However, it’s not until your own child enters the workplace, that you become ultra-critical of leadership skills, managerial approaches and staff interaction. Hence, I came across the best boss I never met.
A reflection of my age, one of my ‘worst’ bosses was one of the news editors at the Birmingham Evening Mail, my first professional employment. With a cigarette constantly hanging from the side of his mouth and an overflowing ashtray at his side (yes, you could smoke in the office as well as in pubs and restaurants in those days), he would bark orders across the newsroom. Even the most senior of reporters would leap 10 feet in the air as soon as he opened his mouth and questions like ‘what the f*** do you call this?’ were not uncommon. He was, without doubt, a caricature of the archetypal news boss. However, you couldn’t survive in that environment without learning resilience and for that, I am forever grateful.
My favourite boss was also my first female manager whom I encountered when I made the move from journalism to PR. I had picked up some bad habits from the newsroom, namely swearing, drinking and smoking, although I ditched the latter some years ago, and was delighted to discover a boss who was pretty much on a par without ever having stepped foot in a newsroom. Chain smoking jaunts up to Manchester, stopping off at my dad’s pub for lunch (always chips despite always being on diets) en route to clients and drunken nights of team ‘bonding’ characterised my first years in PR, she in her late twenties and me just coming up to my mid-twenties, perhaps my experience isn’t that dissimilar to people of my age. She’s still a PR boss although I am sure she has adopted a much more mature management style. And as an aside, just in case our then big boss who still remains her senior, is reading, we were very well behaved with clients and looked after them admirably.
The boss I most admire was a director in automotive retail and was as far removed from an Arthur Daley salesman character as you could imagine. Mild mannered with a ruthless streak often found in exceptional business people, he was fair, open, honest and trustworthy. He knew everyone’s name, despite being responsible for a multi-franchise dealer group of some 50 businesses at its height, I never once heard him raise his voice, but only a fool would take the p*** and whilst he would always socialise, you would never see him three sheets to the wind, unlike the rest of us! When he had an uncharacteristic ‘fit of pique’ (a phrase I still use to this day) accusing us marketing managers of being nothing more than glorified administrators, he apologised but did not waiver from his point that he wanted us to be more like account managers and consultants rather than the conduit through which the dealer principles would have their marketing wishes met, no matter how expensive, unworkable or ridiculous. He was, in all fairness, the making of many of us and his legacy is apparent with a few of us running our own businesses and others in top jobs with premium manufacturers.
My eldest daughter wants to be an army vet and any parent who has the misfortune to have a child with ambitions of gaining a place at vet or med school will be well aware that not only are the odds stacked against your off-spring, but you have to jump through the most extensive of hoops if they are even to stand half a chance of an interview let alone secure a place and that comes mainly from undertaking mammoth amounts of work experience (that’s another story)! As such, she managed to secure a job as a yard hand at the Horse Trust where ex-military and police horses retire (incidentally home to the late Sefton, the horse which captured the nation’s heart after the Hyde Park bombings). It was a win-win, delivering much sought-after experience the vet schools demand and a pay packet. The win-win-win came in the form of discovering the best boss I never met.
- He’s tailored her personal development to her ambition
- He’s flexible, allowing her time off to attend army cadet camp, ice skating competitions and two holidays last year and she filled in when others were off
- He understands the pressures of exams insisting both my daughter and another girl did not work the busiest weekend on the Trust’s calendar because it was slap bang in the middle of exam season
- He ensured she met and worked with the Trust’s regular vet
- He made sure she was on site when RVC students attended with their vet mentor to undertake a specialist procedure
- He wrote her a glowing reference as part of her vet school application
- He’s promised her additional training and a qualification which enables her to transport animals despite knowing he will lose her to university either this year or next
I am sure when my daughter reaches the age when she recounts her bosses, be they the good, the bad and the downright ugly, he will maintain his position as one of the best.
So who was your best boss and why? And who was your nightmare boss? Just don’t name and shame, no matter how tempting!
You can find more about the Horse Trust on their website.