Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The good, the bad and the boss I wanna be

Dear Mark

I've been a Manager for several years now at Adobe. I really enjoy the role. I feel that of all my soft skills seem to lend themselves to the role as well. I try to stay current with the latest management trends and buzzwords. I mean I've created synergy within paradigms that align our teams and bring to the table clear goals and countless exit strategies that can help foster organic growth while still being proactive and moving forward which at the end of day is win-win. (reference) That's a management buzzword score of 12 by the way. See, I gotz mad skillz yo! Aside, I'll admit that I completely over use the word "organic" these days. I have to find another way to convey the meaning of allowing my team or individual or process to come to success without forcing it. Every time I say "organic" I can feel my team wince, as does my inner douche meter.

I was recently reading highlights from the book "Good Boss, Bad Boss. How to be the Best and Learn from the Worst." My employer has this cool service that allows me to read highlights, or cliff notes, of recent books. It's a solid way to get the main points and decide if you want to read further. I'm not going for a back-handed compliment here, but I'll say that the book describe many things I aspire to be as a boss. Listening, asking insightful questions and knowing that individuals are different and each person reporting you may need a different approach were some of the main points.

I've been pretty lucky I admit. I've had some really good Managers and an individual who mentors me in managing while at my current employer. That said, I've seen and had some who have failed miserably. They say that the #2 reason a person may leave a job is their direct manager. It's definitely a reason I keep up on trends and do my best to be the value add manager.

All of it made me remember a game that Lavinia and I play while watching TV called "Who would you want to be your boss?" The game is pretty easy. Have a compelling reason why you would want a character from TV, who is a boss, to be your boss. Let me run through some examples and show you the reigning winners of our little contest.

I think the game started years ago when we were watching the first seasons of CSI (the original one from Vegas). William Peterson was playing the role of Grissam. We followed Grissam through his science crime solving ways and started to think he would be a fun boss. Sure there seemed to be weekly danger surrounding him, but we chalked that up to the job. I mean look at how he mentored a young CSI Nick Stokes or kept a veteran CSI Catherine Willows from over running everyone with her years of experience. Yes, for a while Grissam was the boss we wanted.

After this we of course naturally thought about other crime shows and wondered how the TV characters from those shows would do. CSI Miami is pretty well known for the overacting David Caruso as Horatio Caine. I always argued for him being a good boss. He was straight to the point, always had the last word, motivated his team to do really dangerous stuff, he never sunburned in the Miami heat. This was a guy I could learn from. Lavinia busted me on the fact that I just wanted to be on his team so I could work with CSI Natalia Boa Vista and I'll admit that she was partially right. I just really wanted to learn how you could be the manager that takes off his sunglasses all the time, cool. While Lavinia may have defeated my nomination of Horatio Caine, she was equally defeated with her nomination of CSI NY's Gary Sinsie as Mac Taylor. Sure Mac is the hard nosed, get it done, you honest with me and I'm honest with you kind of manager we all want. Some one who has more years of experience in his personality that he/she does years on the earth. In the end, Lavinia just wanted to follow him around the crime lab like a teenager with a crush. The comforting part of her liking older gentlemen is that I seem to be trending that way myself.

So far Grissam was reigning supreme, but we really started thinking about it. We decided that if Joss Wheedon had been an actual TV character we'd chose him for sure. However, we could decide between many of his TV shows. Immediately Giles the Watcher sprang up. I was a big fan of him because he helped teach you how to fight demons with kung-fu. Doesn't everyone want that boss? While Giles is loved and appreciated he is no match for our favorite. Capt Malcom Reynolds of Firefly. The two of us would board Serenity and fly out in the black with this character in a heart beat. His is the ultimate cowboy/sci-fi captain. Hard-nosed and rough, yet caring deeply for his crew. Mal knows well how to build a team when he says "every one's got a job to, so lets get to doing it." If the team is working well together than success follows. In business that may seem low-key, but for Mal it meant not being captured by the Alliance or eaten by Reavers so it's important.

"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand

I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me..."

Mal also scores high on the list for best theme song. While CSI has made liberal use of songs from the Who, the Firefly theme song is best. 

Over the years we have had many candidates and even winners who held their own against them. Some honorable mentions and past winners are worth mentioning. Robert Guillaume's Isaac Jaffe from "Sports Night." In fact we often wondered if Dana (played by Felicity Huffman) could be a candidate. Isaac's character was great, but we curse ABC for canceling it too early to really know. I usually just wanted to be Danny any way. Recently Hawaii Five-O's Capt Steve McGarett played by Alex O'Loughlin seems to be Lavinia's recent candidate. I would say it has less to do with this take-action style of management and more with his six pack abs, even by which I find myself swayed at times. I mean you could seriously chip a nail. I guess in the same vein as that I'm constantly pitching Bones' Dr. Saroyan played by Tamara Taylor. While I argue it is because she is very smart, doesn't get squeamish when things get tough (which in the show is usually dealing with dead body parts but there is an analogy there to work I'm sure), and lets her team contribute by maximizing their talents to create a greater level of success, it's pretty much because she is extremely hot. Sue me. 

While I hope my next re-org will have me reporting to Dr. Saroyan, I think Lavinia and I would both be happy to report to Henrietta "Hetty" Lange, played by Linda Hunt on NCIS LA. No one delivers that look of take caution coupled with make the right choice which is my choice look than Hetty. She's witty, always seems to know what the path to success is and teaches her agents the value of team. She's the current winner of the "Boss we want to report to" contest. Although if Dr. Saroyan has an opening I'll be hitting my network hard for referrals because she's just awesome.

While thinking about what boss we want to report to, I began to wonder about what TV boss I'd like to most emulate myself. I mean I have so many choices. There is J. Jonah Jameson and Nick Fury from the Marvel universe. You could pick from any of Edward James Olmos from Battlestar Galatica or his time in Miami Vice (definitive!). You may hit want to emulate Optimus Prime from the Transformers cartoon. While I act more like Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, I think I've settled in on my choice. I'm sure anyone who works with me will just laugh because the odds of emulating this character are border line insane, but I would chose Jethro Gibbs of NCIS played by Mark Harmon. Is it because he, like me, makes salt-n-pepper hair look amazing? Possibly. Is it because he plays by the rules but will bend them to benefit his team at any cost to himself? Likely. Is it because he can stare down a report and make him/her jump to it on command? Most definitely. All in all he gets results and he gets respect. At the end of the day you can't ask for much more than than.


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