What I Learnt From My Boss(es)

We come across more people condemning their bosses than giving praise. We heard them saying, bosses are insensitive, demanding, fierce, unreasonable, strict, unfair, stingy, so on and so forth. Some said, bosses only know how to give instructions and assignments, issuing warning letters and worse, clock-watcher (who’s late this time? who’s leaving early?).

Whichever type your boss is, they have come a long way to be who they are. Successful companies are not built overnight. I think a company has got to go through growing pains for between 6 to 10 years before it finally matures. Activities during these roller coaster years are what shaped the business owner to who he/she is today. It is from these experiences that we could learn one thing or two from our boss(es). Tested and proven! Real life! Hands-on experience! All we need to have is an open mind, enthusiasm, and a brain like sponge. However, if you are happy with what you are doing and where you are, not a wee-bit ambitious, then, sit comfortably at your seat to just clock in and out.

Bear in mind that not all bosses are highly educated, not even a Diploma, Degree, Master or PhD. Some became successful out of continuous hard work, cracking their brains through trials and errors. Not all are born super smart but they become street smart over the years of experience while building successful empire out of blood, sweat and tears. There are bosses who are well qualified with fancier credentials. No matter how and what got them to the top, they must have gone through at least, the necessary basic requirements for them to be the “chosen ones”.

Being a boss is nice to look at but it’s not an easy pill to swallow as he/she has a huge block of responsibilities on the back to be carried around at all times. They don’t work by the official working hours or days. Every action they take, they know, will have rippling effect on the lives of their employees and families. The stake is always high. Whatever decision they make, it doesn’t have to suit you alone. Fact is, as a boss, he/she can’t please everyone.

Therefore, if you aim to climb the corporate ladder to higher posts, or to become your own boss, now is the time to learn from your boss(es). Open your eyes and tune in. Copy and improvise the good but learn from the bad so that you won’t repeat the mistakes when you are the boss one day. It won’t hurt to offer to take on more responsibilities so that you can learn from the boss directly. How else can you learn?

I am not a boss to anyone now, but I am a boss of my own time and work. I had the privilege to work with successful bosses throughout my employment history and also while I worked with some seniors and now with fellow partners. Here are what I learnt from these people :

* Display a positive work attitude, smile and take care of self-image, that includes my car! I make sure my car is always clean and tidy from inside out.

* Be observant, enthusiastic and learn fast. I am accountable for my own action. Don’t waste time on office gossips or people’s personal problems while at work.

* When clueless, ask for clarification then follow what’s been taught. Smart people ask questions. It is dumb to try to act smart.

* Continuous education to further enhance my knowledge and skill, even if it means paying from my own pocket. After all, knowledge and skills are my own asset.

* Be optimistic, confident, friendly and a sense of humour; make a person a good company to be with.

* Don’t bring Personal problems into the office. Leave them at home to be dealt with after work.

* There is no shortcut to success. Just work harder and be smarter. It’s more long-lasting.

* Always maintain good working relationship with colleagues, from the tea lady to the bosses. No need to be arrogant. Greet everyone I meet in the morning or pass positive comments. By doing that simple exercise, I might make someone’s day.

* Negotiate for what it’s worth. Dare to ask for the well-deserved raise, and in some cases, convince the boss that I am ready for added responsibilities. All I need to do is “Ask”. At least, I get the chance to speak for myself.

* Don’t leave my fate in other people’s hands. It should be in mine, always.

* Be diplomatic when pointing out bosses’ mistake, do it without audience. Making constructive criticism is indeed an art! It reflects one’s maturity and professionalism.

* Put things down in writing to avoid future disputes. Record important decisions or instructions will be better than trying to dig the cluttered brain for data.

* The right and wrong techniques of presentation skill.

* Respect has to be earned.

* Be a step ahead of others, including your own boss! Always provide solutions to problems when speaking up. Even if it’s not the right one, at least I tried.

* Not to feel inferior when faced with heads of companies or someone in a more senior position. All humans are equal, in a way or two. They are great at their works but I am the specialist of my work.

* Take care of my own backyard by performing my job well first, before criticising others about theirs.

* Systematic approach to completing a big project, right from pre-production, critical path to conducting post-mortem at the end of it. One will not stray too far off from the work path.

* Do the first thing right first! When the head is right the body and tail will follow accordingly.

* I understand that I only have the power to influence but not control over people’s mouths and minds. Tolerance is the key values to avoid falling victim to prejudice, jealousy, office politics, etc.

* God bless us with the gift of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to share it, for He will provide some more. That’s the art of giving back.

* When I see something worth doing, copy, improvise and act on it. Grab the chance when it presents itself. Always find ways to improve myself.

* To read the fine lines and between the lines.

* Develop my own personal work ethics. What I do and don’t do when performing my job responsibilities.

* When in need of help, not to be afraid to ask. You either get a “yes” or “no” answer. Some issues can’t be solved alone. Asking for help doesn’t mean one is weak, but smart enough to leverage on others.

* If we think we are great, someone else out there is greater; if we think we are so smart, someone else somewhere is definitely smarter than us; if we think we are worst off, someone else could be worse than us. Therefore, be grateful and stay humble.

* When we do good to others, do it unconditionally. Don’t expect anything in return.

* A relationship that is built on results alone will not last. The cheer will subside as soon as the desired result stops showing up. I recognise that there are up and down times. Nothing is permanent. Stay hopeful.

* Everyone goes through some career or performance slump time. It is okay to seek comfort in the slump but decide on a time frame (soon), to pick my butt up and rise again.

* Do not bad mouth former or current boss(es) or colleagues. It reflects badly on ourselves. If we don’t have anything good or constructive to say, just shut up.

* It is so easy to judge our boss(es) and complain about them….till one day we are on their hot seats, we then realise that, what we went through is nothing compared to what they had to go through, daily.

* Much as we want to get things done our way, our time, we can only do so much with a pair of hands and legs. We must learn to delegate and empower trusted colleagues or subordinates to carry out some of the tasks. The fastest way to learn is to be given the opportunity to perform the tasks!

* Carry a notebook at all times to write down important things.

* Put my business blueprint on paper; never store it in my memory. We are visual people – an effective way to see my short/medium/long term plans and to chart my progress.

* If we continue to do the same things and expect different results, it’s called “Insanity”. Change the approach and we may get the results that we have always wanted.

To all my former bosses and seniors, I am forever grateful. Without you, I can’t be who I am today. Experience shapes one’s character. I am so blessed!

I hope you learnt as much from your boss(es) too. If you can’t think of any, be objective and think deeper. You can learn from his/her good management style and you can also learn from their mistakes. All the best to you!

~ Alice N.


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