Best Advice Received…

I’m sure, similar to many women, that in my 25 years of professional life, advice has poured in—sometimes requested, oftentimes unsolicited. I’ve either appreciated or disregarded it, but undoubtedly the one piece of advice that made a huge impact on me fortunately came very early in my career, related to how to work with others. I remember the moment clearly. It was my first proper job in a publishing company and I was talking to our CMO—interviewing him for the company newspaper—and asking a rather simplistic question about how it felt to have such a large team working for him. His response was simple: “They don’t work for me, they work with me.”

This concept was astonishing to me. It may just seem like semantics, but “chain of command” in the work environment was already entrenched in my imagination, and I thought leadership was about mandating action and expecting others to comply. Being the boss was the pinnacle of your career. It meant that your opinion matters, your judgment is unquestioned and those who work “for” you, do as they are asked. The idea of teamwork, and that people work with their leaders, was a novelty and opened my eyes to a way of working which has stood me in good stead throughout my career.

Anyone who leads a team knows that people management is the hardest part, when done properly. Investing the time and energy to get the most out of others, as well as understanding their motivations and needs, is vital. Traditional hierarchical structures are becoming a thing of the past in certain types of big business, as well as functions like marketing, where the benefits of flat hierarchies are obvious, including clear communication and speedy action. However, the real benefit of this way of engaging is the incredible opportunities for growth and innovation for the business, as well as the increased empowerment and overall satisfaction—both for employees and their managers—of recognizing that everyone has value and brings something to the table.

I’ve been lucky enough to manage a team for much of my career, and the personal satisfaction that has brought me is immense. That pride has come from setting aside the concept of being the boss and focusing on working with individuals together to create positive outcomes—to the benefit of the company, the team, and myself. So when I am now asked how it feels to have a large global team working “for” me, my response is definitive: They work with me, and the results are impressive.