Manage by M&M’s® by Carolyn Warden

 “The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.”   Agha Hasan Abedi

 My best boss managed by using the power of M&M’s®.

 Remember that first job and the pressure you felt.

 You always had to hurry with the constant effort to work fast because of your lack of knowledge. The hurried feeling that never seemed to go away those first few days—always having to rush around in a helter-skelter fashion because you did not know it all, yet.

 When you are at the ticket booth you see customers standing, waiting in line, looking at you and then you read their minds, “Oh this is the rookie, they have no idea what they are doing and we ended up in their line.” Then, you do some more mind reading and they go on further, “Why don’t they get someone out here that knows what they are doing?” The feeling of stress, anxiety and panic just grows. Then magically another employee appears in the ticket booth next to you and they clear the line in no time, with what looked like little or no effort. You experience the humiliation of not being that skilled in processing tickets and the first time in your life feeling a stress your parents cannot fix. Then an employee that was never very friendly says, “When are you ever going to learn this stuff? It’s easy.” The feelings of inadequacy jump out to grab you like a monster at a haunted house. When the stress would pile up and the feeling of inadequacy would rise up like an insurrection, I would go talk to my best boss ever.

 If I had a problem and I went to talk to her about it, she would invite me to sit down and invite me to enjoy some of the M&M’s® that were always in a bowl at her desk.

 Of course, I would pop some M&M’s® in my mouth. She would excuse herself, because at that moment she always seemed to have to make a short phone call. To this day, I really do not know if she was actually making a phone call. She could have been calling time and temperature, for all I know.  However, those few moments allowed me to get a bit of a sugar rush and a moment for myself to relax. Her office was a safe place, a place where I could go to be heard. After eating a few M&M’s® and taking in some relaxing air, even though I did not realize at the moment the importance of just sitting there and breathing, nothing seemed quite so challenging. After she concluded her phone call, she would give me her full attention and then I could tell her anything that was on my mind. Her listening skills were legendary with everyone who worked on the boat. I did not go to her office to talk, I always went to her office to be heard. Being heard is much different from being allowed to talk. She always listened so intently, in a non-judgmental way and after the M&M’s® and a few moments of being heard, I was always able to go back out there and give it another try. She did not just seem to listen; she seemed to really give me a second chance. After talking with her, I felt refreshed, invigorated and recharged, and ready to try again.

 Therefore, the power of this best manager was that she always had something to give us.  Although supplying the colorful and tasty M&M’s®, her best skill was her ability to listen to us regardless of what we had to say.  Because she was such a great listener, she was able to allow us to talk through it and she only asked clarifying questions. This allowed me to hear myself and I presented the opportunity to correct myself. I did not realize the power of this technique until much later in life. I was always grateful that she listened, but I was more grateful that she taught me how to be a great boss. I still to this day keep in touch with her. Her skills and abilities made an impression that lasted a lifetime.

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