The Good Boss – Part II

I had a boss once, Ted, and we were in a critical business meeting where tempers were flying and agitation was high – things were clearly getting personal between my boss and his boss.

Boardroom dynamics are usually so professional and staged, much like a business dance. You say, I agree, and others add comments, and then we question, debate a little, drop in a joke to keep things light, and giggle to relieve tensions. We are looking for the best business outcome – Nah, that’s B.S. – we’re staging our careers!

The situation I described above was so much worse. I was surprised to see Ted disagreeable and digging in his heals over a minor issue – the timing of some meetings with clients. We had agreed these meetings were important and decided who would be there, what the message was, and the plans for communications. Ted’s team was going to be on point, for many of these meetings. His boss, was getting mad – he obviously didn’t understand Ted’s stance either. Many of us, having participated in the discussion earlier, went quiet. We watched as they both fumed and the situation turned into a CLM for Ted.

CLM = Career Limiting Move!!

I’m thinking “Ted, chill man, we’ll get through this.” He was articulate in his arguments, and he made a lot sense for both the business and goals we had set. His boss, however, listened but his eye contact was turning into glare! Why is Ted, seemingly so determined, bringing this negative energy which was verbally pointed and directed at his boss – the HPP?

HPP = Highest Paid Person in the Room (in some boardroom dances we know what song is being played and how it ends). This was different, and Ted was not letting it go).

Two observations.  

  1.     When things get heated – really heated, outside of the ordinary – these are often face-saving issues. Something was really bugging Ted, and it wasn’t really about meeting times.
  2.     Ted, was a good guy. Strong-willed, fair, smart, and highly liked as a leader. My leader and my friend. We fought for and with him. I wasn’t sure the ‘why’ of this particular boardroom exchange getting out of control.

Ted calmed down after his boss launched another particularly challenging and I’m-mad question at Ted. Before Ted answered, he paused and told a story. His past year was full of commitment to the company involving a tremendous amount of travel and after-hours efforts. His story was one of incredible loyalty to the company, his boss, team, and family. That balance was out of whack for the past year, as his weekends had become travel and work, with very little time for his family. Ted wanted to support everyone, and said, “I have one specific time with my wife and friends that is very important to me, and that’s church on Sunday morning.” (We had several client meetings at major conventions being planned for several Sundays that year). Ted, said, “We seem to dedicate all our waking comments and thought around these intellectual issues – what do I say to my wife?” How do I explain this again, for another year? When is this going to stop. I have tried, and obviously not successfully, to share my belief that Friday and Saturday meetings are fine. Can’t I be home on Sundays? I really don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I seem so poor at getting you to understand how important this is to me.”

His boss was stunned, quiet and not sure what to say.  Nothing was said, except someone said “Let’s take a break.” We did. And quietly we applauded Ted in the hallway and kitchen – for years!  He defined a better culture – for us all. We re-booked those Sunday meetings – to all our benefit. Soon after that, we stopped all Sunday meetings across the company and we stopped Sunday travel.  We started and ended meetings on Tuesday and Fridays.  Ted battled for meeting times and won a war bettering our lives.  

You Rule Ted !!! Thank-you!

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