In my next few Profile posts I’m going to reflect on four men I worked with in my early career, all with the same company. Due to the nature of some of my comments I’m not going to use actual names, not of the men and not of the company. I’m not going to disclose the industry we were in. One of these men I count as a dear friend some 30 years later, another of these men I think I could pick up the phone and call and have a pleasant time with catching up. The third man may or may not remember me, I’d like to think he would but you never know. The fourth man – well either he wasn’t who I thought he was, and if so I was naive; or he was who I thought he was and he was naive. In any case I can’t telephone him.
The First Man – Mike
I met Mike shortly after I’d received a promotion from labor to management within the national company I worked for. My promotion entailed a transfer to another division and Mike was soon my new boss. He was in his mid-20’s, a college graduate, and from a well-to-do family. His father was a key player in a national firm that was a competitor and he had learned our business with that firm. However, at some point Mike decided that he wanted to make his own way and prove himself outside of an environment where he was known as the “son of so and so”.
While this was not my first foray into management, it was my first in this industry. Much of what I needed to know I picked up intuitively, the rest Mike introduced me to. As I think back to Mike I can’t recall him ever being cross with me, and even when he called others to account, whether employees or contractors and vendors, I don’t recall him ever displaying anger – at least not in the normal way anger is expressed. He didn’t raise his voice and he seldom used coarse language – but he could get a look about him that let the offending party know that it had better get the job done the right way and in the right timeframe.
In some ways Mike was out of place in our business, at least at our level of the business. He retained the ease and assurance that can come from being raised in financial security (I say “can” because I’ve probably seen more insecure folks from financially secure environments than I’ve seen secure folks). He treated everyone with courtesy, from the lowest-paid worker on up.
He was about 5’10”, broad shouldered, square chinned, and because he worked out I don’t think there was an once of fat on him. He had sandy colored hair that he allowed to grow probably a bit too long for his management position. He also often wore his shirts unbuttoned at the top with…yes…a gold chain or two showing. This particular habit did not sit well with some of his peers who had come up through the ranks of the industry.
His fiancée was a pretty airline flight attendant, though I think in those days they were still called stewardesses. I guess that Mike may have been kind of an upscale preppy in an industry in which field personnel were decidedly not cut from that cloth.
I eventually left the company and tried a couple of different things employment wise that weren’t too promising. Mike also left the firm and went to a competitor. A year or so after I left I was in a quandary about employment and called Mike – it turns out that he needed someone with my skill set and attitude in his new environment and so we were reunited. To be continued….