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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