Reflections On My Best Boss

Jerry Nutter, my best boss ever, passed away this week. His passing caused not only my personal reflections on what he and his guidance means to me, but it enabled others who Jerry influenced to connect and reminisce about this great man.

Everything good I do today – as a husband, parent, team member, and consultant – is immensely influenced by Jerry’s coaching, humor, high standards, and love of service. My understanding of high performing, values-aligned teams came from my experiences on teams lead by Jerry. My “great boss” tweets all stem from what I learned from Jerry over my 15 year career as a YMCA professional.


Two co-workers from my YMCA days have remained dear friends – Sioux Thompson with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and Ann Phillips, a Blanchard colleague. Our time with Jerry changed us – and binds us together. We celebrate Jerry every day by repeating truisms Jerry shared with us. We call these truths “Nutterisms.” Favorites include:

  • “Everything a leader does either helps, hurts, or hinders the creation of peak performers.”
    Leaders do not have “neutral” impact. They are “on duty” 24/7. Withholding a decision IS a decision. Leaders need to be present, be smart, ask for help, and do the best they can, every moment. This Nutterism expands to include a leader’s impact on teams, organization culture, discretionary energy – across the board.
  • “There’s no such thing as a hole in the other guy’s end of the boat.”
    We’re all in this venture together. Ignoring issues in other parts of their organization put leaders and their team at risk. Be observant, raise questions, and lend a hand to solve problems to keep the enterprise vibrant.
  • “You can’t make up in training what you lack in hiring.”
    An organization has the responsibility to hire team members with the best skills & work ethic possible. Once hired, these potential stars require an extensive orientation and ongoing mentoring to find the best fit for their skills & motivations. If you don’t hire great skills or a great work ethic, you’re screwed. No amount of training will “fix” a bad hire.
  • “You can shoot the arrow then run over to where it hit and draw a target around it and say, ‘Bullseye!’ Or, you can draw the target, shoot the arrow, and close the gap.”
    Be intentional. Make your strategy and goals clear. Make your best effort, then refine your approach to hit your target. Otherwise, it’s all a game and little good will be accomplished.
  • “I believe you believe that.”
    I believe something different. I’ll engage in dialog to help you understand how I see the scenario playing out. If I do that well, I may educate you on the realities of the moment and we can move forward.

In retirement, Jerry was relentless with his service. He volunteered to help create and serve on a non-profit board of directors for the Humboldt Crabs baseball team. His service inspired an entire community to support this independent club and create a wonderful family resource that today is entering it’s 68th year.

Jerry’s impact has spread far beyond his one-on-one efforts and our world is a better place due to his influence. Condolences and positive vibes surround Jerry’s wife Karen and their family during this difficult time.

How did your best boss influence you? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Learn about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

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  • Thanks for passing on the great advice. More importantly, thanks for living it in a way that ads credibility to his life!

    • Thanks so much, Noah. Jerry was instrumental in guiding my world view, my career, even my twisted sense of humor! His legacy lives on in those of us he guided over the years. We’re definitely trying to “pay it forward!”



  • Being a leader is absolutely taking responsible for all your actions and making sure if their is hole in the boat appears you fix and make disappears immediately in any partnership as team is the collective action. Leaders 24/7 attitude is essential! =-)

    • You’re absolutely right, Corey – leaders are on duty 24/7. If they have servant hearts, that’s very visible to their staff. If they don’t, that, too, is visible to their staff!



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