Years ago, I worked for someone, who worked for someone, who worked for someone, who worked for someone, who worked for someone else. There were even more people farther up the food chain, but that’s as far as I could see from my lowly post.
I didn’t much care for my boss, and as far as I can tell, he didn’t much care for me. But that didn’t stop him from requiring my weekly attendance at a private meeting during which he would ask me what I thought should be done to improve the company, and I would respond with plenty of ideas, some of which actually made sense.
Over time, I noticed that quite a few of my ideas were being implemented, and I began to feel proud of my contribution to the company’s success. Finally, one day, my boss left the company for greener pastures, and I went in to talk with his boss about moving up the ladder, too.
“Sure, I could promote you,” I was told, “but you never have any ideas for making things better around here.”
Dumbfounded, I immediately pointed to this and that implemented idea that was mine, but his initially quizzical look turned disbelieving.
“Those weren’t your ideas,” he told me. “They were his.”
And so it was that I became known as the guy who stole ideas from the real “idea guy.”
Two things came out of that experience. One: I wound up working somewhere else. And two: I vowed that when I became a boss some day, I would remember all of the unfair things that were done to me, and I would do things the right way.
After a few more fruitless stops along the corporate highway, I received my chance to be “boss.” You know, in many ways, it’s harder than it looks.
Even when I’m convinced I’m being fair, it’s not hard to find someone who disagrees. Often, my decisions are sure to make someone unhappy. Even not taking action has its own cruel set of repercussions. In fact, I’ve probably created my own cabal of employees who can’t wait to become boss themselves so they can really do things the right way…
But I still like being on this side of the steering wheel rather than the other one.
And there might be better things ahead for me, too: I heard that my first boss is now head of all Internet activities for a huge national company, and I’ll bet my “thank you” check for helping him along is already in the mail.