What’s the Mark of a Manager? Here’s a Great (But Unexpected) Example

Life is full of errands – things we must do, even if we don’t consider them fun or enlightening.

I’m talking about simple things such as shopping for groceries, picking up dry-cleaning, or – one my least favorite – dealing with government institutions.

I can honestly say I’ve never looked forward to a visit to the Department of Motor Transport (the Irish version of the Department of Motor Vehicles for my U.S. readers). I’m sure the same is true for you.

Why do we dread these visits to institutions of government bureaucracy?  It’s simple: we know we will wait in line, potentially for hours, to deal with a sometimes surly, sometimes disinterested, but nearly always slow department representative.

A big surprise from a manager at the DMV

But have you ever put yourself in the shoes of one of these department workers or, better yet, their supervisor?

I bring this up because a colleague of mine recently transferred from our Dublin office to our location near Boston, MA. He is currently going through the process of securing a U.S. driver’s license so he can purchase a car, which required a visit to the local Registry of Motor Vehicles. He was dismayed at the three-hour wait, but pleasantly surprised when the supervisor came out and said to all of the people impatiently waiting:

Thank you all for your patience as we work to help you today. My team and I are all working through our breaks and our lunch in order to serve you as quickly as possible and be sure we are able to serve everyone today. Be assured, we will see everyone here before the end of the day. I ask for your continued patience as we work to get to you as quickly as possible. Thank you.”

My colleague ended this story by saying, “What a great manager!”

The mark of a true manager

I have to agree. The manager didn’t have to go this extra step. She could have ignored the long line and just expected her team to do their job. Yet she took a moment to both recognize the hard work of her team members as well as the needs of the people waiting to be served.

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As a result, the exasperated people waiting were more patient and in a better frame of mind when their turn came, and the RMV staff were more helpful and moved more quickly.

A simple action, indeed, but a powerful one.

And that’s the mark of a true manager — knowing when to step in, speak up, and take action on behalf of the team and the customer.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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