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Job Hunting and Career Planning — Q&A with the Career Coach


“Q&A with the Career Coach” is a series of articles featuring questions from readers and answers from 42-year Human Resources veteran and career coach Cliff Montgomery. Future questions can be submitted to him at his address below:

Q: My boss has been called out of town and he surprised me by asking me to lead our expanded monthly staff meeting. Any suggestions for me?

A: First, understand that today most employees dread meetings as there are so many of them. Because of this, your challenge will be to keep the attendees engaged and the meeting flowing.

To begin with, be sure to start the meeting on time to demonstrate your respect for people’s schedules. In addition to the agenda I assume will be provided to you by your manager, ask the attendees in advance for their agenda suggestions as this will generate some ownership of the meeting.

During the meeting, feel free to call on people by name for input, which will also keep people engaged. If any off-topic discussions occur, say that they will be discussed at a later date. Don’t dismiss any ideas out of hand, but ask the person to expand their thoughts.

If warranted, be sure to compliment anyone who makes a presentation at your meeting and assure you select someone to take good minutes, including any action items to provide your manager on his return.

Lastly, end the meeting on time unless there’s a critical issue being discussed. Good luck.

Q: Can a bad boss ever be good?

A: Well, it depends on what your definition of “bad” is. There’s a dramatic difference between a tough, hard driving, demanding manager and one that is outright abusive to employees. I have written repeatedly that good leaders are hard to find, but ultimately the major differentiator is long-term results.

In some cases, tough demanding, managers are required, and this is especially true in situations where an organization is either failing or just starting up. They demand performance and leave no question about their expectations.

Failure in their eyes is unacceptable, and they will confront employees directly, and sometimes loudly, in front of others to make their point. This kind of manager, although a challenge to work for, is different from the ones who are abusive and get “personal” with their employees rather than focus on results.

While both of these leadership styles can be viewed by employees as “bad,” and while certain business environments do in fact require strong, tough leadership, in my view, there is never any rationale for personal abuse.

Send your questions to Clifford E. Montgomery, CPC, executive and career coach in New Hope. He can be reached at 908-209-1642 or at His website is