MANAGING YOUR MANAGER
This is a “learning memoir”, a narrative that attempts to teach certain lessons about bosses based on my 37-year career, much of it as a global executive with Phillip Morris. I have had an extraordinary series of bosses—extraordinary in the sense that they represent the diversity of the boss spectrum, everything from a brilliant egomaniac to an introverted visionary.
People struggle to understand their bosses, to learn from them and to manage them effectively. They may hit it off with one or maybe two bosses in the course of a career, but the others perplex them or drive them to thoughts of homicide. What if I could create a shorthand system for dealing with whatever type of boss they might encounter? What if I could use my experiences to identify the boss archetypes, describe their strengths and weaknesses and suggest the most effective ways to work with them?
What excites me about this book is that the learning flows from stories—stories of difficult, idiosyncratic and insightful bosses who are instantly recognizable. Everyone in organizations tells boss stories. There is something inherently fascinating about your boss; he or she becomes a larger-than-life figure, in no small part because your boss controls your immediate future. For these reasons, people in business routinely share stories of bosses, such as the one who thinks more about the gifts he is going to bestow on his mistress than the bonuses he is going to give direct reports; or stories of a boss who is obsessively, charismatically visionary and is eloquent in selling that vision. As you might guess, these are two stories from my oeuvre.
Though everyone has heard boss stories, little learning is extracted from them. Instead, the stories are told in anger, in amazement or for sheer entertainment. What I hope this book will do is capture the lessons about bosses that readers can apply to their own work lives.
The core of the book—the key seven chapters—will revolve around my archetypal bosses:
The Navel. As the name suggests, this boss liked to look inward and didn’t spend much time thinking about others. He was very smart, very extroverted and very controlling. One time, he fired my assistant, not because she was incompetent but because he caught her laughing during one of his speeches and he felt this “disrespect” needed to be punished.
The Ugly. His management style wasn’t pretty, but he got the job done. He used fear and intimidation to push a diverse group of highly talented people, and it worked. At the same time, his style was off-putting. When I took an HR job reporting directly to The Ugly, he was uninterested in anything a boss should be interested in—what did I hope to learn, how did I hope to grow—and asked me only one question: “Did they give you more money?”
The Dreamer. Idealistic and adventurous, this boss loved the challenge of trying new things. He relished everything from testing new business models to testing himself in new jobs. Sometimes, of course, it seemed as if he embraced what was new whether or not it was the right thing to do. And he could be introverted, preferring the realm of his own mind rather than conversing with others. If you relished a lack of structure and taking risks, he was an enjoyable boss to work for, though his seat-of-the-pants approach could also drive you a little crazy.
The Good. He was in the center of the boss continuum. He was a nice guy, though not particularly outgoing or communicative. Logical and facts-oriented, he didn’t have much of an imagination and distrusted people’s hunches. He never strongly expressed his feelings about issues and wasn’t good at self-promotion, and this hurt his career. He played his cards close to the vest, and his lack of fire and charisma caused his teams not to get projects they deserved.
The Firecracker. Brilliant, but like many brilliant people, disorganized and mercurial. As a boss, he could be extraordinarily empathetic—he refused to dismiss someone who was supporting her handicapped son, even though her work performance justified her being dismissed—and at other times he could be outrageously impervious to the needs of others. The Firecracker was never satisfied with his direct reports answers and always pushed for better answers—usually he ended up supplying them.
The Kaleidoscope. A skilled situational leader who seemed capable of adapting to every change—at one point in his career, he had dealt effectively with armed Serbians, and he had also been involved in unearthing a dinosaur skeleton in Mongolia. It can be difficult, however, working for a boss who has more faces than Sybil. You never quite knew who would be showing up for work that morning.
The 7th. This is the ideal leader I never had but always imagined and always aspired to when I was the boss. Ideally, the 7th embodies all the good qualities of the other six bosses and eliminates all the negative traits. Perhaps the defining characteristics of the 7th are a willingness and even eagerness to allow his teams to take the lead, to learn from his teams and to put them in a position to be creative and succeed.
Besides the boss stories contained in each chapter, I’ll also include a “lessons learned” section as well as advice (in the form of lists, adages, etc.) that will help readers know how to manage up. In addition, I hope this book appeals to bosses themselves, providing an ideal (The 7th) for them to shoot for as well as an understanding of how bosses can possess different personalities and styles yet still demonstrate a singular ability to lead and learn from their teams.
In short, THE 7TH BOSS is designed to be highly entertaining but also highly instructive, offering readers insights into the world of bosses that more academic or theoretical books fail to provide.