One of my first opportunities to cut my teeth in management was in a UPS sorting hub, as a 20 year old supervisor.
The hub was a rough place. Shifts were typically 4–5 hours, presumably because people would not be willing or able to do most of the jobs for 8 or more hours. While I no longer stacked hundreds of packages an hour (up to 60+ lbs) tetris-style in tractor trailer non-stop, running a dock or sort area was still physically grueling, and mentally even more so.
At the end of every night, supervisors would sulk back into the office defeated, or sometimes completely enraged — I witnessed my share of clipboards and chairs broken. And no matter the extent of daily disaster, one thing was always for certain: supervisors never accomplished any of their required management responsibilities. They put out fires all night, but they did not test packages, review attendance or performance with package handlers, discuss safety, or any other constructive and important duties.
Maybe I was a little crazy, but I came into this position excited to have the opportunity to learn how to manage well. Passionate about business, this was my chance to put into action some of what I’d been reading for years. Specifically referencing an all-time favorite, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, I made a comprehensive “Daily Summary” one-sheet checklist complete with charts and graphs to fill in and got to work.
Within a week, I was doing everything a supervisor was supposed to do but never managed to get done. And, it was all being accomplished within the first 15 minutes of each hour. With the remaining time, I got more done, worked on improvements and tweaks here and there. And, I got to know people in my work area. Some folks never really warmed up to me, but most did, including some high-seniority union shop stewards. As a whole, it was clear things running properly was appreciated, some even shared it explicitly, and all the numbers were 30%+ higher.
Getting my position running like a well-oiled machine, and making sure everything was going smoothly, was not just about making more money for a big company or getting out of the hub as early as possible. It meant there was time available to really care about people and get to know them better. I could fix things around the work area, and help people who were interested navigate to positions within the company that better served them. It made room for the real important stuff.