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Four Words That Showed He Wasn’t Really A Leader

October 26, 2017

Because I’m the boss, Rodney

Okay, it was actually five words, but it was really the first four. I’d been in my role about two years. I’d been reporting to Aaron for about six months. We were having a discussion about how to approach a particular request the client, the client I’d been working with successfully for two years, had made. It’s been a few years. I don’t remember the request. I do remember the meeting.

I was explaining how I wanted to approach the request. My manager disagreed. He thought we should take a different approach. Based on the two years I’d worked with them, I didn’t think it was going to work. He was insistent.

We need to do it this way. I appreciate your input, but this is the way it needs to be done.

Wait, why are we doing it that way instead of the way that I’ve been doing it successfully for the last two years?

Because I’m the boss, Rodney.

And that was it. He played “the boss” card, not because it was a better idea, but because he was in a position of management.

I’ve spent a lot of my career focused on how to motivate employees and coworkers. I’ve read countless books on the subject. Sometimes the books contradict each other. But, I enjoy getting multiple perspectives. I’ve lead people. From small teams to a small company. I’ve been a “player/coach.” Tasked with leading coworkers without any formal authority. I’ve been company president, with the power to hire and fire whom I wanted.

I’ve discovered that the way to motivate people is the same whether you are the guy at the top, or just another worker bee. The key is service.

One Christmas eve I was at work with a coworker, Dave. It was a small startup focused on custom web sites. I was a businesses development guy and Dave was just one of our dozen programmers. We had a committment to have a working beta of our code ready on January 2. We were a long way from being ready. Dave and I had better places to be on Christmas eve. I had kids at home, he had a wonderful wife and a dog.

But, there we were slugging away at the code. I’d find bugs and Dave would fix them. Dave had a manager. He was VP of development. (We were small, but we had a lot of titles.) His manager wasn’t there Christmas eve. In fact, his manager was planning a very involved vacation for the week after Christmas that would take him and his spouse to the Carribean. The guy had been planning it, on work time, for weeks.

Dave and I didn’t really talk abou this manager. It wouldn’t have done any good. We ended up taking Christmas day off and then working 12-14 hour days until New Years. On January 2 we delivered a working Beta to our client. A few months later we spun off the product and I took over the new company. By then, Dave had shown his worth in the company. I asked Dave to come with me to our new venture.

It was an easy sell.

I have stayed up all night with my desktop engineers as they built out a training room that had to be ready at 8:00am the next morning for a client visit.

Rodney, there’s not really anything for you to do. We’ve got this.

Yeah, I know. Maybe I can carry out the trash and vacuum.

If you want.

Later, when I’ve asked those engineers to put in long hours, they know that I put in the time as well. I’m not asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do. If you want your people to follow you, you must show them you are willing to put in the time and take our the trash.

Oh, and the request the client was asking for? Yeah, we tried it his way. After it failed, I did it the way we should have done it in the first place. He’s no longer my boss.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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