It was a brown fuzzy fleece jacket with thin polyester lined pockets and a full length zipper. My mom bought it at K-Mart as my winter jacket when I was 14, going on 15. The fleece jacket was stylish and looked great on me. However, during the first few weeks I had it, I discovered something concerning about my new outerwear. When it got colder than a normal Alabama day, which isn’t that cold, the jacket sucked and I froze!
Over the years I learned to love the jacket and it even helped me with the ladies! Being the gentleman that I am, and knowing that the jacket was essentially useless anyways, I often offered it to my female friends if I ever saw any of them shivering. The reality was my generous heart was the only thing that warmed the freezing girls rapidly declining body temperatures. In its final days, worn thin and with a broken zipper, I actually remember being colder when I wore it! My favorite expression about the loyal jacket was that, “it will keep you warm as long as it isn’t cold outside.” If that Northwest Territory brand jacket would have been a Patagonia or NorthFace I would have lost it or it would have been stolen the first year. Nobody wanted it but me I suppose. It served me in mediocrity throughout college and I reluctantly put the tattered remains in a Coat Drive Box shortly after graduation. Maybe someone else would get to enjoy the most average, classically stylish jacket in the history of the world.
A boss is a like a jacket. They aren’t needed that often, but when they are, you need them to perform. Unlike my K-Mart jacket, a great boss will “keep you warm” on those unseasonably cold days. That old jacket of mine gave the illusion of greatness until it was needed. It had all the right things on the surface. It looked good, had pockets, a zipper, it even fit my body perfectly. I guess the only thing it didn’t do was the most important—it’s JOB!
Some bosses talk the talk, make a lot of noise, and demand attention, but fail to connect with employees by not meeting their most pressing needs. Most of the time all we need a boss to be is a cheap K-Mart jacket; business as usual, nothing too exciting. Those bosses who have a hard time adapting during those “unseasonable warm days” are the ones that never gain rapport and fail to meet hardline business objectives. Sadly, when those bosses actually do try to help they often make things even worse. Unfortunately, it’s those bosses that can’t quite rise to the challenge that seem to never get lost or stolen. Because being forced to manage and make tough decisions is such a rare occurrence, most employees accept their poor performing bosses during tough times. Poor performance becomes the expectation. No one wanted to steal my Northwest Territory jacket because they probably saw me racking myself with seizures from the frigid air piercing my soul. And because it was only needed so few times each year, there was no reason to upgrade. There are so many average bosses that the impression is that they are all average. This is not the case. We put so much value and worth on our boss’s credentials and so little on their attributes that are committed to our individual success. A great boss will work hard for you when you need it the most.
Great bosses don’t always come with shiny bells and whistles. They don’t always have the most experience. Let’s be honest, they may not even know the answer to your problem. But, what makes them great is their ability to understand when you need them the most--- and relentlessly work for you until they get you what you need.
Don’t be a cheap K-Mart Jacket,