POINT TO PONDER: “The best kind of people (Bosses, Mentors, Friends) are those who come into your life, and make you see the sun where you once saw clouds. People who believe in you so much, that you start to believe in you too. They are once in a lifetime type of people."
STORY LINE: (Originally published on October 10, 2013).The gentleman I am going to talk about had neither a top degree or was a graduate of a top-notch university. What he had was a top-notch heart, a lot of common sense, and a deep understanding of human nature. He had graduated from the school of hard knocks. One of the things he learned was to hold back from flaunting his knowledge (which was plentiful), instead choosing to ask inquiring questions. In turn, we as employees learned through practical experience by doing, making mistakes, and correcting them. Through his approach, he motivated and inspired outstanding performance from his employees.
It seems to me that his management philosophy was learned from sports, which he dearly loved and played through college until he unfortunately injured his knee. He was not just any ordinary Joe but an extraordinary human being who we affectionately called Joe Z. I worked for him between 1977-1980 and again when our paths crossed in the early 90's at another company.
Thanks to the power of LinkedIn, I recently reconnected with him after eighteen years. This time I did not miss the opportunity to thank him for all that he had done for me, so I called him. What he said at the end of the conversation reaffirmed how fortunate I was to encounter such a person in my life. Here is my last phone call with him, which I am recounting from memory:
“Joe, You have made big and significant impact on my life by not only mentoring me (even though it took me a while to grow up and grasp what you had taught) but also you helped in my personal life as well.
You taught me that in order to be a good engineer I need to dirty my hands. Yes, I did clean diffusion tubes with Brian, changed vacuum pumps with Hank and replaced metal targets with Bob, all of them were maintenance technicians. You asked me to do CV plots after cleaning the tubes so I understood if I had done proper cleaning job. And you know what, you were there first few times with us helping so I appreciated that you were the general who had fought the battle and willing to be with your troops.
You came to production area at least three times a day and talked to engineers, operators and technicians. ( This was years before Tom Peters wrote Management by walking around or many books on respecting every human being and their job)
Whenever there was a problem in manufacturing area, you held meeting right at that process station to do problem solving. (Now a days they call it LEAN practice)
When I wrote my first operational specifications, you asked me “What does Chu, Sharon and Jeannie think about it?” Those three were operators. From that day I never had any specifications passed on for signature until I had gotten the operators approval that they understood it. Not a single one of my spec was held up in production manager’s office, him wanting to ensure that the operators would understand what I had written. (Now a days they call it understanding User Experience)
And on personal side: You came to Immigration with me for my Green Card call and when the Immigration officer asked me to leave the country (due to company’s HR error) you went out of the way to call corporate on the east coast for help. Then when I chose to go to India instead of Mexico or Canada to get my visa, you not only paid my entire trip and a month salary, you also let me go to Philippines on the way back to India to meet my childhood penpal. That childhood penpal (since I was 16) is my wife for the last 35 years and wonderful what it has been.
Well that was not it. Later that year (December 78), when I went to Philippines to get married, you and your boss (John E) made sure that my air ticket was covered, salary was on and when I checked out of the hotel, the bill was covered. Then our paths crossed again at another company and even though you were very high up in the ranks in a different department and not my boss, you still sponsored many of my ideas. That made all the difference.”
When I called him and recounted my memories and thanked him, this is what he said. "Good employees are hard to find. So I did everything possible to keep them. Looking for new ones (unknowns) is like betting in Las Vegas.” “So you don’t have to thank me for all these.”
He is long retired but if he ever called me and asked me to work for him again, you can guess what my answer is going to be.
Looking back at my work and life, I have been fortunate to have met great people (starting with parents then teachers, bosses, mentors and friends). But today is for the Bosses.
Let us all thank them and wish them, “Have a Nice Boss’s Day!"