It's All About Perspective: A "Great Manager" Is A Relative Term

When I was 19 years old, I was promoted to passenger service manager for Capital Airlines at Midway Airport in Chicago. I had no college degree, no supervisory or managerial training, and there I was in charge of a shift with about 20 employees in customer service and 20 flights per shift. My experience level consisted of growing up on a farm in Iowa, being a baggage handler, and then a ticket agent for 18 months.

Kind of scary.

How do you know whether you are going to do a good job or not?

Everyone else was at least 10 years older than me in experience. So, I just asked them. I didn't know any better than to be open and honest and ask for their feedback. Wow, did they give me helpful and outspoken feedback. It was very eye opening.

The Wall Street Journal's Andrea Coombes recently reported that while 92 percent of managers say they are doing an excellent or good job managing employees, only 67 percent of workers agree. An additional 23 percent say their boss is doing a "fair" job and 10 percent find their manager is doing a "poor" job according to a survey by Rasmussen Reports LLC for Hudson, the staffing outsourcing firm.

We still don't do a very good job supporting and training folks when we promote them into responsible management positions. Training, education, and mentoring are all basic stuff, but so important. Also, many companies have had success with 360 degree reviews, with employees evaluating their managers. I guess that is what I was doing many years ago by asking for feedback.

Pretty simple concept. Before you decide you are a "great manager," ask someone that reports to you....and get ready for the input. Does your company use manager evaluations? How has this worked at your organization?

Howard Putnam speaks on leadership, change, transformation, customer service, teams, and ethics. He is the former CEO of Southwest Airlines and the first CEO to take a major airline, Braniff International, into, through, and out of Chapter 11, getting it flying again in less than two years.

Published: March 14th, 2012

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