Great Managers Don’t

I’ve had 17 jobs in 23 years but the best lessons on leadership continue to stem from my humble beginnings in unskilled labor.

It’s 2007 and I work at Chick-Fil-A.

I’m taking orders in tight pants and non-stick shoes, shoving dollar bills in the register like a BOSS. Korean moms love me because I tell them their total in Korean. Sometimes I tell Chinese moms on accident but they don’t love it so much.

My new manager Corey is young and bright, the kinda guy 16-year-old girls crush on in the movies. He doesn’t tell us what to do (he’s “cool”) but since we all wanna be cool (see: high school) we do the things he does.

At Chick-Fil-A in 2007 this was sweeping floors, refilling condiment guns, stealing fries from the fryer, and saying “My Pleasure” to every customer — even if they treated us poorly.

Another thing Corey didn’t do was meddle in our problems. One time a coworker said something about a terrible experience they had in 4th grade and Corey says, “Oh yeah? I loved 4th grade. Best 3 years of my life.”

To this day I use that joke. Credit: Corey.

As I recall, Corey was also happily engaged and spoke fondly of his fiancĂ©. He even recounted how he asked for her father’s blessing: driving him to a busy restaurant and taking a knee (before everyone) with a Home Depot gift card and a “Will you be my father-in-law?”

So Corey didn’t mess around.

He was genuine, thoughtful, funny, and inspiring. Corey didn’t try to be anything else, because great managers don’t have to.

But what do I know. One night I got home from work and recorded a Beyoncé video.