Friday, April 15, 2005



Part Three

As Dad would probably have phrased it, he had “.. people skills out the butt!” (If you had told him he was uncouth, he would’ve rejoindered, “What’s all this couth crap?” Daddy was a great believer in letting his audience determine the appropriate vocabulary).

In more socially-acceptable terms, Dad fit the definition of a Diplomat: “Someone who can tell you to go to hell, and do it in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.” Very persuasive man. My mother used to point at me and tell her friends, “He’s descended from a long line I never should’ve listened to.”

We never spoke of it, so I don’t know whether it was instinct, or the fine art of watching, listening, and drawing conclusions from the best and worst of bosses he encountered over the years.

I never really got a chance to watch Daddy in action until I was almost out of grammar school, and not much of that. I do remember that, whichever job I accompanied him to, people above him and below him seemed genuinely glad to see him. The only job he was fired from was that stockroom job at Marshall Field’s.

Daddy went into no job that I know of where he wasn’t made a foreman or supervisor or team leader in almost nothing flat.

A taste of Dad’s style can probably be gleaned from his time at A&P. His crew was almost all eastern European immigrants. To hear Daddy carrying on with them, you could swear you were dealing with a xenophobic bigot: “You dumb Bohunk, I said there, not there!” What separated him from the prejudiced herd was that, first, they gave back to him as good as they got: “Crotz-eyed bustard .. that you should have said in first place!” Secondly, he and Mom were always guests of honor at high family functions: wedding receptions, etc., and everyone could relax and have fun with him.

He also wasn’t afraid to pitch in on the physical work when necessary, either. Dad was a believer in the old business adage, “Nothing is impossible to the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.” Pitching in is the best way to NOT ask the impossible of your people – keeps your employees from trying to BS you about the difficulty, too.

Other pointers to good management:

Take care of your people and they will take care of you .. AND your company.

Praise in public – truly chew ass only in private.

Make the rules simple, enforce infractions consistently and quickly and appropriately.

If Daddy had taught me nothing but that list, he would have deserved being immortalized by me, because I was known as a damn good supervisor and manager in my day, and I did it by following those guidelines.

But he taught me much more than that. He taught me compassion for the underdog. He taught me to look for the humor in a situation. He taught me empathy.

I’d say Dad did a pretty good job on me for a guy who went through my teen years wondering why I was carrying a drum down the field at the game, rather than the ball as a quarterback.

At least we ended up understanding each other pretty good.

Hope he was pleased at how his son turned out.

See ya again, one of these days, Dad.


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