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FOR THE ASSOCIATION OF
CALIFORNIA WATER AGENCIES
(SACRAMENTO, CA), AND
FOUNDER AND OWNER OF
SHIFTING INTO ACTION,
A COACHING AND CONSULTING
FIRM FOR ASPIRING
CLIENTS IN THE MIDST OF
My boss Wendy walked into my office one day and
handed me a cash-filled envelope. It wasn’t a life-changing amount of cash, but the reason she gave
it to me — and a similar envelope to every department member — was particularly notable.
Before I finish talking about the money, I need
to lay a little groundwork. While I want to be
completely honest and share the true backstory, it
is a challenge to tell the tale without exposing the
people who would rather not be exposed when
you work for such a small organization.
For the first 12 of the last 15 years, Wendy and I
worked side by side as colleagues and friends. As
the result of a structural reorganization, she was
promoted to state legislative director and became
my boss. During those 12 years as colleagues, we
talked almost daily about the ups and downs of
our professional experiences. We talked about
what we liked, what we disliked, and what changes
we wanted to see in the future. We were willing
to share our thoughts and frustrations with our
bosses and did not just rail against them.
We discussed the kinds of bosses and leaders we would be when we had the opportunity.
Wendy’s chance came first. At the time of her
promotion, I was studying organizational behavior
and leadership at the University of San Francisco.
Our discussions were grounded in intuition. As I
progressed in my studies, it became apparent that
the ideals we fostered together were supported
by research. Organizations that abided by solid
leadership techniques were perpetually found on
the lists of the best companies to work for.
While our relationship and our conversational
topics changed once she became my boss, we continued to discuss how she could develop into the
kind of boss she wanted to be. Which brings me to
the reason for the envelope filled with cash.
Our employer hosts an annual holiday luncheon
where we celebrate the year’s accomplishments,
acknowledge the service of long-term employees,
and announce the employee of the year. The staff
voted Wendy to be employee of the year for 2016.
With that recognition came a US$1,000 cash prize.
As she accepted her award, she expressed her
gratitude for the opportunity to work with — not
manage — her team. At the end of her speech, she
mentioned that she would be splitting her win-
nings with the entire department. What kind of
boss does that?
The kind of boss who recognizes that their accomplishments are not the result of solo efforts.
The kind of boss who gives their staff the opportunity to make mistakes and grow. The kind
of boss who believes that the only way that they
can be successful is by giving credit where credit
is due. The kind of boss who puts their money
where their mouth is and fights daily to support
and advocate for their team so that they can reach
I have not had a negative thought about
Wendy’s management style since she assumed
her position. Is she perfect? No, but what I do
know about her, and the reason why she was selected as employee of the year, is that she walks
her talk. As great as it was for her to share her
money with us, we appreciate that her daily actions back up her words, values, and philosophy
about what a boss should be. ACC
Put Your Money Where Your
voices whitnie wiley
16 ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE COUNSEL
LEAD THE WAY