JULY 2020 ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF THE MONTH: The best boss I ever worked for was so good because… How does that relate to how you manage people today?

Linda LaitalaAround The Table, Business, Employees, Leadership, ManagementLeave a Comment


The best boss I ever worked for was so good because …  How does that relate to how you manage people today?

1. I worked as a bar manager in college.  The owner was so good because he cared.  We had some great late-night conversations that went well into the wee hours of the morning.  He was interested and he cared.

2. I was a maid at a local hotel, the owner was a stickler for detail.  After I cleaned a room, he would take a white glove and run it over every flat surface.  He even bounced a quarter off the bed!  He was especially frustrating because he would make us clean our vacuums and cleaning tools at the end of every day.  “You can’t clean with a dirty tool!” he used to say.  I hated it at the time, but I still use some of those techniques today.

3. At Land-O Lakes my boss challenged me every time I brought him a suggestion.  He made me think through all the options from different perspectives; how would it affect the shareholders?  How would it meet their needs?  It forced me to come up with better ideas.
4. When I was going to the University of Superior, Wisconsin, I worked in the mailroom.  One of my duties was running envelopes through the postage meter.  My boss would check over the envelopes and shout at me that there were no zip codes beginning with zero.  Now, every time I see a zip code starting with zero, I think of him.

5. The most fun I ever had was when I worked for Komo Machine.  It was crazy and a lot of fun.  I got to do the things I wanted and needed to do.  The boss liked his people and he was good to them.  It was an environment of young, highly skilled people who were encouraged to go as far as they could.  It was amazing to me.

6. Larson storm door – the vice president was very influential.  He listened to people.  He asked me what I thought about the company and he listened!  I had never had anyone listen to me in corporate America before.  Listening naturally fits with my management style of working with people, pushing them to succeed.  One of my core strengths is helping people succeed and it resonated with me.

7. In 32 years of teaching, I worked under around 13 principals and six superintendents.  There was only one principal and one superintendent I would jump at the opportunity to work for again.

The superintendent was truly amazing.  I only heard her raise her voice one time.  She was upset with us teachers who were being nit-picky and not looking at the big picture.  My guess is she was dealing with her own stress and something we knew nothing about.

The principal came from the cites.  He came because of this superintendent; he had worked for her before.  He was a young man with young children at home.  He was very supportive.  I felt he was truly there to support me and not to take the side of the parents who were dealing with their own issues.  He was fun and not above having a good time.

In my present business, I realize how hard it is to be that leader. I try to be supportive of the staff, even when they get caught up in their own finger-pointing.  I work to focus on the positive, “let’s work on this together”.  I can’t do everything in our business, I have to count on every employee doing their own jobs to make it work.

8. My first job was at the Dairy Queen in town.  My boss was a woman who seemed to genuinely care for us and what was happening in our lives.  She listened and was interested to hear about our lives and family.  She never got angry, she trained and taught.  It wasn’t like she was a friend, but she was a boss who really cared.

I also genuinely care about my employees; I’m interested in what they have going on.  I listen and try to be there for them.  I may have a million things going on in my head and on my plate, but I always try to give them the time they need.

9. The first flower shop I worked in was owned by an older couple. What I remember most is being thanked every day for the work I’d done that day.  The man said, “Thank you,” to every employee, every day on their way out.  At the time I thought it was kind of silly, after all, we were being paid to do our job; he didn’t have to do that.  But this practice stuck with me because I remember how it made me feel.

The former owner of the company I now own didn’t have the greatest people management skills, but he taught me business techniques that I use to this day.

I strive to make each person feel appreciated for what they bring to the table.  I try to be there for them and help them understand how whatever is happening in their lives can carry through to their work.  It’s important to keep the line of communication open.  Oh, and I do try to thank each person individually at the end of each day.
10. I had a hard time with this question because I’ve had some really crap bosses.

During high school, I worked for my best boss at Chicken Unlimited.  At that time, she seemed old to me (maybe she was 45).  She had a quiet way of leading, yet she kept us all in line.  She didn’t get ruffled by all the teen-age pranks, instead, she corrected us and would calmly say, “Hey, don’t be a jerk.”  She was all about leading by example.  We all learned from her example and grew.  Today we’d call her a Zen leader.  I aspire to that.

On the flip side, my last boss created such a toxic atmosphere that he drove me to start my own business.  He created chaos. No work environment should be like that.  Work should be safe, a place you can go, do work you are proud of, and go home.  It shouldn’t add to your emotional distress.
11. The previous CEO of this has been a mentor for me for a long time.  He had a sales manager background and was always taught to find the next replacement for himself.  He was very intentional about it.

My goal with my leadership team is to try to instill in them the confidence to make their own decisions, plans, and goals.  I try to lead so they will see the payback and return on that.

