Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Management - There Is Always Another Guy

Many years ago, when I was a very young manager and grew into more Senior roles when I was at Merrill Lynch, I reported to 8 different Senior Managers in 6 years.   I was averaging a new boss about every 8 months.  Sometimes this occurred because of promotions; mine or theirs.   Other times, these management changes occurred because of terminations; theirs.   And sometimes, the firm just reorganized, which is very common in most companies. 

One of the times I was told I would be reporting to another Senior Manager, I along with a colleague of mine was told to go to a different room at the Conference Center we were at, where I would find my new boss.   Behind the door was someone who had the nick name, Ayatollah added to his last name because he was viewed a crazy man.  Fortunately, this particular boss was fired about 4 months after I was assigned to him.  When all was said and done, I ended up reporting to every Senior Manager in the company during my six years at Merrill Lynch, except the President and CEO.   Some were good, while others were bad; but I learned from all of them.   

I could have allowed all these management changes to impact my success; but instead, I took each management change in stride, stayed focused on my job and succeeded in spite of it all.   What was particularly funny was that each boss had no clue what I did for the company because I worked in Consulting, a division that I was working with others to build and develop.  So, every time I got a new boss, we always started with the same questions.   My new boss would always ask me what the heck I did for the company.  

If he or she lasted that long, I would spend about six months explaining my job function.  About then, my new boss would tell me that I really needed to move from California to our office in New York, since I was doing a lot of work on the East Coast and even in Europe.   I really did not want to move back East, so I always avoided the discussion, knowing that I would end up reporting to someone else shortly and we would begin the whole process all over again.  That is exactly what happened. 

What I learned from all of this is that there is always another guy that I could end up reporting to in a major company.   My rule was be nice and respectful to everyone in the company because I never knew who I would end up reporting to in just a few short months.   This proved to be a pretty smart strategy, since I had so many bosses in so few years and I not only survived all of them, through hard work, my career advanced nicely. 

Then the day came in 1991, when I founded our company as President and CEO.   As the majority owner, theoretically, I no longer had to report to anyone, except maybe God above and my wife.   I did not even have to report to a Board of Directors, which would be common in a publicly traded company.  This was just great; but then I realized that there is always another guy.  

As a business owner and President and CEO of our company, I report directly to our clients and customers and that will never change.  While they don't have the authority to fire me, they can fire our company, which is just as bad, if not worse.   And in many ways, I also report to federal and state tax authorities in various countries, our bankers, our accountants, our attorneys, our suppliers and of course, our employees in an inverse relationship.

The lesson in this story is that reporting relationships come and go and sometimes frequently, but in the end we are each responsible for our own success.  As such, don't use management changes as an excuse for stifling your success.   Learn to work well with all personality styles to grow your career in business.   Enjoy collaborating with others to get things done, no matter how difficult they may be and learn from the experience.   Remember, there is always another guy. 

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