Question of the week #30

ImgresIt is not easy to let go when you start a company.  Eventually you are going to have to hire people in order to grow.  There is no physical way that you can do everything.  I met with a woman the other day who is having a very difficult time giving up that control.  She needs to hire a sales person desperately but the first thing she needs to come to terms with is that person will not be her.  Everyone does things a bit differently and if they don't use their own words and their own methods then they won't come across as real. 

She asked me this question:  How did you learn to let go and then manage?

This is a great question because many people have a hard time with it.  Instead of becoming good managers, role models and mentors they come micro-managers.  That is not good for anyone and that type of behavior creates a bad vibe that seeps in to the organization.

My first big job managing people was in the cosmetics department in Kings Plaza Brooklyn.  I was responsible for about 150 people.  That included each of the heads of each cosmetic line; Clinique, Estee Lauder, Lancome, Chanel etc and then the people that worked under them.  There was a day time staff and a night time staff. 

Maybe it was my training from running the sports teams at the Montgomery County Recreation Department or being a camp counselor but the first thing I did was sit down with head of each line and find a connection.  I went through their books to make sure that their inventory was current.  In cosmetics there is a rep that comes out to each department to work with their teams and fills orders.  I met with them too and made each of them take back all the old inventory and items that were not turning.  That helped our inventory turn quicker and put cash into inventory that was not going to sit dormant.  Then I helped each of them clean up their drawers and the cases to present a better face to the customers.

I made sure I met and spoke with each of the people that worked under each brand.  Mostly younger women worked at night that were in college or high school so I became a role model to them although I wasn't that much older.  I was 22. 

There was no way in hell I could do what 150 women were doing at the same time so I figured out how to manage from top down.  I let each manager of each brand plan their coverage.  It was up to them to make sure the schedule was done by a certain time every week so everyone knew the hours they were going to work.  The hours were ramped up when there was an event such as product having a special sale or a new product being launched.  It made them each responsible for their own departments.

Once someone who ran one of the brands took the first two days of their event off because her husband had some event he had to go to and she tagged along.  I had no idea she had done that because I trusted her to run her department.  I gave her that responsibility but responsibility can easily be pulled back.  When she returned we had a conversation and I never trusted her again.  I made her show me her schedule each week and I looked over it with a fine tooth comb.  I looked at everything twice when she asked me to sign something.  I went into her books at least once a week to make sure she was doing the right thing.  I made sure I would meet with her rep when she came into the store to insure that she was keeping her inventories clean. She had betrayed my trust and there are repercussions from that. 

I did not do that with anyone else because I worked with each of them individually to set up the expectations that I had and we built a mutual trust.  Those expectations ended up pullting more money in all of their pockets because I showed them how to run a clean business.  I still think about that experience.  It was certainly unique for my age considering my own personal experience was limited but I grabbed the opportunity by the horns.  For years i'd go back and see each of those women when I'd tour the stores and spend time with them.  They taught me a lot and I taught them a lot in return.  That is what makes for a great management situation. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .What a great experience. What a hands on manager. Well played.JLM.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Amazing experience

    2. falicon

      Agree. +1

  2. Sheryl Ryan

    Totally agree. Setting expectations is absolutely key to managing staff (not to mention bosses). The other key is “context”. I’ve found all to often that employees will go ahead and do what they’re asked to do, even if they’re not sure why they’re doing it. For some reason, people don’t always feel comfortable asking, so I make sure to follow action items with a “because…”.It only takes a second to do it, but it saves so much time in the long run. Once the person understands the “why”, then they are more empowered to make good decisions that don’t require the manager’s time. I’ve noticed they also tend to like their job more, which naturally breeds success.Great post. Thanks!

    1. Gotham Gal

      engagement works both ways, absolutely.