Have you ever seen a manager that made excuses for their employees’ bad behavior?
Did it frustrate you because their excuses hurt you or your department?
Did it cause you to have less respect for the manager?
I’ve learned the hard way that great managers are the ones that make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions regarding their employees.
I discovered this when I was put in charge of my first warehouse operation.
We had three shifts.
The first shift unloaded the trucks that brought in our product and put it in the racks.
The second shift, Started picked the orders for the next day’s deliveries.
And the third shift loaded the trucks for the next day’s delivery.
If one of the shifts didn’t get their work done, our deliveries the next day would be late.
Plus, it became a nightmare because all day, my team and I would get phone calls from sales, customer service, and customers asking where their orders were and not be able to do the work we were expected to do.
I was expected to keep costs low and have 100% on-time deliveries.
When I became the manager, I was told we had a problem on the third shift getting the trucks loaded.
In fact, at the time, 50% of our trucks went out late.
My third shift manager Bill was incredibly well-liked, but the fact the failure was happening on his shift didn’t seem to bother him.
Let me give you an example.
One day I went to Bill and said, “Bill, we have six trucks going out late today. What happened.”
He said well Mike, I’ll tell you what I’ve been telling you guys for years.
We have two forklifts that are always broken.
Last night it was three.
You get me good forklifts, and I’ll get your trucks out on time.
I thought, “are you kidding me, is that all we have to do is get the forklifts serviced or replaced?”
So I did some math and figured with the overtime and courier charges renting three new forklifts would more than pay for itself, so I had them delivered that day.
The next day I couldn’t wait to get to work because I would see all the trucks leaving on time.
When I got there, I found nothing changed, and the trucks were late.
When I found Bill, I said, “what happened, I got you the forklifts you wanted. Why are the trucks late?
He said, “Mike, the transfer truck coming from other division was late, and it pushed everything back.”
Then he said, “you get that truck to start coming in on time, and I’ll get your trucks loaded.”
I spent the next couple days working on that problem and other’s that he would bring me.
I worked on the problem, which wasn’t really a problem, and I said to myself, “are we ever going to be able to get the trucks out on time?”
Then after my first month of fixing one problem after another, my boss called, and he was upset.
He got a call from corporate saying one of our company’s largest national customers was irate because their deliveries in my location were late about 50% of the time.
He said for the first time this customer gave our company a black mark on what they called “our report card.”
I could hear from his voice that this was a big deal.
That night I came in to talk to Bill, and he was off, so I talked to his team and told them the problem.
The next morning as I was pulling into the parking lot, I saw all the trucks were out making their deliveries.
I went to Bills attendance records and compared our productivity when he was there and when he was out.
Every time he was out, our trucks left on time, and when he was there, they were always late.
That day I called my human resources manager and developed a performance improvement plan to present to Bill.
Unfortunately, Bill didn’t improve, and I was forced to let him go.
I remember sitting in the conference room the day I was terminating him.
I was so nervous.
When he walked in, and I got right to the point and said, “Bill, unfortunately, since you weren’t able to reach your goals, we are letting you go effective immediately.”
The room was dead quiet.
He stared me in the eye for what felt like an eternity, then jumped out of his chair, raised his fist, and said, “Yes, it’s about time.”
I was dumbstruck.
I looked over to my human resources manager, and he had the same bewildered face I did. I said, “Bill, what’s going on?”
He said, “Mike, I’m a hunting and fishing guide on the side. I wanted to do it full time, but my wife wouldn’t let me quit.”
While I was watching my Human resources, guy go the specifics of Bills termination, I thought, "man did I waste a lot of time."
I knew all along that Bill was the problem, but I just didn’t want to believe it.
I was one of those managers that made excuses for my employees.
Right then, I realized I had a responsibility to my company, my employees, our customers, and most of all, to myself to deal with the tough situations.
Because that’s what’s best for everyone. Mike