Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Measure of a Boss

A former co-worker and very good friend texted me last month to say she is leaving the job where she and I had worked together for several years as team leaders and which I left nearly nine years ago.  It came as a real shock to me not only because of her longevity there and my expectation that she’d retire from there, but because of what I thought was her commitment to the job and the mission of the employer, a nonprofit medical firm.  She personifies that mission and has a very real and personal stake in its success.  So why leave now?
A bad boss.
Does that surprise anyone?  That, in fact, was the main reason I left the company, the loser of a boss that took the reins of the department in which I worked.  My friend was able to outlast that boss, as well as a couple of successors.  But the newest director was another story.  She said she gave him a year to see how it went, but he failed.  (That is, he failed her test of his leadership.  The company still has him onboard and probably thinks he’s doing a great job.) She confirmed what I guessed already: he lacked good interpersonal skills, had an oversized ego, micromanaged his employees, and killed morale with his focus on everything but the real mission, all while collecting a nice six-figure salary.
What’s wrong with bosses these days?  They come out of business schools with no “soft” skills, no ability to communicate effectively.  They know the business (I’m giving many of them the benefit of the doubt on that one) but don’t know how to talk to people, let alone effectively manage them to inspire the best work and build loyalty.  They lack humility.
Now the Wall Street Journal reports that companies are shopping for leaders who have that elusive quality, humility.  Why?  Let me take a few quotes from the WSJ article, “The Best Bosses are Humble Bosses”.
“Humility is a core quality of leaders who inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams.”
“Among employees, it’s [humility] linked to lower turnover and absenteeism.”
“Most of the thinking suggests leaders should be charismatic, attention-seeking and persuasive….Yet such leaders tend to ruin their companies because they take on more than they can handle, are overconfident and don’t listen to feedback from others.”
“[Humility] predicts ethical behavior and longer tenure on the job.”
Here’s a link to the article.  A good read.
Of course, now that corporate America is on to humility as a desirable trait, you just know they are going to come up with a training program to teach it and assessment tools to measure it; and it’s going to ruin the whole thing.  And when those bosses-in-training graduate humility class will they get a certificate that declares them humble?  Funny thing about humility.  As soon as you think you've got it, you've lost it.  Behavior learned in a classroom by an adult is less likely to be motivated from the heart; and humility—to be genuine—needs to start there, accompanied by a respect for others.  In shorthand we might just call it the Golden Rule.  How does your boss measure up?  How do YOU measure up?

Until next time,


“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 NIV®*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide

Friday, October 12, 2018

Simple as ABC? Not Quite

Even if you’re not sixty-five or over you can hardly help but know it’s the annual open enrollment period for Medicare just from seeing all the TV ads sponsored by insurance companies wanting to sell seniors their health care coverage.  So let’s again cover some Medicare basics.
Medicare is the national insurance plan for the disabled and people over age sixty-five.  It covers hospital (and other) services under Part A and physician (and other) charges in Part B.  You probably have been paying premiums for the coverage for years, even if you’re not actually covered by Medicare yet.  That’s because the FICA tax that comes out of your paycheck includes not only your Social Security system contribution but also a 1.45% tax on your earnings for hospital insurance.  So when you actually enroll in Medicare there is no further cost for Part A coverage (unless you continue to collect wages).  This is not because you saved enough in your personal account to pay for it—because there is no personal account.  Benefits are being paid the accumulated taxes and by the people still working.
You will have to pay premiums for Part B coverage, and that typically comes directly out of your Social Security benefits.  You must enroll for Part B when you become eligible or else pay a higher penalty rate permanently when you do enroll.  There’s an exception for those who have other qualified health insurance coverage.
During the last Bush administration Medicare added prescription drug coverage, referred to as Part D.  Again, enrolling when you are first eligible is critical.  But you must find a separate Part D plan to cover your drug needs.
So did Medicare skip over “C”?  No, Part C is what you are mostly hearing touted on TV.  Companies like Humana and United Healthcare offer what are called Part C, or Medicare Advantage, plans.  These are an alternative to enrolling in “regular” Medicare with the government.  They must cover everything regular Medicare does but almost always offer some additional benefits like vision, hearing, or dental and even include Part D benefits (drug coverage).  They may also advertise that you pay no premiums for their plan.  That’s because you will continue paying your Part B premiums to Uncle Sam who then pays the insurance company to assume the financial risk for your health care needs.
Medicare Advantage plans are not the same as Medicare supplement plans.  The latter are intended to cover the co-pays and deductibles of regular Medicare, which typically come to 20% or more of a beneficiary’s health care expenses.  They do not cover prescription drugs and will cost the enrollee an additional premium.
In very general terms, then, complete Medicare coverage can be attained in one of the following ways:
  • “Regular” Medicare + a Medicare supplement plan + a Part D prescription drug plan; or
  • Medicare Advantage plan
At first glance it looks like a no-brainer: full coverage at no additional cost above your Part B premium?  Who wouldn’t enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan?  But buyer beware.  Medicare Advantage plans will have a narrower network of providers.  That means less choice of doctors and hospitals for you.  Plus, they impose administrative burdens on the healthcare providers—like having to get pre-authorization before rendering certain types of care; or putting extra burdens on you, like having to get a referral to go to a specialist. 
For that reason, many providers will not join these networks.  So before signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan, thoroughly check out its network of doctors and hospitals.  Are your doctors in-network?  If not, you will probably have to find a new doctor or else pay mostly out-of-pocket.  And don’t be surprised if the biggest and most highly advertised insurance companies’ Part C plans are NOT accepted by your doctor/hospital.
In talking to friends, and judging by my own dad’s experience, Medicare with a supplement and Part D plan will most likely cost you less out of pocket, all things considered.
So make your choice wisely over the next few weeks if you’re Medicare-eligible.  Don’t take the TV hype at face value.  Check out the plans.  Talk to friends who might be enrolled in a Part C plan and see what their experience has been.  Lots of money is at stake here.  The cheapest-premium option might not be the best option for you, depending on your needs.  As I always say, run the numbers.
Until next time,


“Good judgment wins favor.” Proverbs 13:15 NIV®*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide.