Management --- What It's Not!

By Mark Brosten
Published on May 14th, 2014

Prior to returning to college, I worked for Montana Rail Link as a Carman for five years. A Carman has the responsibilities of inspecting the trains and making repairs as they arrive in the train yard.

During that time, I had the frustration of working with the assistant shop manager, who we’ll call Joe. Joe had already developed a bad reputation with the other employees when I met him. He had little experience working in train yards. He liked to tell people with twenty years’ experience how the job was going to be done. Joe’s “command and control” style of managing didn’t go over well in a union shop where most of his crew were older, more experienced, and frankly, had seen many managers come and go.
Joe was responsible for gathering required information and regularly reported to senior management the number of trains that went through the yard, the number of repairs made, how many cars were returned to service, etc. The information was collected by talking to the lead Carman on each shift and Joe had to consolidate it for a morning report. The only other responsibility he had was to take care of the men, motivate them and address their needs. This he mostly neglected to do.
For example, Joe did not like to come to work at five AM to make the morning report. He decided it would be better if he delegated that responsibility to the night shift. Then he could sleep in and still look like he was doing the work.
Now compare Joe with another manager of my acquaintance Jerry. Jerry is a martial arts instructor, who has a habit of putting a senior student in charge of the classes that are his responsibility. He heads into the studio office to play video games, delegating his teaching obligation instead of embracing it. When he does teach, Jerry often berates students for not performing the technique properly or, at least, up to his arbitrary standards.
So, what goes on in the mind of the employee told to do what he knows to be his manager’s job? How does the senior student feel who came to the studio to experience a positive training environment and ends up bullied, or worse yet, teaching? They become disengaged from the work or training process.
Both Joe and Jerry enjoyed their power received through formal authority. As a manager or black belt instructor, both understood what was necessary to get their job done. They made choices that benefited themselves without regard to the needs of the people for which they were responsible. Gaining the respect for those “under them” was considered unnecessary because they mistakenly believed that all the sources of power are under their “command and control”. They failed as managers because they didn’t understand where power truly comes from or how it truly works.
Joe soon found himself in a worker’s revolt; reports never seemed to have the correct numbers in them. Joe was removed from the car shop within a month. Reports were accurate and the shop ran smoothly, after his removal. How weird is that!
In Joe’s case, the old hands had the power and control over
knowledge and information. They had been doing their job for a long time. They controlled technology; only they knew how some of the equipment worked. They also controlled interpersonal alliances and networks. There was an informal counter organization created with the purpose of undermining Joe’s management style.
Jerry found that senior students would no longer come to his classes. He had to teach. The senior students would rearrange their schedules in order to work with another teacher in the studio.
As Jerry’s students progressed to their black belt many left his studio, often opening their own training centers and occasionally, taking other students along with them. Jerry too, had been a topic of discussion. An informal, after class network of dissatisfied students discussed their desires, wants, and needs in Martial Art training. Their ideal training environment didn’t include Jerry’s teaching style.
If these “managers” treated the people they were supposed to lead differently, the relationships could have worked out favorably.
It’s essential to give the team what they need (reinforcement, equipment, training, etc.) to get the job done safely and comfortably. A caring leader, when dealing with students or employees, will want to find out their needs and ask them for advice. The simple act of treating people with respect and earning their loyalty through experience could have made all the difference.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Mark Brosten

Mark Brosten began his Martial Arts teaching career as an associate instructor in Missoula, Montana. After Serving with the Military Police in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to continue his training. Mark was promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt by a Board of Examiners for the International Kenpo Karate Association. While in New Orleans, Mr. Brosten continued teaching, working with a diverse group of students from artists and architects to law enforcement and military personnel. Mark also developed a summer program for children, ages 4 to 5, for the Isadore Newman School in New Orleans.

An exceptional athlete, Mark is committed to training and competition. He competes in Martial Arts events throughout the United States and has placed within the top three, each time he's competed internationally. Since his return to Montana, Mark regularly teaches seminars at various martial art studios. Mr. Brosten successfully tested for advanced Black Belt rank in October of 2007. In 2008, Mark taught his first international seminar at The World Kenpo Karate Championships in Jersey, Channel Islands U.K. His practical experience and no nonsense approach to Kenpo have served him as a student, competitor, and teacher for nearly 25 years.

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