Do you have a BFF? For those of you living under rocks since Facebook was invented, BFF means “best friend forever.” That acronym is everywhere—every sitcom, reality show, t-shirt and movie plot. There’s just something about that BFF that puts a smile on your face and makes you want to spend time and give them your undying loyalty and support.
I wrote an article about overstepping boundaries between boss and employee, so I’m not suggesting that being a BBE is the same as a BFF. I can think back to great bosses I’ve had over the years. We didn’t hang out together, go out for drinks or attend each other’s kids’ birthday parties. They didn’t always agree with me or give me the best assignments. They even yelled at me occasionally and one even warned that if I didn’t shape up I wouldn’t be around much longer (I shaped up!) Some of the experiences I had with my BBE’s may help you examine how you relate to your employees and help to build better relationships.
1. BBE#1. On the surface, he was the boss from hell. He didn’t tolerate any mistakes and made me so nervous I often couldn’t even talk. He refused to sit in a middle seat on an airplane, went ballistic if you used a paper clip instead of a staple to hold papers together, and would peer over the high counter in front of my desk and pound on it when he got restless. This was my first job back after 10 years raising my children, and it was my re-employment “boot camp.” He wasn’t one for praise, but when he left the company and I was looking for another position, he personally called everyone who interviewed me to be sure they knew what a stellar employee I was and to take good care of me. The frog turned out to be a prince.
2. BBE#2. This one didn’t talk much, and wasn’t warm and fuzzy either. A numbers guy, he demanded perfection. I had a lot of responsibility and worked for a number of his staff people as well. He had a dry sense of humor, though, and let me know that he respected my opinions. When secretary’s day rolled around, he said if I wanted flowers I’d have to order them myself. I jokingly (sort of) refused. The next day, the flowers arrived in a great container that I used for years as a pencil holder on my desk. He gave me a stunning recommendation when I moved into my first management job.
3. BBE#3. This was one of the nicest guys you would ever want to work for. He was supportive and watched your back. He was also real, admitting his weaknesses. I remember performance reviews and his lengthy narrative style. No boxes with checkmarks or numbers rating. He would write a novel extolling your virtues and minimizing your shortcomings. He gave me a project way over my head and supported me through its successful conclusion.
4. BBE #4. She was the one who introduced me to time management a la Daytimers. She was a true mentor and practiced what she preached. She was a tough, no-nonsense professional who always had an open door and was interested in helping your grow and succeed. When I wanted to be a trainer, she offered her extensive library of training materials and books and became a valued coach.
All of these BBEs had one thing in common. They cared enough about me as a person and professional to challenge me with assignments a little out of my reach and then offer support, coaching and feedback to help me succeed. I didn’t get a free ride nor was allowed to get away with substandard performance. They helped me realize my potential and build the confidence I needed to succeed on my own.
Who was (is) your BBE? Share your experiences in the Comments below.