I had breakfast this morning with one of my hero’s, Dave Shaw. He also used to be my boss when I worked with AOS, Niagara’s leading document and technology company. This is not a plug for Dave or AOS, I mention breakfast because as I was driving away I was struck by how blessed I am to have had opportunity to work with the folks that I have.

Remarkable is the experience of working for someone who genuinely cares for the people that work for and with them. They may have not used the process tools that I have outlined here to get to the place where concern for others comes naturally. But the results are the same. A work environment that is a pleasure to get to.

During my  career I have had the great honour of having six such bosses. And a couple not so much! But the six, while all being different, each displayed the same traits of caring. How can we grow together, what can I do to help you, look at the great job Bob is doing, passing the responsibility for success, corralling the negative issues for themselves, building the concept of team. These are just some of the traits I have experienced.

Accepting that there may be a real reason behind a poor performance and trying to find what it is to be of help, not just to improve performance but because there is a person behind that employee number and percentage of quota takes strength in these days of rough economic times. Hitting todays number can be all the matters for some. But an environment of nurturing employee growth pays off in longer term rewards. As I keep reminding my teenage daughter, honest hard work always pays off. That effort combined with honed skills pays off well! These managers helped grow the skills while keeping the effort focused.

We can’t all be the boss. Some of us are simply built to be better at taking direction than giving it. That is no slight, as the most powerful and successful of people recognize that they need to take direction. Take the Pope for instance, leader to over a billion Catholics yet totally subservient to the direction of God. Lets use an example from the business world. The CEO of General Electric leads one of the world’s largest diversified companies. Yet he is responsible to the shareholders from whom he must take direction. He is bound by law to place their needs ahead of his own.

For those of us at the bottom of the food chain keeping this principle of placing others needs ahead of our own sometimes gets lost. Resentments and fears can gradually build within us and eventual overwhelm our wellbeing. Once started down this road we spiral quickly into a funk that can be hard to get out of. Work becomes a place where we feel hard done by, taken advantage of or just plain used. Even when working for the best of bosses I have had periods when I was feeling this.

When fully consumed my day tended to go like this; I wake up in the morning and immediately start grumbling about the sales meeting or the cold car or the lack of good coffee in the house. When I get to the office I can’t sit at my desk for long. I wait impatiently for the coffee truck for a bad cup and two stale doughnuts, I get up for a smoke every five minutes, chat about last nights game and generally avoid anything work related. When my boss points this out I think something rude and grab my stuff and head out on a cold call mission. But I am so agitated that my boss would have the gall to suggest to me that I was slacking, well I’ll show him.

This would never go well.

Today I wake and wonder what I can put into life. Who can I help. What value can I be to someone. It may not be business related. I just need to set this as my headspace. And then my day goes well. It also allows me to take direction. Without asking why. If I am to be of help but then need to have the director explain why I am doing this helpful action generally, this is not helpful. So I place myself in the service of others. And in doing this I show I am worthy of taking even greater direction. Which may mean growth in my position at work. Maybe even the extent of being asked to lead. Which just means taking direction from higher up the chain!

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