I’ve had lots of bosses and coworkers over my lifetime. A few have been truly inspiring, and a few have been … experiences I wouldn’t want to repeat.
I’ve decided that it’s too much to expect to like every person I work for. But that’s OK, there’s always something to learn. And I’m all about learning.
I worked for the same company for 31 years, and during that time there were five CEOs. Each was markedly different, and expressed unique priorities. Many people would focus on the pain involved, especially when we got into the endless years of downsizing.
Instead, I chose to focus on what we could learn from each person. One was remarkable at financial analysis, a painful experience for a company which had never focused on thinking through the money part of decisions. But it’s possible that we wouldn’t have survived as a company without going through that transition.
Another CEO focused on marketing. Again, we had largely ignored this as a company, being of the philosophy that “a great product will sell itself.” We had to learn.
I can think of many managers from whom I’ve received valuable insight. One gave me the kick-in-the-butt that I needed to focus on my management skills. Another helped me realize that it’s all about team achievement, not individual results.
So many valuable things over the years.
I can think of three very painful times, though. For the first, my boss was trying to teach me about working with partners inside our company and outside. It was fun and challenging, but also very stressful. From that, I ultimately came to realize that my best satisfaction and greatest value came from individual and team coaching.
The second boss had a very short conversation with me, during which it became clear that I had no future working with him. It was a rough couple of months until I found my next job. But honestly, that change also introduced me to new opportunities that I’d never seen before. And his communication style taught me a lot about how not to deliver tough news to an employee.
The third period was where I ultimately lost my job with this company due to massive layoffs. From this manager, I learned that this is even more painful for a manager than it is for an employee, and how to treat this situation with sensitivity and human caring.
I talk with many people who don’t get along with their managers, and I’ve had the opportunity to coach some of them through difficult career transitions. Believe me, it helps to adopt a positive attitude. One way to do that is to focus on what you’re learning: about management, about the company, and about yourself.