Archive for November, 2010

Be an Arbiter

November 29, 2010


My best boss was also the toughest. He would not let disagreements in the office grow to the point of explosiveness.  As a teller in a financial institution, my best boss would settle disagreements or teach us how to settle those disagreements.

There was another teller in the office and we did not really get along too well. Sometimes personalities are just different. The relationship between the two of us continued to deteriorate and the signs of tension were visible to everyone. Once it got the point where we were barely talking, the boss summoned us into his office. This was as pleasant as a root canal without anesthesia.

He invited both of us to sit down in the conference room and to share what was going on. He wanted us to get the problem out on the table. However, he set some ground rules for how discussion would go.  First off, one of us would share their side of the story and then the other would share their side of the story. Finally, we would work out the differences between the two of us. However, once the other person talked I could not state my position without restating her position in my own words to her satisfaction. And, vice a versa; she could not respond to my position without first restating what I said in her own words to my satisfaction.  This was the hardest thing to ever learn at work. 

It is not human nature to restate the other person position in your own words to their satisfaction before you respond. Normally, in an argument you just restate or scream your point of view repeatedly. This forced you to listen to their point of view and to restate it before you were able to respond.

She said the problem stemmed from a time when I was in a hurry and I seemed to throw paperwork at her station rather than to hand it to her and ask politely. From that moment on, things just continued to escalate. She said, “I did not think you liked me and so everything you did just grew out of proportion.” I told her I meant no harm and could not even remember the time it occurred. That is classic about disagreements, they just continue to grow. By sitting us down and using this technique, it helped me in the rest of my work world because I learned to listen first, and paraphrase before I responded. That was an incredibly helpful tool in my life. It was one of the hardest skills to learn, especially if you are angry with someone, but it helped get everything out in the open and we were able to work together because we learned to talk that way with each other when the situation got tense.



November 22, 2010

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  Mark Twain

 My favorite boss knew the power of a compliment.  One day he was walking by my office. He zoomed passed the door because he was always in a hurry, stopped abruptly, turned around and popped into my office. He said “Good Morning, Julie!  You did a great job on the newsletter article concerning IRA’s.  That was great stuff on the power of compound interest and how compound interest grows over time. Keep up the excellent work; our clients need that kind of information. Compound interest is one of the most powerful tools our clients have and you did a great job showing them that power over a lifetime. Thanks for the article.”

Then he smiled and was gone. Poof! It was like a drive-by compliment. He just stops, gives you a compliment and then he is gone.

When I was promoted to management, I went to him and asked him how he gives such effective compliments.  He said, “I use the power of five S’s.” I asked what they were and he asked me to sit, take out a yellow pad and write down the recipe. 

Five S’s Recipe:

  • Short
  • Sweet
  • Soon
  • Sincere
  • Specific

He went on further to say, “The compliments need to be short, not too long. They need to be nice—that is the sweet part. They need to be soon, because compliments go bad with age. They need to be specific.  I will fire a manager who just writes on the annual evaluation form ‘good job.’ The compliment and reinforcement needs to be specific: reward the behavior you want and continue to recognize it. The more specific the compliment or reinforcement, the more power the compliment has. That leads to specific; if the compliment is specific then it will be more sincere.”

Since I had seen him use this technique hundreds of times, I had many examples of its effectiveness. By using the power of the five S’s that made him one of the best bosses, I had ever worked for in my entire life.

Leave a Legacy by Arnold Sandbothe

November 1, 2010

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”  William Shakespeare

 I have worked for some of the best-known managers in some of the largest organizations represented in my trade association.  However, none of them stand out as my best boss ever.

In fact, my best boss ever was a manager from central Missouri who was in charge of a small financial institution.  Rarely did she have more than six or seven people on her staff at one time.  However, her talent was not in the number of people she led, but in her ability to turn her staff, no matter how small, into leaders and managers.

She would instill in them the belief that they could take over a key and significant role in an organization.  She was able to guide six employees to become CEOs of other financial institutions.  That is why she was the best manager I ever saw.  She left a legacy and helped six other people achieve accomplishments that they may never have achieved without her help.

My wish for all managers is that at their retirement party, people will come up and say, “Because of your belief in me with your coaching, mentoring and support, I was able to achieve…” Of course, you can build buildings and build a lot of wealth, but on your deathbed, the question you will ask yourself if you helped build people.  Did I leave my organization and community better than I found it?

That is the essence of a real manager—a true leader.  It is someone who helped be the difference in the lives of others.  If you can do that, you can leave this world knowing you made a difference.