Stuff I Learned from Bosses

Like many of you, I’ve had some great bosses over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

We’ll ignore my current boss, since he’s current and all <grin>. I’ll write back in a few years with some of what he’s taught me, because there’s definitely good stuff. But I don’t want him to get a big head and all…
But, take my CTO from, Nicole Valentine. Her main lesson to me? Bosses can be friendly, and their main job is to keep higher-ups from getting too crazy with their human resources. Bosses are the ones who can push back a bit, keep things on an even keel, and maintain sanity. But bosses are also the ones who can challenge their team’s comfort zones, push for a little more excellence – and get it, because they understand balance. 
Prior to that, at Micro Endeavors, John Repko taught me a lot about how to analyze business situations from the numbers and the data. All that was huge in helping me get to where I am, but what sticks in my memory is one little infinitely wise practice: You don’t have to reply to every e-mail. I use my Inbox as a to-do list, so replying is a way to ticking off checkboxes. But sometimes, you can just not reply. Sometimes, it’s the right thing.
Billie Sue Mann and Lori Hilton from Electronics Boutique taught me that, in business, there’s always something useful to be done. This is more than the, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean,” although Billie was big on that Mop & Glow shine, trust me. There’s also time to double-check the paperwork, peruse the “Beat Yesterday” book, or any number of other things. It’s one reason that, today, I can’t easily take a long lunch or just “hang out” at work. I gotta be doing something.
From John, a mechanic I worked with during my time at NADEP, I learned that you work until the break. Even if you can’t really start the next job because you won’t be able to get it done in time for the break, you can start prepping the job after that. Your company pays you, and you both agreed that the pay was fair for the work involved, and so you owe them the value they paid for, just as you’re owed the value you pay for when you engage with a business as a customer. Civil Service cliches notwithstanding, I learned a lot of good work ethic from guys like John (and Walt, and Oscar, and many others) at NADEP.
I learned from some negative examples, too. My very first boss, Randy, taught be that you need to trust the people who work for you. Trust their intentions, and trust their work, at least until they prove that you shouldn’t. From Mark, the CEO of a consulting company in Wilmington, I learned that you can’t force a company to have the culture that you want. You have to lead it there, and you have to pay attention. The stalwarts that have been with you forever aren’t necessarily upholding your culture, and the new guys aren’t necessarily wrecking it.
What have you learned from a past boss that sticks with you today?

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Even though my previous boss was very driven, results oriented and well respected - even he can't control the winds of change from higher up the decision tree.