Tribute to a Great Boss

It is my fervent wish for people to be exposed to having a great boss at least once in their lives. I have been fortunate to have two over the years and am working with a great one now. Yet, I went to a retirement party for my best boss last night. I have not worked for him in  over four years, but people came out of the woodwork to attend his farewell party. It was a memorable, joyous and melancholy event.

You see this boss was beloved by many and everyone had their favorite stories and quotes he used over time, many which cannot be repeated in open forum. His gift was giving you the liberty to function in your job. He had a simple philosophy about what makes success in a professional services firm – “hire good people and have them go see your clients,” he would say. He would share with you the goals, make sure you had the resources and coach only when needed or requested. And, his coaching was not overt. He might say, “you might want to consider touching base….”

He gave people opportunity and then got out of the way. That is what we all want. Let us give it a shot. He would also cover your back if needed. I used to tell people he would put up a big umbrella to keep the corporate bullshit from raining down on us, so that we could do our job. The only price he would ask is if he came to us with one of those infernal corporate requests, we needed to respond, because his umbrella could catch only so many shitstorms.

Yet, his greatest gift was he made our job fun. We had many quarterly meetings where the dinner socialization should not be missed. Our group which extended across fourteen states was about as close to family in business as you can get. Last night, we caught up on children, spouses and personal health with our old guard. To hear our laughter rekindled is a high tribute to him.

And, did I say he was colorful? Let me leave you with a few quotes, with some context. There are many, many more of these burned in our memories.

– When turning down a job candidate that others wanted, he said he did not think the candidate was that smart. He said “Everyday, smart people try to pull something over on me; stupid ones don’t stand a chance.”

– When someone was promoted beyond their capability in our firm he said, “When a monkey climbs higher in the tree, it exposes more of its ass.”

– When we merged with a firm that paid its people well and he looked at the comparable data he said, “We are peeing in the tall grass with the big dogs now.”

– On treating people with respect, but not letting them treat you poorly, he said “my daddy told me never to pee down another man’s leg, but don’t let him pee down yours either.”

– On being skeptical, he said “my daddy used to say believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”

I wish for everyone to be so lucky. His retirement is the end of an era. He noted that he was convinced that by socializing with each other, we were even more productive. As proof, his unit was routinely the highest performing unit amongst his peer groups year in and year out. He seemed to know a little about helping people achieve success. Let me close with a quote from an unknown author. A great leader will deflect credit to his people. A bad leader will look to take the credit. He was definitely in the former, even last night as he said working with us was his greatest joy outside of his family.

Happy trails Larry. You are the best.





23 thoughts on “Tribute to a Great Boss

  1. wow, what a great tribute! and fun to read too. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people work well together huh? I hope to have that again some day. I love the monkey’s ass comment the best I think. and I am rather tired of a “teammate” (she doesn’t know how to work as a team) peeing down my leg!! Here’s hoping for a better work life for me! and how lucky for you to have had such a great boss. Thanks Larry 🙂

  2. You were a lucky man to have had such a boss. I like the comment about the monkey! I have seen many a monkey climb too high on the tree and expose his (or her) ass! As an academic I never had a “boss,” strictly speaking. But I have had some administrators who were terrible at their job and some who were outstanding. A great many academics lack people skills, I have found! Fun blog.

    • Thanks Hugh. The monkey comment is a more fun way of defining the Peter Principle. By the way, the specific person in question showed too much of hers and was eventually fired for poor leadership. So, he was not only funny, he was accurate in this case. Take care.

  3. Yes, what a great tribute to Larry, who has surely had a positive impact on many people. Thanks so much for sharing the story of your gathering, and for reminiscing about a great leader named Larry! All of the quotes were wonderful!

  4. I was looking over some more quotes compiled from this boss yesterday. I stumbled onto one I had not heard before. He said, “The only thing that occurs in a pissing contest, is everyone gets wet.” I had to share that one as it speaks volumes about fighting over nothing.

  5. Note to Readers: The keeper of the sayings of my old boss has also retired. We were reminiscing over a few more. When someone he knew caused him some anguish, our boss would say “I did not expect him to come in through the front door and bite me in the ass.” If he ever called you with someone else in his office, he would say, “I got so-and-so here so don’t say anything bad about them.”

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  8. What a nice tribute! I have had a few good bosses and one or two awful ones. Most of them just meh. One, though, stood out. She made work such a joy – and we worked hard – that at times I couldn’t believe I was being paid to have so much fun. She is now struggling with MS and not doing well at all. I think that I will write her a note telling her how much I appreciated her leadership as I was beginning my career. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Janis, did you ever hear back from her? I bet you made her day. It is funny this blog continues to get attention as great bosses are so few. Thanks, Keith

  9. Note to Readers: A good friend and colleague just passed away at a much too young an age of 57. He had survived a couple of bouts of cancer. I mention him here as he flourished under this great boss I reference above. This guy was as smart a person as you will ever meet and exuded passion. He loved to learn and share his new learning with others. One of our mutual boss’ favorite sayings is “hire good people and have them go see your clients.” Wes was good people. The earth is less bright today.

    • Thanks Tanya. I am glad you enjoyed his sayings. I saw him at a funeral the other day. He always lights up when he sees old friends and colleagues.

  10. There are but a few great bosses in the world, the kind who love to see personal achievement by their subordinates, Those bosses are treasures and probably have no idea what amazing and uplifting inspirations they are!

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