Learning From The Worst

We have the ability to learn from any leader – even a bad one.  Here is a real-life story from my bank of experience:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…or it seems that way…I was in account management at a large, Fortune 10 company.  I was having a bit of difficulty with one of our major accounts – a west coast-based consumer products corporation.  Part of the reason I let the issues fester is that my manager was not exactly an ‘A game’ leader.  She was a great person, but wasn’t suited for her role.  Everyone seemed to know this, including her.  She did leave the company a few months later.

The account issues boiled up to the point that I went barreling into my manager’s office.

Our verbal exchange went something like this:

Joe: “Margaret (not her real name), I am DONE with the ABC Company account! (not the real company name either…).  My contact is frustrating, irrational, and demanding way beyond the normal call of service!!!”

Margaret: What do you want me to do about it?

Joe: I want you to fix it!  Get me off this account!

Margaret: That’s unreasonable.  Go figure it out on your own.  It IS your account.

Joe: (sputtering) WHAT????!

Margaret:  Why don’t you go think this through and get back to me with some ideas.

I stormed out of her office.  In fact, I stormed out of the building and walked a few miles on the path that winds through the corporate campus.

I returned to my desk, thought through the issues, and returned to Margaret’s office…

Joe:  Hi.  I have some ideas on how to rectify the ABC account problems.

Margaret: Great! Sit down and let’s discuss your options.

We had a great exchange of ideas.  Ultimately, we didn’t move forward with any of my recommendations.  That didn’t matter.  We solved the problems at hand, met the client expectations, and the account continued to be profitable for us.

The lesson?  Never go to your manager with just problems. Come with solutions too.  Even if you don’t know exactly how to handle things, at least show you’ve thought through the issue as best you are able.  Even a bad manager might be able to help!


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