicule or self-satisfied smug looks from the men who only use muscles below the neck.

I encourage these men to turn their chubby cheeks and keep focusing on mapping the route and driving the bus. The livelihood of these teasers depends on them doing a good job and using muscles that won’t burn any calories.


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