Saturday, June 4, 2011
The Best Boss I've Ever Had
Actually, I’ve had two best bosses. Except one wasn’t a boss.
I had just graduated from college and joined the staff of the Beaumont, Texas, Enterprise as a copy editor. My “welcome to your new job” consisted of “here’s your chair and typewriter, and here are three pages for layout; don’t forget the headlines.” Today it would be called total immersion.
The staff seemed nice enough but was too busy to worry the new kid. When I had my pages done and headlines written, I rather tentatively asked where I should take them. “To the back shop,” was the reply. I did find the back shop, and then returned to my desk to find more pages waiting.
When it was dinnertime (which we called lunch, because our day began at 3 p.m. for the morning paper), one of the copy desk members – the guy designated as No. 2 – walked to where I was sitting and asked me to come to lunch with him.
His name was Richard, and he was about 12 years older than I was. He wasn’t my boss, but he did what a boss should – helped me learn the ropes. At dinner, and we had lots of dinners together, he told me about the paper, what to do and what to avoid, what reporters were totally reliable and what reporters weren’t, what to expect from my fellow copy desk editors, sources I could use to verify information.
I knew him for six weeks. One day he told me he was giving notice and going to one of the newspapers in Dallas. But the time he spent investing in me for those six weeks helped me – and the newspaper – enormously. Because six weeks after that, because of staff turnover, the new kid had become the new No. 2, and effectively No. 1 because No. 1 had a drinking problem.
Fast forward 10 years. I was working in St. Louis, and had just been promoted to a new position in a business division. My boss, a guy named Tom, was totally straightforward: “You should know what you’re doing. If you don’t, ask. If I’m not around, do what you think is best. If you make a mistake, I’ll tell them I authorized it.”
Then he threw me into the pool. And I figured out how to swim. He was always around with a life preserver if I needed it.
He was much like Richard at the Enterprise. Tom had been a reporter for years before becoming a PR guy, and he and Richard shared that no-nonsense, damn-the-torpedoes-full-steam-ahead attitude. I worked for Tom for a year until they transferred him into the corporate division.
Both Tom and Richard knew how to enchant employees. They certainly enchanted me, and made an enormous impact on my professional life.
Over at The High Calling, we’re reading Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. This week’s discussion is on “How to Use Pull Technology” and “How to Enchant Your Employees.” To see more posts on the book, please visit The High Calling.