A variety of stories about former managers have come up over the last few weeks.

Like the one from my days at Little Critters when one of the store co-owners explained that the best way to deal with phone calls from irrational customers who won’t let you solve the problem is to hang up the phone while YOU are talking to the customer. The trick, he explained, is to to talk through your sentence while hanging up rather than build your voice to the hang-up because noone believes you would hang up on yourself. He argued that it helped reset the conversation when they called back. “We must have been disconnected.”

Or Kevin Gratton at Agnew who was pleased with himself when he upsold a cross-dressed man buying high-heeled shoes to get a matching purse.

These stories led me to think of the great managers I’ve had in my professional career. Among the standouts…

Valerie Meier at the Communications Research Centre who cheerfully responded “Why are you yelling at me?” to an email from our director, Stu McCormick. Stu had typed in all-caps to distinguish his responses to her questions. It was 1993 and email clients weren’t good at distinguishing threaded conversations.

Richard Pitt at iSTAR told me to get a bound notebook with numbered pages to record notes and activities — “If you didn’t write it, it didn’t happen.” Sadly, Richard of died of cancer four years ago. Mike Duff, also at iSTAR, restrained a chuckle and defended me when a fellow manager charged that I didn’t respect him. Mike was a project management buff and would often use the analogy of a BBQ party when helping us plan significant activities. Then, Van Murray who insisted that anytime we were having a bad day we should interrupt him and he’d take us to the front of the building to vent over a cigarette. Van always listened and offered advice or suggestions without judgement and never held anything we said against us. What was said in the smoking area, stayed in the smoking area. Colin Brown, Van’s boss, impressed upon us the need to “root out customer concern.”

Justin Ferrabee and Lenka Jordanov, both at Calian, empowered us to do what needed to be done. They wanted us to learn as much as possible and make the team more valuable to our clients and the organization. And, they wanted others in the organization to see the value that we brought to the table. Lenka once told a member of our team to stop behaving badly (he was back-stabbing her). He responded by saying “Oh, I don’t do that anymore.”

Rod Boissinot at BCE Emergis encouraged us to pursue our instincts and crazy ideas with “fill your boots” and helped us find and fix our mistakes. Rod didn’t suffer fools lightly. He was (and probably still is) a technical wizard which forced us to be on our toes when it came to the reliability and stability of our server environments and the code we wrote.

Michael von Herff at Fleishman-Hillard, who remains a colleague and mentor, looked out for his staff and pushed us to do better than we were allowing ourselves. He has always run a people-first shop which motivated us to produce great work. Michael now runs Public Affairs Advisors.

I’ve been fortunate to work with and for a lot of amazing managers in my career, so far. Each has delivered great memories and valuable lessons. I salute you all!

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