When the story of ‘The Ball Boy and the Professional Footballer’ grabbed the headlines last week, what surprised me most was that most people - on social media channels at least - sided with ‘Goliath’ (the footballer) against ‘David’ (the 17-year old ball boy). My question in the whole affair is where did the ball boy learn about time wasting and feigning an injury? The answer is from the heroes he watches every day out on the football pitch.
At work, we are all role models, even when we don’t intend to be. This week, someone who directly reports to me picked me up for cursing at him in the open office. Although he admitted that he deserved it, he rightly pointed out that it was not the best impression to give junior people on the team.
I remember my first marketing job. I joined a team that was disappearing around me because people resigned, retired or moved to other roles. Within a matter of weeks, I was the most senior person in the team. This was fine by me. However, the company then brought in someone at a more senior level to me but she was not a marketer. She had come from another part of the business and as she had been around for a few years, it was felt she was a suitable manager for the team. Apart from having my wings clipped, I disliked the way I did all the work, and she took the credit. I learned nothing from her and became resentful of her lack of knowledge, despite her years and (no doubt) higher salary.
We both eventually left the company. Ten years later, I assumed a much more senior position in a very different company, so imagine my surprise to find that a middle manager in this new place was that lady.
Now, some may think that this was my opportunity for revenge but that wasn’t the case. Why? Because in the intervening years, I had learned a lot, especially about myself, and in that time I vowed never to lead in the way that she had led me. To this day, I owe her a huge amount of credit in teaching me how not to be a manager. My style is very much influenced by the things that she did not do in those months we worked together, and how the things that she did do made me feel.