Today I took the Jenkintown local downtown to enjoy a trip down Memory Lane with my first “real” boss, one who hired me straight out of college and taught me a myriad of lessons, the most important of which had to do with leadership.
That sounds kinda heavy and anyone who knew us back then wouldn’t call either of us ‘heavy.” First off, she could (and did!) eat a donut and a muffin for breakfast every day, while I frequented Roy Rogers for a bacon cheeseburger at lunch – and we didn’t gain any weight! Second, we pretty much whiled away the hours by singing made up songs or figuring out how to disconnect the phone line when someone we didn’t like was calling us.
Katey is a big shot in Philadelphia now. She spent her career at a couple of non-profits and, perhaps thanks to her upbringing as the daughter of a US Ambassador, has a certain air about her that screams: first class! Back then – in the mid 1980s – Katey and I ran around planning parties and events for politicians and world leaders. We thought nothing of meeting the Archbishop of the Philippines Cardinal Sin (yes, his real name!), Peter Jennings, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. We had what was called a “pink ghetto job” – non-profit, low-income jobs typically held by women who could afford not to be paid.
We shared an office together – an office we also shared with a machine someone had donated–a “computer.” I can’t tell you the make or model. But I can tell you it had a box of 8-inch floppy disks that went along with it. One day after about six months of staring at it, Katey closed the door, gave me one of her, “Oh Yes, We Are” looks and turned it on.
Over the next few weeks, we proceeded to teach ourselves word processing and label printing. But soon enough, Ms. Katey Can Do wanted to do some high level math and actually put membership information into a “database” and track what programs members attended. You know, a little CRM before CRM.
We were pretty pleased with ourselves and kept our analytics secret until a full-blown staff meeting where we rolled out our Dos-generated print outs and shared our “findings” to the entire organization. (I am pretty sure we dubbed ourselves “The Data Queens.”) No one could touch us. A colleague might say, “Well, that program we did on blah blah was a huge success,” and we could say, “Well, actually only 15% of the regulars attended and 50% never came to another event. So it wasn’t really that successful after all.”
Another “leadership” moment for Katey was when she went on vacation and left me to run an entire program solo. That meant welcoming the guests, introducing the speaker, and hosting the dinner. One member saw an opportunity and moved into my seat next to the speaker and pushed me down two or three seats so that I was no longer really the official host. When Katey heard about this, she called him (aka – the client) and told him that he had taken advantage of the situation and that he had shown me no respect. Wow. No one had really stood up for me like that (and I think she really was standing up during this call.)
Katey told me on my first day to listen in on her phone calls. She said it was the best way to learn. So I listened to Katey, She was always calm, never angry (even if she was angry), always gracious, always approachable, and yet always determined to make something happen and to do it with class.
Mid way through lunch Katey talked about an organization she’d like to start in a couple of years. She got about 3 sentences into describing it, sporting an updated look that screamed, “Oh Yes We Will” when I found myself saying, “Count me in.” If Katey is leading it, it’s a winner.
Write and tell me about a boss or mentor that helped you learn how to conduct yourself in business and why “Can Do” always trumps “Let’s wait and see.”