How to be a Better Boss

By Herman Pool
In Marketing
March 6, 2013

hpool / Vertical Axion

One of my favorite commercials that I have seen on TV in recent years is a commercial about working from home and learning how to be your own boss.  It starts off with an employee sitting in an office who is frustrated with his boss and he says “my boss is a jerk and his boss is a jerk, now I’m going to be my own boss.”  Which means he’s going to be a jerk.  At least, that’s what it seems like in the world of being a boss.

I know for the past 19 years I have struggled with what kind of boss should I be and how I should lead my team. It’s been difficult to decide that throughout the years. Some people need a strong hand and some people need positive reassurance.  How can we be great bosses to our employees?

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jay Conrad Levinson. Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, he wrote the book Guerrilla Marketing in the 80s but before that he worked at a company called Leo Burnett Company. Jay was part of an advertising team that was run by a man named Leo Burnett. Last February, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jay at his 80th birthday party and we talked some about Leo and how Leo influenced his life.

Now keep in mind Leo Burnett died in 1971, and here I was at a man’s 80th birthday party and he talked to me for about two hours about how wonderful Leo Burnett was.  Jay hadn’t worked with Leo for over 40 years and still he spoke fondly of his mentor and boss.

Leo Burnett was an advertising executive who is widely considered one of the most creative men in advertising. His advertising company is still one of the largest in the world.  Leo’s company created brands icons such as Tony the Tiger, the Marlboro Man and the Jolly Green Giant. He and his team also created the Pillsbury Dough-Boy. These are some of the most recognizable brand in the world.

Even with all that success it seems the thing that Leo Burnett was most remember by is employees for is how he treated his staff.  You see, Leo Burnett had a reputation for keeping employees for so long, it is said that when new staffers  come on board they are assigned to their first account for life.  People rarely left Leo Burnett to go work for someone else.

What makes Leo Burnett so memorable to a former employee so many years later? It was his style and culture of dealing with his employees. His business was built around treating people right. One of Leo Burnett’s most famous quotes is “What Helps People, Helps Business”. I think if we all take that as an attitude moving forward, not only will we as employers have more success, the entire world around us could change.

One of my favorite stories that Jay told me was that Leo would never allow anyone to stay past 5:00, if he caught you at the office past 5:00 he’d send you home to be with your family. Can you imagine that in today’s modern society, a boss that wants you to go home and spend time with your family instead of burning away every minute you have?  I guarantee you based on what Jay told me, there is no way he would allow you to work at home either. It seem to me there would be no telecommuting in Leo Burnett’s world.

Leo Burnett valued the work that his employees did and he let them know so. He treated them as equals and not as subordinates. In short, if you want to be a boss that’s remembered well and an effective boss on top of that, think about the words of Leo Burnett “What Helps People, Helps Business”.

Read More