My Friends – Teachers and Leaders

Like many I have close friends, in this case a married couple, who taught for a combined 80+ years. I have known them for 65+ years. I always admired teachers, so much so when I retired I opened a one-man consulting firm to teach. But this is not about me, but about my friends the teachers.

Creating Runway!

They were both brilliant, athletic people. Both with more than average common sense. Their kids taught themselves to read and play musical instruments. Both always said what was on their minds. They were kind, caring. They had/have excellence senses of humor. They were patient but not to a fault. They coached and participated in extra curricular activities. They set high standards for the kids they taught. They demanded respectful appropriate behavior in school. They suffered no fools. They were the greatest example of dedication.

One of them went without a salary increase for years as the area in which he taught granted raises by voting referendums. He never quit. I guess the voters never thought education was important. He did.

They taught two generations. What I always find moving to this day is they yet have some of those two generations stopping buy their home to say hi, have a beer in some cases, and some to just say thanks. And they get to see first hand what their teaching efforts help mold years into the future.

Talk about touching the future…

They clearly touched the future. My friends and leaders!

***** S&E *****

Footnote: I live in a state where it is well known that teachers are underpaid. Where teachers leave the profession as they have issues making it on their salaries. In a state that takes in more than 2.4 billion in lottery revenue — about 30% goes to education. In a state that ranks 37th in education, ranked among all states. OMG!

Bosses Who Don’t Manage

If you are accustomed to a micromanaging boss, it might seem like a dream to have a boss that leaves you alone. But too much of that can also be a bad thing.

Dealing with a manager who doesn’t manage

If your current boss is overly controlling or micromanages you, having a boss who leaves you alone and lets you do what you want might sound heavenly. But professional experience coaching senior leaders with absentee bosses (and research on the topic) says otherwise. An absentee boss can lead to feelings of alienation, job dissatisfaction, and stress.

Why is it important to have an engaged boss?

Available leverage in getting your work done

Provides a testament to your annual accomplishments

Can be a significant factor in advancing your career

Plays a partner role in setting goals and objectives

Assists in managing barriers to accomplish work


Talk with peers to see what their experience has been with your manager. You may find that they feel the same way you do. Is it possible that there are extenuating circumstances that have contributed to their behaviors? It doesn’t solve the problem of a missing boss, but it can help make a challenging situation feel easier if you see that it’s not personal.—And if you do discover it’s just you, this is good information.


Despite the situation, be a communicator!  Keep the boss informed.  If you need concurrence on work, send an email with “RESPONSE REQUIRED” in all caps in the subject line. Make an explicit time-bound request for the support if needed.  Here’s an example: “I need you to review and approve this contract/presentation by Friday or we will not meet the client’s deadline.” 

Persistent follow-up counts. One email may not do it. Be opportunistic about stating the case for what you need when you happen to see your boss. This may seem extremely frustrating, but it beats the alternative of having their absenteeism impede your ability to make progress and deliver results.


Nature hates a vacuum, so see how you can use this opportunity to step into a higher level of responsibility and hone your leadership skills. As you step up to lead, keep your boss informed so that you can make decisions to keep moving ahead. Email is your friend here. For example, “I will be moving forward with this decision on Monday unless I hear from you that you prefer another course of action.” Or: “I saw that this was a problem and I am planning on addressing it with a sub-team later this week. Let me know if you have any concerns and/or thoughts you would like us to consider.”


Work on your internal relationships. When you have mentors or sponsors at the company, you’re much more likely to hear about other potential opportunities (and have advocates when the time comes).  Developed strategies to develop and deepen your network. Create a large circle of allies—cultivate a mentor and sponsors. This will help connect you to additional opportunities and build strong support to lobby for career advancement.


Quitting when you have a bad boss can be hard for many reasons. But if you’ve done what you can to salvage the situation, it may be time to look for opportunities elsewhere.  Two questions to ask: “Am I working at a place that supports career growth? Am I working at a place that will help me learn?” Use these questions as a litmus test: If you can’t check both those boxes in your current situation, you may be best served by working for another boss or company.

If you find yourself with an absentee boss, the unfortunate truth is that it will be on you to make the situation better for yourself. In the corporate world, those who get promoted to leadership positions aren’t always suited to managing people. Hoping your boss will change will likely be a waste of time.

Accept your feelings about the situation, and drum up the energy to employ the above strategies to succeed in your current role. And if that doesn’t work, put your energy toward looking for a position that will give you the opportunity to thrive.

Reference: Dina Smith, Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant. Summarized from:

***** S&E *****


In my corporate career I had 11 different management positions, domestic and international, with 2 global corporations.  And so 11 different bosses. And, since I worked in Human Resources, I had an additional 11 different matrixed bosses.  

Some of those positions covered as many as 13 countries, 19 manufacturing plants and 13,000 employees, some the entire globe, and one, a world region.  So with little imagination one could appreciate the sophistication, complexity, and business savvy of some of my bosses.

This is not about me, but about some of the stuff I learned from them.

From boss #1, I learned about using humor to lessen conflict, the importance of accuracy in writing, labor relations skills, and honesty in negotiations, and compensation processes and systems. And, supporting the community.  Scope: individual contributor.

From the next, the importance of influence, and maintaining morale in a 500 person manufacturing facility and how to keep an even keel in tumultuous situations.  Scope: single plant.

