New Shoes in the Rain

Monday, August 24, 2015

The boss(es) of me

Good Monday morning to all.   Hope you had a great weekend.  Central Kentucky finally got a little rain, but not all that much, so the browning continues locally.

I know that I made a pact with my regular visitors not to discuss my job, and I plan to uphold that commitment to you now.  But the word "boss" came up with my grandchildren yesterday and I started to think about the bosses in my life, mostly past, and how they have influenced and shaped me.  And, no, this will not turn into some offshoot of that movie "Horrible Bosses."  As an aside, I think I read that the powers that be in Hollywood are either going to make or have made a sequel to that movie!

I began my working life as a 16 year old in Paris, Kentucky.  I got a job at a local supermarket, where my older brother had worked after school.  Eventually this store would also employ my younger brother and my mother, of all people, when she returned to the workforce.

The store was owned by an affable fellow who never met a stranger, and who had run a smaller market elsewhere in town before opening this operation.  He was not an especially good or bad manager, and relied heavily on personal sentiment or family connections to hire folks (as my family tree indicates).  But I have to say that I learned a lot from him about how to deal with people, mostly customers.  I worked there six years, and actually worked three years for this enterprise while in college--the owner was willing to work around my class schedule every semester to allow me to get 40 hours per week!

I left that job during my senior year of college.  I had become friendly with a local man whose family ran a funeral home, and he invited me to come to work for him part-time.  So I did.  The work was never for me, as I was never sure how to conduct myself.  And I went to work for him full-time after graduation, as I had not found anything better, but I only lasted a month.  Too much inconsistency of behavior.  He was kind of a screwball when he was not working with the bereaved, but when he was with the families of the departed, he was perfectly appropriate.  So even though I worked for him for maybe six months, I learned the value of appropriate behavior tailored to one's environment and situation.

About that same time a friend informed me of an opportunity with the local radio station, and through this connection I got a part-time job there as a weekend announcer.  The man for whom we both worked was a good man, a little different, but he always treated me well.  When my job at the funeral home was not to my liking, I visited with him, and he told me that he would gladly use me as vacation relief, thereby guaranteeing me eight consecutive weeks of work while I pondered my future.  And he helped me get a permanent job, combining announcing full-time with a sales position.  We all went our separate ways when the radio station changed ownership, but I have to say that I learned from him the value of versatility and adaptability.

These were all good foundation experiences.  I'll quickly note some others for whom I worked:

--Another radio station manager who informed me that "my job is to make sure you do your job."  Yes, he really said that.

--A female enterpreneur who would have you believe that she succeeded through her own ingenuity and drive, but was staked to her original business by her wealth father and then proceeded to use personal relationships to gain entry to businesses.  This woman also sued her own mother during my tenure with her, if you can imagine.

--A very good man who had sold his company (with his partners) to a larger concern, only to have it swallowed up by an enormous corporation.  He hired me in the midst of telling me repeatedly how much he hated his job and the company.

--A serial philanderer who made horrible hiring decisions and left me to clean up his mess.  I did that, and after he had been fired, I was fired, too.

--A succession of nurses who understood too little about business and even less about human relations and interpersonal dynamics.  The last of these asked me once why I didn't drive to more locations in my territory, and then complained about the high mileage reimbursements when I did as she suggested.

--A man who never met me before hiring me.  He relied on his own boss, who was located in the same area where I live, to meet with me and evaluate me.  This boss also seldom mentioned when he would be visiting the area, and would then let it slip in a conference call that he had been in Lexington.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  I have most assuredly learned more about how NOT to conduct oneself or how to treat people from these managers.  From what I can tell, I've developed a workable style of leading and supporting others.  My current position originally was designed as a leadership role, but morphed into a position that does not have responsibility for others a few months into the job.

I'll close with some great words that Ted Turner used to have on his desk:  "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!"

Have a good week.


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