I am preparing a speech to my ex-boss who is retiring from the organisation. He was asked to select a few staff members to say some words about him, and I was one of the people he chose. I am honoured.
He was always there to give us guidance at the start of a project, so that few things went wrong in the end. When things did go wrong, he would help out and support his staff, and not point the finger at them. I appreciate this as I've known bosses who give no guidance and then blame their team to avoid making themselves look bad (without realising that will backfire).
The word 'empowerment' is often thrown around as part of corporate-speak. I don't think my ex-boss used the word on us, but it was all in his actions. He'd let us run our own projects - he didn't need us to CC him on every little matter. Unlike the micromanager type, he wasn't insecure in having staff know more details about their own projects than he did, because he had the big picture in mind all the time. He let us manage our own meetings with internal clients, because he said he wanted us to grow.
Indeed, I grew a lot under his supervision. Very often, my morale was high and I was in a state of 'flow' - where I was so engaged with my work that I felt as one with it. It never felt like drudgery. I never woke up feeling that I didn't want to go to work, or that I was too bogged down by bureaucracy to be productive. 'Flow' is a feeling that is hard to come by for many of us, so I will remember it and hope to sustain it.
Without the empowerment given by my ex-boss, I wonder if I'd ever have dared to launch the very first podcast in the Government and start the Gahmen Bloggers group. If I was under a restrictive, tyrannical boss who wanted me to do nothing but stick to the Workplan, I might have thought twice about trying anything new. Having been under such a boss before, I can imagine the response would be: "Not enough work to do, issit?" And I would probably be asked to focus on simply meeting KPIs.
My ex-boss didn't agree that staff performance was all about KPIs, because quality counts, not just numbers. There's no point rushing out several mediocre microsites when all we need is a good one.
I also wonder if I'd ever have dared to ask to be sent to an overseas conference - something that nobody in my Department (service line, relatively low priority) had done until then. He supported me, and I went to SXSW in 2006. This gave me new insights which I applied to my projects and to future talks that I would be invited to give.
My ex-boss's passion for serving the nation is also moving. He often reminded us that our real clients were the public, not other departments whom we serviced. We should therefore produce materials and websites that appealed to the public and not simply because the internal client likes the colour green. He never pandered to anyone and had the courage to stand by his views.
In my previous 7 years of working experience, I have never had such a good boss before. Most of my other bosses have been pretty decent too, but this one hits the spot. He helped me to fly.
I really have to give him a good speech but if so, I hope I don't break down on stage this Wednesday. Many of us will miss him a lot and we can only wish him all the best.