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.