12. I’ve worked at our family business for most of my life.  My mentor and my best boss have been my father.  I’ve always tried to lead and conduct myself following his example.  He’s compassionate and has lots of followers.  However, some people have taken advantage of him too.  I’ve discovered it’s easy to tell someone how to do it; it’s much harder to do it yourself.

13. I haven’t had very many bosses.  I worked at Ford from right after high school until they closed the doors.  My mentor is the President who was at this company before me.  He prepared me well for the role.  The owner of the company has created a family-focused culture that I love.  It makes it easy to work here.

14. I worked for Wells Fargo in California while my husband was in Vietnam.  We were in a small Mexican town.  My boss was very human, he was a Basque (live off the land, strong) I worked for him when I was pregnant with our first child and through raising two girls.  My emotions were running wild and he understood that – he was in tune with people.

That experience helps me stay in tune with how people are feeling and to empathize with them.

15. I had so many bad bosses.  But the boss I learned the most from, I worked twice.  I was a hospital housekeeper in college I met her in the hallway one day and after a short conversation, she put me into the office to work with insurance.  She transferred to another hospital, took me with her, and made me an assistant supervisor.  I watched her.  I was often the youngest one in the room which didn’t sit well with some of the older staff.  She let me run with my ideas.  I learned to let people do their own thing until they hang themselves.

16. When I was going to trade school, I worked in a gas station for a very particular man.  In those days we had to wash the car windows.  He never told us when we didn’t do it right, but he came up behind us and did it over.  That’s how we learned we hadn’t done it right.

Today in my business, I try to lead by example.

17. My best boss was a VP in an organization.  We were opening another office and I watched him in action.  He knew how to make an office successful – it wasn’t about the numbers; it was about people.  He knew what we needed to do.  He taught me people skills and the importance of setting goals.

I make it about employees being successful.

18. Right out of graduate school, I worked for the Mid-Ohio Planning Commission.  The new executive director had been an engineering consultant to the group.  He entirely changed the organization.  He did some team building which brought the people together.  (We used the old NASA Crash On The Moon Exercise).  It made a lasting impression on me.  He was one of the early adopters of computers.  When I was there, I built my own team.

I still use some of the same training exercises with my clients today.

19. The boss I think of was more of a leader than a boss; his name was Brian.  He created an interesting environment in the organization.  Without saying any words, he made us understand his philosophy which was “This is the environment I live in and if you like it follows me”.  He was a naturally magnetic person. He let people shadow him and learn.  He was mentored by a similar style person; they were both magnetic.  You wanted to be in his group and wanted to be like him.  His work ethic produced results.

I’m nerdier and can figure out how things work on paper.  I have to pull myself back to the way Brian was and remind myself that it’s about the human aspects of being a boss and being a real human being.  He was a polar opposite of me.

20. I worked for a lot of men in non-traditional fields.  Most considered me a burden.  I worked under a couple of women, but that was 20+ years ago and a woman in a warehouse job had zero authority.  I’m not my own best boss, but I’m a lot better than them.

21. The gentleman who hired me for MNDOT, WANTED me there, and felt like I could do the job.  He made sure there was a bathroom for women where we were working.  He got promoted and then started his own company, so I got to work under him for only 6 months.

22. My very best leader bosses were when I worked in the fire department.  A core group of the firemen wanted me to be an example to their daughters and wanted me to succeed.  They taught me a fire truck from the beginning to the end.  They taught me how to use every piece of equipment.  They invested in me and trusted me.

23. My best boss was Jan with Minnesota Technology.  There was a great deal of controversy as numerous organizations merged, lots of vying for position.  She selected me as the director to manage the mergers.

She was the first person to coach and mentor me.  She told me my style was mine and I had to do what was comfortable.  I enjoyed and respected her a lot.

24. My previous profession was a hairstylist.  I had two bosses who had the same traits.  They worked just as hard if not harder than I.  I felt their approach was kind and all issues were handled with integrity.

I work very hard on my business today and I hope that my staff sees that.

25. I worked for a woman in the Cities who took the time to teach me.  She showed me everything and gave me responsibility right away.  Blending that philosophy into my own business, I work with my team and give them the authority to do what they know is best.  I love spending time teaching people to be the best they can be.

26. Francis, director of store operations.  It was a whole new area and we were rolling out a new POS system.  The company chose five people with five different personalities to accomplish the job.  We had a lot of responsibility.  We were very different, and she didn’t know any of us.  She accepted us and believed in us. She had a way of talking and making things happen.  Even when she had to give negative information, she got her point across.  We accepted what she had to say.  This was over 25 years ago, and three of us still keep in touch even though we are located across the United States.

The road is easier together,

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