McDonald’s, 1991. I was 18 and working front counter when a regional manager asked me if I’d ever considered moving up in the restaurant. "No way," I said. "That’s for people like you." We had worked together several times, and he thought I had potential. (I was teaching new employees how to make fries, after all.)
What his question did was scare me. I still remember the feeling, because I’ve felt it a number of times since then. Even the idea of managing causes an elevated heart rate and a knot in my stomach, like some people experience when asked to give a speech for the first time.
I can manage. I have managed. I’ve even done it with moderate success. Maybe that's what he saw and mistook scarcity for latency. I’m not wired for it, that I know. But him? Perfect fit. In fact, he did what he did so well that I contemplated (for about as long as it took to restock the drink cups) following in his managerial footsteps. He inspired me, made me want to work harder, to communicate better, and to do it all with pride.
I made the right decision.
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body…. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (I Corinthians 12:12, 17-18).
So it is with work. In a little-known story about Moses managing and a fellow traveler responding, I see this body metaphor at play. The people of Israel had escaped from Pharaoh and were preparing for what turned out to be a decades-long march through the Sinai Peninsula. Moses turned to Hobab and said, "Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes" (Numbers 10:31).
Hobab signed on and both men—we presume—served where they fit best. While I’d rather be Hobab, you may not. In fact, according to Payscale.com, "Approximately 15% of Gen Y workers are currently in management roles." That’s a lot of Moseses.
Business Insider recently interviewed Aaron McDaniel, one of the youngest to hold his management position at AT&T, a company currently ranked 11th on the Fortune 500 list. McDaniel discusses a few big challenges for young managers, including how to work with older employees and how to fire. It’s practical advice for YPs in your shoes, and a reminder to me that I don’t need to do what you do.
I learned a lot from that regional manager. I also mimicked his work ethic. But I let him do the managing. "God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."