How about Great Boss Stories? 9/8/11

Posted Sep 8 2011, 8:00 am in , , , ,

I recently blogged about my horrible bosses after seeing the movie by the same name. Today, I thought I’d tell you about my great bosses.

Leadership is intentional influence. – Michael McKinney

Great quote.

I’ve had some truly incredible managers over the years. There was Ron, who supported my goals to advance; Michel (a man), who taught me the benefits of being well-organized; and Ed, who always treated me with fairness and respect.

Ron was one of three managers I supported while working for a commercial bakery back in the ’80’s – before the Internet, before PCs. (Yes, I know that was in the Dark Ages. Shut up.) One of my responsibilities was to process payments for all the parking tickets issues to the delivery truck fleet. When I was hired, the process was tracked in a looseleaf binder. I discovered many tickets had been paid two or three times over. I suggested we computerize the process. Ron not only praised me for a good idea, he put me in touch with the programmer who built the database to my exact specs – let me manage the whole project. The very first week it was live, we saved a few hundred dollars in late fees alone.

When I decided to go back to school for a computer degree, Ron was my first cheerleader. I worked for him for six years, right until the birth of my first son.

Michel was my boss’s boss. Belgian-born, he was working in the U.S. for just two years and approached me with a promotion offer in the late ’90’s, which I accepted because it came with a huge raise. Everything was going well until he appeared at my desk, furious over my stapling skills.

I tried not to laugh. He was truly mad. I waited for him to explain his expectations. Wait, you’ll love this…   Michel did not like to read email online. He wanted them all printed out. I printed out sixty or seventy emails each day for him, including any attachments and just left them in a chronological pile on his desk. He was angry that I did not staple the attachments to their proper emails. I assured him I would do so.

I did one better.

I not only stapled the right attachments to the right email, I got him an accordion file and put emails in slots according to sender. When he was on vacation, I switched to a 31-day accordion file so I could organize the email by date received.

This made him happy.

It also encouraged him to trust me with other projects, including researching market trends – something it turned out I was pretty good at it. Whenever I researched a subject for him, I organized my findings in a variety of ways. He sat me down about six months later and told me out right I should be seeking opportunities beyond secretarial, that I was too bright to waste my mind on administrative tasks. I clung to his words a year later when dealing with the boss from hell.

Finally, there’s Ed. I worked for Ed from 2000 to 2004. He didn’t hire me – we were caught in a corporate reorganization that promoted us both shortly after we were hired. Ed put me in charge of about a dozen technical writers and graphic artists working in Education developing course materials. I was ecstatic until he told me he couldn’t give me a raise. Corporate red tape ended up deferring that promotional raise for another year. Ed never felt that was fair, so managed to finagle a surprise for me. He took me into a conference room, explained he didn’t agree with the policy and then handed me a stack of American Express Gift Cards.   Ed told me he lives by his word and even though he couldn’t get the raise he approved, he had to do something. I don’t know how he managed to get those gift cards, but that he bothered to try at all still impresses me to this day.

We had a monumental task ahead of us – developing courses in less time than ever before, while motivating a crew who’d seen too much upheaval during the company’s strategy shifts. I witnessed him battle narrow minds and pessimistic attitudes, saw how he handled pettiness, and watched him jump in front of me to assume the brunt of a colleague’s fury over a decision I’d made.  He knew I loved to play practical jokes and often aided me in the ‘perfect prank’ – driving all over Lisle, Illinios one evening to find a bicycle lock we then used to chain a colleague’s prized chair to his desk so he couldn’t pull it out.

His was the example I modeled while leading my own team. Ed’s long since retired and I no longer manage my own team, but try to live by the work ethic he instilled in me – which is why I was still at work Friday night well past six p.m. –  I’d promised to have a project done before the holiday weekend.

Ed taught me to live by my word.



4 responses to “How about Great Boss Stories? 9/8/11”

  1. I wish I had a story to match these but I don’t. I’m so glad to read this though, after reading about some of your other experiences :-)

    • Patty Blount says:

      Thanks for commenting, Sarah. I think my bad bosses helped me appreciate the good ones even more!

  2. Linda G. says:

    It’s nice to know there ARE some good bosses out there. I think most people are lucky if they manage to have one or two really great ones over the course of their career.

    • Patty Blount says:

      There are many more great bosses than bad, I think. I have been fortunate in my career to have only encountered a few bad seeds. :)