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What’s Your Style?

I’ve had varying types of bosses in my career. My first boss, Helen, was a no-nonsense, by-the-book, old-fashioned kind of person. She was never going to be my friend, but I respected her work ethic.


My first job was working in the catalog department at Sears. Yes, I may have taken your order. And if you weren’t calling me with an order, I was probably calling you to see if you wanted to order a Betty Crocker cookbook. Helen made sure of that.


After about six months in the catalog department, the good people at Sears took me off the phone and put on the store floor. I was upgraded to a salesperson/cashier in the men’s department. To be specific, it was the men’s underwear department. (Keep in mind that at this time in my life, I was a junior in high school—a private, all-girls high school, and I knew absolutely nothing about men’s underwear.) Dennis was my boss in the men’s department, and his management style was the exact opposite of Helen’s. What a shock! Dennis often arrived late and left early. He took long breaks. He was a lot of fun, too. He rarely got angry, but when he did, my coworkers and I ended up straightening packages of briefs, socks and T-shirts for hours.


That early experience, having one extreme management style to another, most likely helped me survive every boss I’ve had since then. Some have been better than others, of course, but I don’t think anyone has ever been more stringent than Helen or less of a boss than Dennis. What’s interesting to me now is that I immediately remember Helen’s full name. But Dennis? It took me a few minutes to remember his first name, and as of this very moment, I can not remember his last name. That’s the kind of impression they left on me. Helen was memorable and remarkable for the right reasons, Dennis was not.


What kind of boss are you? Are you the kind who leaves a good memory for a young person, or are you the boss whose name can’t be remembered?


Do you lead by example? Is your office door open or closed? Do you ask for opinions from everyone, or do you trust your own alone? These and other questions are answered by AWCI member contractors in the article that starts on page 34.


My personal preference is an open door and input from as many as necessary or possible. Helen’s door was always open, but Dennis’s door was often closed. I wonder how my opinions may have been influenced if Dennis had been my first boss and Helen my second. I suspect that I’d continue my career, for at least a little while, trying to find another “Fun Dennis” kind of boss instead of respecting a firm hand. Thanks to Helen, I knew that Dennis wasn’t a good boss from the get-go, and I don’t think I worked at Sears much longer.


Have you thought about the impression you leave on new or potential hires? Is it possible you’re scaring them off somehow? Maybe you’re “too fun,” or “too strict.” If so, hopefully you’ll find a balanced middle ground, because we don’t want to scare away any potential employees. So, after you read the management article on page 34, flip to page 48 to find even more ways to attract manpower to your company and the industry. (Unfortunately, your sparkling personality alone won’t do the job.)


Finally, meet Ed Sellers, AWCI’s new president, on page 42. Running a large, successful interior contracting company in Cleveland is hard enough work, but as of July 1, he is leading AWCI toward its centennial celebration next March (see page 56). Ed is also a proponent of lean construction, and he has some tips for increasing production.


If I had to compare, I’d say Ed’s management style reminds me of Helen. It’s going to be a good year.

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