Good Bosses and Bad Bosses

August 31, 2006

In a recent podcast, Jack & Suzy Welch consider the following question:

Would you rather work for a good company with a bad boss, or a bad company with a good boss?

Their answer was to go with the first, because bad bosses will get found out eventually and the company will get rid of them, and then you’ll have a good company. Suzy made the caveat that “there are probably less good, healthy, functioning companies out there than we would hope for”.

While this probably makes some sense at a larger company, I don’t know that it makes as much sense at a smaller one – in my experience, the smaller companies I have seen have a larger tolerance for bad bosses – this is especially true at startups where the founder is still in place (it’s known as Founder’s Syndrome).

Somewhat in agreement with the Welch’s, I’ve always believed that people don’t leave bad companies – people leave bad managers (no, that has nothing to do with me leaving nCircle – the last two managers I had there were the two best of my career so far). That belief has made me work hard when I’ve been in charge of a team to try and ensure that I’m doing a good job and supporting my people.

I have always believed that management is a responsibility that can be measured by a single factor: staff retention. I have seen managers in terrible companies who had incredible retention because their people believed in them and knew that they were learning and growing. And I have seen the opposite – managers in relatively strong companies with huge (100% and higher) turnover in their departments because they ignored the needs of their teams.

I’d like to say that I have always been the first manager, but I know it’s not true – it’s hard work to do management and leadership well, and nobody’s perfect. But it’s something that I believe strongly in, and the successes in that area are some of the ones I’m most proud of.

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48 Days…

August 30, 2006

I recently read an incredible book that I think that everyone should check out. It’s called 48 Days to the Work You Love. It’s one of the first books that I have read that really puts a different spin on job hunting – Dan looks at job hunting very much as a sales process, and uses the normal tools of sales people to help get jobs.

It’s funny – I found this after I was already in the interview process for my new job, so I didn’t get a chance to try this out (not that I was looking).

The part of the book that was most powerful was the idea of “finding a calling” rather than finding a job – the question that you can’t escape asking when you read the book: “what is my calling on this planet?”

What am I here to do? What’s my purpose in life? Am I living that purpose each day, or am I spending my time “majoring in minor things”? (to use a Tony Robbins-ism).

These are questions I ask myself each week during my weekly review process to ensure that I’m staying on track.

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The One Career Mistake that you Should Never, Ever Make

August 22, 2006

I hesitated over the title of this entry, because there are a lot of dumb career mistakes that you should never, ever make. But there’s one that I can think of that is more egregious than most, and many people make it without thinking about it. I don’t remember where I learned this one, but it’s one of those things that I have learned that has always made my career a little smoother than it probably would have been otherwise:

Never, ever, ever, ever get on the bad side of human resources.

That simple.

I’ve seen people do it, and it’s almost always just about the worst thing that they can do – their life becomes more and more difficult. This is especially true as the company gets smaller – the person who runs HR almost always has the ear of someone important, and you’d be better off wearing a sign that says “I hate my career” than get in a fight with the head of HR.

It’s funny – sometimes the simplest rules are the most profound.

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