As a group I think you will agree that most financial folks tend to be modest. I am not sure, but I think there was a required course on the dangers of bragging back in college, because it is like pulling teeth to get most members to provide an honest assessment of what they did.
There were always others at the meetings. It’s as if in our minds our guiding hand and considerable abilities to quantify and analyze the thinking of others, (sometimes publicly, sometimes privately), doesn’t have a direct impact on the results of the company compared to the work of others on the executive team, like those individuals in sales.
Is it any wonder that with our sometimes quiet ways our superiors don’t understand the significance of our contributions?
If you are now in the position of needing these folks to provide a reference for you, it can be a difficult situation. Perhaps you were even at loggerheads with your immediate boss in the final crisis before you left. So, what do you do?
If your separation was more than a little acrimonious, getting them to agree to say little or nothing may be a valid approach, but it puts you in the position of being “Damned by faint praise.”
What is the solution? First, I would suggest starting with the truth. (Yes, I know it is old fashioned, but I have a bad memory and if someone asks me what I said it is easier to remember.)
What is the truth? Well, the truth may be that the company went through a significant downsizing and since you had developed your staff, there was someone who could take over your responsibilities at a greatly reduced salary given the current size of the organization.
In addition, you can say that you and your former boss were of different minds on the direction of the company towards the end (when the stress was high) and that it is unlikely he will say nice things. In particular, he might mention that you trashed his office and slashed the tires on his car. (Just kidding – I am sure you didn’t do anything like this even though he/she probably deserved it at the time.)
What is your fallback position? Well, what about those who worked with you at your level. The respect of peers can play well as far as references are concerned. And, don’t forget those who reported to you. Yes, I know it may be uncomfortable asking for favors from subordinates, but good bosses are hard to find, and if you were one, you should benefit from it.
If you have some ideas you would like to share on references, please send them to [email protected] and Leslie will put them in our “Notes from Members” section.
Sharing ideas is an important member responsibility. I hope if you have something of interest that you will send it in.