Debra Scott: Best Executive/Manager
By Eric Armstrong on Jan 15, 2009
Unbelievably, I have just lost the best executive/manager I have ever seen in my (mumble) decades in this industry. This post is a tribute. Consider it a referral.
Have you ever worked for that "once in a lifetime" manager? The one who was better than any you've ever seen, or ever will see? Debra Scott is such a one.
She combines pure logic, total empathy, executive vision, and technical acumen in a single package. It's a combination I have never seen before, and never expect to see again.
She asks insightful questions, comes up to speed quickly, and then summarizes things with enviable clarity and succinctness. I've seen highly paid executives who couldn't follow even a relatively simple chain of reasoning that leads to an otherwise inescapable conclusion. But with Debra, when you present a cogent argument, she checks your assumptions at each step, and invariably arrives at the same conclusion--except when there is a better one to be reached.
That kind of logical capacity makes sense when you know that she got her degree in math, and taught physics once upon a time. But she also understands computer technology, which explains the ease with which she follows an explanation.
I've had highly technical managers before, but never one that was worth a damn when it came to dealing with people. (Generally, my best experiences have been non-technical managers who managed the organization, leaving me free to manage the technology.) Debra is the one and only manager I've seen who has skills on both sides of the equation.
But that background doesn't explain her patience or degree of empathy. Perhaps the family she has raised had a part in that. Whatever the cause, she has always been terrific at saying just the right thing to defuse tensions and calm things down--a great asset in any business setting.
Case in point:
- When I had complaints about working conditions, she listened with a sympathetic ear.
That made it possible for me to open up a little.
- When I coupled complaints with suggestions, she listened carefully and agreed.
That further encouraged me.
- When I detailed the issues and made specific proposals that our department could act on, she send them up the chain of command, did everything in her power to gather resources for the effort, and made it possible for me to purse the vision.
- Result: Over the course of little more than a year I went from generally negative to extremely, emphatically positive. Because there is nothing more motivating than the feeling that things are getting better, and that you're making a difference. There were still obstacles to overcome, but we were making progress.
Then there are her skills at planning, selecting options, and decision-making. She excels at all three. She not only makes wise decisions, she makes strong decisions. When you hear it, that's it. It's final. That's the way it has to be. But you've been part of the process, and you understand why. Most importantly, you have every confidence that she has examined the available alternatives, and has made the best decision possible.
She works from Wisconsin while I work in California, but I have never had a better experience working with anyone, ever.
So long, Debra. Fare well in your new position. We'll miss you more than we can say--but that won't stop us from trying.