Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My boss -- a true leader

My boss ... his name is "Stan." He and I have worked together for about 5 years now, and we have a very smooth working relationship that breeds success in many areas of the business. We are also friends.
Inevitably, there are times when we disagree or have a conflict. Even worse is that these conflicts are usually due to something I have done ... or not done.
Take last week for an example: There was a very important analysis and pre-order due Friday regarding marketing materials for the 2008 selling season. Now, the reader will need to understand how important these materials are. After all, my title is "Marketing Manager" and my entire reason for getting a paycheck hinges on my ability to drive the marketing activities in our $8.5 million business. Marketing materials; ie. printed forms, brochures, mailers leave-behinds, response cards, etc. -- play a big part in the grand scheme!
...Back to the analysis...I had plenty of notice that it was due, and I meant to get it done ... really! But, I forgot. (or maybe I just got a little lazy ... but we won't let Stan know that!)
Friday morning I was running a few errands and making my way into the office and I got a call on the cell. It was Stan.
Now, Stan never calls me outside of the office unless it is important, so when I noticed his number on the caller ID, my stress level jumped a notch.
"Hey Al," he said in a somber, yet inquisitive voice, "Did you get that literature order done that is due today?"
I paused for an uncomfortable moment and apologetically and humbly replied, "No, I forgot, but I will get on it first thing today when I get to the office...I'm on my way now."
Stan replied, "Allright, well, yeah, it's important to get that done, ya know what I mean, right ... you remember we talked about it don't you?"
It's hard to describe the way he ended the call outside of the words he spoke, but the way he said them is what conveyed the gravity of the situation. He sent a clear message to me, but never raised his voice...the way his tone and inflection came over he phone; ... it was like he was saying, "I know you have dropped the ball here, and I am very disappointed in you and expect you to make this right -- or else."
And therein lies the crux of this post. Stan has a way of conveying himself that makes his employees want to do right...especially when they screw up.
We've all worked for bosses who yell and scream and throw tantrums over such things, and quite frankly, they may well be within their rights to do such. However, people have an amazing ability to see themselves as the "victim" when a punishment is thought to be "over-the-top."
When the victim status is self-assigned, there is nothing but bitterness and anger to follow, and the business suffers.
That's why Stan knows a better way. Stan knows how to leverage the respect of his person, coupled with the respect of his position in order to lead his employees to success.
Sometimes being a leader means you offer mercy when it is not deserved, and you purposefully "act" instead of emotionally "react" in order to boost the morale and productivity of those around you.
Or, as in the case I speak of above, you press a guy's "reset" button without pulling the emergency shutoff switch or tripping the main breaker!
What do you think? Which type of boss are you? ... or what type of boss do you work for?
Comments welcome...