Boss # 3.  Striking a balance between work and family.  And, you don’t always win those corporate arguments.  And the importance of celebrating employee successes at work.  And maintaining a professional presence in the face of diversity.  And masterful instruction in understanding business finances and statements.  Scope: single plant

Next, how a peer manager who becomes your boss, who for reasons not mentioned here, changes from an adversary to a partner.  It is all about teamwork and often the team is what it is and you leverage the strengths and put up with the shortcomings. And how decisions have to be made in the best interest of the corporation and the stockholders, with the outcome sometimes being negative for local employees and their communities.  And, how to manage through that with compassion and empathy. Scope: single plant.

Boss # 5: Managing multiple locations, avoiding the label “I’m from headquarters and I’m here to help”, removing people who are entrenched in the organization and who don’t do their jobs.  How to run a complex multi-location project. Working through the intricacies and frustrations of the corporate political animal. Importance of helping people manage their careers, sponsoring them, and moving them when they are ready.  Scope: seven locations.

Next, working under a boss who has lost control of an organization, is a poor manager and leader, and leveraging internal resources and the greater corporation to get things done.  How to restructure a business, manage product line relocations, and associated, highly complex communications planning and implementation. a Scope: single plant.

Number 7:  Working in an environment with a verbally abusive boss for 2 years; sticking it out for another 5 years and winning the “war”.  You can change almost anything you put your mind to and be free to be creative on your job. How important and appreciated employee recognition can be.  And creating and deploying talent management as a critically important tool and process. And another masterful instructor on understanding business finances and statements, and international business management.  Managing from strategy to implementation to metrics in a complex, matrix work environment. Scope: 13 plants, 3 countries.

Boss 8: How to keep your cool in any situation, lessons on managing through the political landscape.  Scope: multiple plants, 13 countries.

Next.  Another master in business financial management and multi-location, multi-country, international business management to include acquisitions and divestitures.  Scope: multiple plants, 13 countries.

Boss 10: The value of giving people enough space to do their jobs. Managing careers.  Scope: 4 world regions, global.

Boss 11: Working through the ever present, frustrating micro manager.  Boss 12 replaced boss 11. A skilled, masterful leader who gave you freedom and space to do their job. Scope: world region.

All: Most subscribed to and lived by corporate values and ethics across the two corporations.  For most there was only one result when behavior dictated otherwise… zero tolerance.

***** S&E *****  

Help Yourself Help Others…

…quotes on leadership from some very famous people.

They are great to read, but, stop short of contributing to your tool kit unless put into practice.

The fact is anyone can use this advice, there is no requirement to be famous, only a desire for self-improvement and a genuine interest in leadership and leading!

Great “take-aways” for leaders, managers, supervisors or anyone who interfaces with anyone, so I suspect that is all of us! And in one way or another I believe we all have the opportunity to lead in some capacity.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu

***** S&E *****

So simple, some complex… communications!

On several occasions I hired a communications consultant for annual key management team meetings to impress on our management group the critical importance of the skill — communications.

Often the message was a rehashing of the basics as if those are not present then messages (written, spoken) fail to achieve the goal. Consider the graphics below on Role, Process, and Buy-in. Of course the degree of planning would vary depending on complexity of project.

In the end our consultant would make sure the group left with the same thought as a takeaway and consider in their work…”when something goes wrong, 90 percent of the time it can be linked to poor communications”.

***** S&E*****

Part of the Fabric

If you are taking on a new management assignment, if you are a new boss, you have but a short time to make expected changes. “Expected Changes” are usually anticipated by employees and coworkers when the boss’s position turns over.

The longer the new boss is in the job, employees and coworkers settle into the new ways (or the status quo; old ways) and do not look for continuing, significant changes. At that point the boss can become part of the fabric of the organization where significant change becomes a larger and possibly more difficult undertaking.

A new boss may be tested by some who could not convince the last boss to make a change… just be aware as the change may be unnecessary or counter to a direction that the business needs to pursue. Examine the request carefully.

To avoid becoming part of the fabric, as a new boss, make significant changes within the first three months through the first year. Make sure your boss and other bosses affected are on board. That does not mean you need everyone’s concurrence. A participative environment is is important, it helps with building buy-in for change. That does not mean that running the business or department is a democracy! It should not be!

Making changes for change sake is foolish… changes that improve efficiency, performance, morale, and the numbers — perfect!

Never, never, never underestimate the importance of continuous, accurate and all- encompassing communications when planning and implementing change.

***** S&E *****

New Leader’s Orientation

You have a new job… You have 12 people reporting to you, two direct reports and the others reporting to them.


You absolutely need to have a meeting of “All Hands”, your direct and indirect reports, within the first few weeks on the job, notwithstanding who reports to who.  It is a prime opportunity, to set the standards and expectations, win them over, and dislodge any concerns about “the new boss”.  And, it is a prime opportunity to have an open exchange and discussion. Here are some suggested talking points:

  • Roadblocks and barriers
  • Schedule one on one’s
  • Open door
  • Have some fun, humor
  • About setting objectives
  • Expectations about performance
  • Boss’s role and responsibilities
  • Reports role and responsibilities
  • Importance of communications
  • Values and Ethics
  • Career help and assistance
  • Review the company’s behavioral competencies list (if one exist)
  • One-on-one followup schedule

In a much earlier posting, “A Leader’s Leader”, a brief entry was made on traits important to work and performance …. some applicable for noting in the ‘all hands” orientation, some for one-on-one followups. All are good for career coaching, improving performance, and mentoring.

***** S&E *****