A Leadership ‘Factomatic!’

Management Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: In most organizations, leadership has come a long way over the last the last 30 years. However, sometimes it’s worth reviewing the guidance given to leaders in the not too distant past… Let’s say, 1984. That’s when “The Supervisor’s Factomatic” was published. It was a serious training guide for supervisors in organizations. Our company probably used it too, because we found it by accident in the archives. I want to share some headings and direct quotes from the manual, a very detailed, 490 page long treatise:

  1. How to pirate good people to your shop.
  2. Putting goof offs and gold bricks to work.
  3. Catching and educating Mr. Foul Ball.
  4. How to control employees who don’t keep their hands to themselves.
  5. How to use politics as a supervisory tool.
  6. Beware of the expert, he can cause trouble.
  7. How to defend illogical company policies.
  8. Why you should be seldom satisfied with work.
  9. How to make a subordinate lose face.
  10. How to say “no” in order to improve leadership.

These verbatim headings are my top 10 favorites. However, I must tip my hat to a few superb honorable mentions: “Handling employee complaints about air conditioning,” (hint…dispense free soda from the cafeteria). “Keeping beer off the premises,” and of course that everlasting issue of “reducing time wasted on pesky salesmen.” My favorite specific advice though, is an honest to goodness quote: “Sometimes a supervisor has to be a S.O.B… He has to say ‘no’ to an employee request even though ‘yes’ is a more sensible answer.” Yup, it’s there on 6-8, page 317, with one justification being “employees are likely to take less for granted.” Holy Cow! I guess that was leading edge supervisor training in 1984.

In fairness to the authors, there is likely some reasonably good advice somewhere in the 400 pages? And frankly, since my blogs are digital and essentially permanent, I wonder if 30 years from now someone is going to pull up one or more of my blogs and snicker at “what this ‘Mr. Foul Ball’ was saying in 2016.” I guess the good news is that we will have progressed.

Character Moves:

  1. Many of the leadership principles espoused by the great stoics (bet you didn’t think I could link this blog back to stoicism, haha) have stood for 2,000 years. Establishing mental models, and a framework based on their maxims, have the benefit of being scrubbed by the ultimate quality test; time. They do not go out of favor based on circumstances or generations. The next and final blog on Modern Stoicism will summarize 10 Stoic principles that I find helpful… You may too.
  1. In the meantime, apply these useful reminders as inspired by the 1984 Supervisor’s Factomatic: Keep the air conditioner working, DO bring beer into the work place, keep your hands to yourself (not too much), and avoid being a pesky sales “man.”

Modern Leadership Factomatic in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: This is hilarious. It’s telling, and a great example of the progress we continue to make as a society (hey, 2016 isn’t THAT bad)! This reminds me of an old Schlitz beer ad from the 1950’s that showcases a husband returning from work, his wife crying over the stove, while the copy reads “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer.” I mean… Could you imagine if Bud Light ran that during Super Bowl 50? The spokesperson would be tarred, feathered, and fired on CNN after delivering an apology to an outraged public. But instead of burying these in the past, it’s great to shine a light on some of these dated views, because in my mind at least, it helps us quickly learn almost as much what “not” to do as they originally intended to teach in the first place.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis