I want to take a brief pause now and look back at my career up until the time I joined MCI. Or more correctly, I want to take a look at certain aspects of my development as a manager and leader along the way.
Throughout my career I had been promoted several times, received regular raises and praise from my bosses, and had taken on new responsiblities. I did most of this on my own because I received very little valuable feedback along the way.
I remember my first Performance Review in Chicago. My boss pulled out a copy of a report that I produced monthly on my accounts. The report was wrong, he had said. And it had been wrong for an entire year.
I was stunned. I wanted to know what was wrong so that I could fix it.
"That's your problem, not mine" was his response.
I checked with my peers. It seems that they had liked the way I did my report better than the old way, so they had modeled their reports after mine.
And we were all wrong.
And it was our problem, not the boss's.
Needless to say, I did not feel committed to that boss or that company. And when I left, I never looked back. Except to steal away one of their best employees to my next company.
In my second company I received numerous glowing reviews. Although at one point my boss said, "You know, you have a little bit of a temper." In reality, that was an understatement and I knew it. I didn't tolerate failure well from myself or those around me.
My view was, "I have high expectations".
My peers and some of my employees thought I was a jerk.
That's pretty much all of the feedback that I received until I worked for the retailer in Washington DC.
One day my boss came to me rather distraught. One of the managers who worked for me was responsible for presenting some rather complex material to a group of our associates. She had done it every couple of months for a year or so and was quite good at it.
But she was ill that day and my boss needed me to fill in for her and make this presentation to a rather large, rather skeptical audience.
If you know me, you know that I speak quickly. In fact, I sometimes speak too quickly, making it difficult for some people to understand me. At the same time, I have always done well in front of groups. I enjoy working in front of groups and for the most part, don't have the same problem with my speed.
Too bad this boss didn't know that.
My boss was very upset about the situation, but I told him not to worry. I would fill in for her.
A few hours later we were in front of this group. My boss was antsy and anxious, although I did not understand why. When it was my turn to speak I got up, engaged my audience, built a solid connection with them, and presented my material. They engaged me enthusiastically and 45 minutes later, I was done.
The next day my boss called me into his office. He had been stunned and pleased by my presentation the day before. It seems he was worried sick about my ability to talk in front of an audience. His peers had been equally concerned. But after my performance they were more than relieved. In fact, they had gone to the CEO with an unusual request. They had discussed it among themselves and wanted to send me to a speech therapist to work on my one-on-one speaking skills. This was unusual because this company did nothing (and I do mean nothing) to develop or appreciate their employees. We didn't even get Christmas cards, much less a Christmas bonus. So when my boss told me the company was willing to pay for me to see a speech therapist, I knew that this was a very big exception to their policies.
It told me that they cared about me. And it made me care about them in exactly the same way.
Till next time.....