A Good Boss in HR is Better Than a Good Company

by Alan Collins

I collect good quotes.

I especially love quotes that are short and inspiring.

The one above is from Jack Ma, CEO and Founder of Alibaba, a $100 billion company also known as the “Amazon of China.”

And it resonated with me…BIG time!

Here’s why:

It reminded me of the two best bosses I’ve ever had in HR.

Mike Cohen and Pam Hewitt were indispensable in my career.

Mike was my first truly great manager. 

He was VP of Human Resources Development and led the talent management function at the Quaker Oats Company.

He always made time for me no matter how insanely busy he was.

From him, I learned priceless tips for working with business leaders. Things like how to figure out their real agendas, influence them, resolve their conflicts and sell them on new HR ideas. These are, of course, absolutely crucial skills for any HR pro — stuff you can’t learn from textbooks.

But that wasn’t all.

When I made the big leap from individual contributor to first-time people manager, Mike was also there. This time to help hone my managerial rough edges and shape me into a decent HR leader of my team.

All this was done by being available, serving as a gold standard role model himself and sharing his enormous experience and insight.

The invaluable advice he provided as my boss free of charge, I’d later learn he’d be paid top dollar to provide as an independent coach to eager professionals and business leaders.

And for all his expertise and guidance, I will be eternally grateful.

Pam was a CHRO at Quaker Oats and later PepsiCo.   

She took a HUGE risk and promoted me to my first HR VP job well before I was ready.

When she moved me into the job, there were lots of gaps in my track record.

I didn’t have the crucial labor relations experience needed for that senior HR role.

I’d never had accountability for guiding labor contract negotiations.

And I’d never led such an experienced and savvy HR team, all of them seasoned experts in their area of the business.

Clearly, this was a “stretch” assignment and would be a huge setback in my career if I failed.  

But Pam was undeterred and saw what I couldn’t.

She helped me quickly get up to speed with an aggressive development plan that included some focused training to beef up my labor skills. She also provided mentors, direct feedback and occasional butt-kicking behind closed doors.

In public, however, she was terrific. She never failed to give me her unconditional support, lots of recognition for my accomplishments and always conveyed the confidence that I could succeed and thrive in this role.

And largely because of her leadership, over time, I did.

Both Mike and Pam have retired and it’s been years since we last worked together.

Nevertheless, I still keep in contact with both of them. We regularly exchange emails and have long lunches a couple of times a year. Re-connecting is always a thrillingly nostalgic experience and something I always look forward to.

Through both of their examples, I’ve learned
that you never, ever forget good bosses.

A good boss will:

There are also unexpected, hidden benefits that you won’t realize until long after you’ve moved on.  If you’ve preserved a positive relationship with your boss, you’ll find that down the road:

So, in my mind, if you’re ever faced with the decision between picking a good company and a good boss…choose the boss!

You’ll never regret it.

And you’ll never forget them.

They’ll have more impact than anyone else on your long-term career success.

Now, how do you recognize if you’ve got a GOOD BOSS in HR?

It’s simple. They regularly say:

1 – “Look, you can do this! I have total confidence in you.  Here’s the key…”

2 – “What more can I do to support you in getting _____ done?”

3 – “Help me understand how I can utilize your STRENGTHS more and what you do best.”

4 – “Here’s what you can do (more of/less of/differently) to be even more effective?” (done when it’s most timely)

5 – “I’d like to get your input on the X strategy?” (asked all the time)

6 – “What can we do better, going forward as a team?”

7 – “Thank you!” (said regularly)

8 – “Regarding your development, where would you like to be 1-2 years from now? How can I help you get there?”

If you have a boss like this, never underestimate their importance.

Here’s the bottom line.

When you have an amazing boss — cherish them!

Hang on to them as long as you can.

Add them to your Linkedin network and contact list.

Stay in touch with them, even after you moved on to your next assignment. You’ll still learn from them and will be reminded of their great lessons and examples.

And finally, understand that whether they realize it or not…

Good bosses leave their
REAL legacy …through YOU!


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Besides a good boss, want more proven strategies for taking your HR career to the next level? Then check out the best-seller:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources. You’ll find more information HERE.


For a more short, inspiring and pithy quotes and truths for getting ahead in HR,  check out: BEST KEPT HR SECRETS: 400 Most Powerful Tips For Thriving At Work, Making Yourself Indispensable & Attaining Outrageous Success in Human Resources.  Get MORE INFORMATION by going HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals  including UNWRITTEN HR RULES.   He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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