The Celsius Manager
A simple lesson in being a good manager, a good leader, and a good person seen at the convenience store
Even as one who has taught, studied and consulted on management for a long time, every once in a while you are lucky enough to see something in real life that can top any great case study, book, or article that you have ever read about what it really means to be a good manager, a good leader, and a good person. This happened to me just the other day. It was an unexpected, fleeting moment that made an impression for a lifetime on me, providing me with probably the quintessential example of how to be a good manager that I will share again and again not just here in this article, but with my classes and consulting clients for years to come. For while we may give far too much attention in our current times to celebrity billionaire CEO’s like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, and more, the manager I saw while waiting in line at a convenience store just the other day deserves to be celebrated just as much - and probably a whole lot more - for the simple act he was doing for his workers.
The Celsius Manager
What did the man that I will dub as “The Celsius Manager” do that was so remarkable in that unremarkable setting? A few days ago, I was engaged in one of the routines of modern American life, simply stopping at a local convenience store for a soft drink. As happens today, there were too many customers in line and not enough workers to serve them, so the line stretched halfway through the length of the store when I joined the queue. As the average American is prone to do in such a situation in 2022, I took out my phone to check for messages to pass a few minutes waiting for my turn to checkout, not looking up and not noticing those in line around me.
However, when I looked up from my screen, I happened to see that the man in front of me was doing something very usual for a convenience store. You see, he happened to have a shopping cart - and no, I had never seen a single shopping cart there in the years that I had been stopping at that convenience store! And I spied that his shopping cart was full - not something one wants to see when you have a single Coke Zero, so my first thought was not positive about the whole situation - something on the order of: “My God what is this guy doing!” And when I looked at what he actually had filled his cart with, I was even more surprised, as he had filled the small shopping cart with probably 20..30 single cans of the same drink. They were Celsius energy drinks. Yes, as a “value conscious shopper,” my first reaction of course was, “Well, why is he buying expensive singles when he could be buying multipacks of this at Walmart across the street waaaaaaay cheaper?”
But when it was his turn to checkout at the counter, I overheard his “why,” and yes, he told a quick story to the clerk when she asked him just why he was buying so many of the same drinks. The man, who was hispanic and spoke in English in a way that you knew it was his second language, responded simply, but indeed eloquently:
“It is warm today. My men have nothing to drink. I am the boss. I need to take care of them.”
Wow! As a management professor and consultant, I wanted to shake his hand, high five him, pat him on the back - something (but of course, one shouldn’t do that in a convenience store to a stranger, even with COVID fading!)! And yet, I simply listened - and marveled - at what he was doing (and yes, what he was paying!), as the clerk scanned each and every single can, as he had obviously emptied the cooler display case of every can the store had in stock of the several varieties of Celsius that the store carried. And at $2.59 a pop, his bill approached a hundred dollars. He took out his wallet and handed the clerk what appeared to be crisp twenty dollar bills. And after she bagged up all the drinks for him, he went on his way, toting at least a half dozen bags in his hands.
And just like that he was headed out the door to his F-250 work truck. But that unknown man - “The Celsius Manager” - had left an impression on me like no manager I had ever met personally or any Fortune 500 CEO I had ever read about or seen interviewed had done before! Now making some reasonable assumptions, based on the man and his truck, he obviously was supervising an outdoor work crew of some sort. Whether they were building something, landscaping something, or even demolishing something, he was overseeing men (possibly women, too, but he used the word “men” in his answer to the clerk’s question) who were working outside on an unusually warm afternoon for March, even here in South Louisiana! He saw they were hot and needed something to cool them off, and what did he do? He went to get drinks for them! Now while some may say, “but why not water?” (and yes, that would be the right drink from a hydration, health, wellness, exercise, etc. standpoint, he chose to buy them Celsius energy drinks. Maybe that was what he personally liked to drink, whether to just cool off and/or to provide a little “kick” to his work in the early afternoon. Maybe that was the one drink that the store had plenty of to buy the same thing for all of his crew.
Why he bought so many Celsius drinks is something not to concentrate on; The bigger point is that he bought them for all of his crew! And to me, that is the small moment that we should all celebrate and draw inspiration from! As the supervisor, the manager, the leader, he saw his workers needed something to help them through the day, and by golly, he did it for them! No, it wasn’t the most economical way to get them refreshment. And definitely, it wasn’t the best drink for them to be consuming while working outdoors in the Louisiana heat. But the fact is that he did it! His one simple act displayed caring, compassion, empathy - all the qualities that we espouse make for good management and good leadership today! We want our managers - in any organization, no matter its size or the field it is in, to be good people - to do well by others and yes, to follow the “Golden Rule.” That unknown man was indeed treating his workers as he would want to be treated if he was the one actually doing the sweaty, hot work outdoors, rather than supervising it (perhaps even from the air conditioned environment of his large, comfortable looking truck!).
In the end, I hope that you will reflect on and perhaps even share the simple tale of “The Celsius Manager,” so that both in yourself and among those around you (perhaps even managers below you or even above you), you can learn from his actions, as I did! By simply buying energy drinks for his crew that day, he embodied all that we should hope for in managers doing what might not always be the most economical, most reasonable, most sound, most safe, most…well, lots of things!, but what will always be the right thing! And the next time you find yourself in a convenience store, maybe buy a Celsius drink for yourself - or heck, for your whole office or even field crew, just like this humble, anonymous man did in front of me that day in the convenience store as a way to celebrate “The Celsius Manager!”
About David Wyld
David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld.
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