Life is an adventure. Mine certainly has been. Twenty-five years ago, I was a single mother with three daughters under 10, and I was starting my first corporate job. It was my first big opportunity to take advantage of newly honed skills, as well as a bit of good luck. Now, all these years later, I can ponder on the things that helped me succeed. Perhaps my hindsight can help others. So here goes.
Be curious and intrigued about everything, but mostly about how things work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that can help you gain a greater understanding of why things are the way they are, and don’t be afraid to challenge existing solutions. At the same time, be interested in the details—not to manage them, but to know all the facts before you begin challenging orthodoxy.
After you understand how things work, step back and think broadly about solutions to problems and improvements to the existing business or condition. Youand your teams don’t need to have 100% of the answers to everything all the time, because perfection is adream, but excellence is achievable and sustainable.
Think expansively about people, especially how their best talents and skills can be used. Get them involved enough to be as intrigued, as curious, and as enthused as you are. This goes for people at all levels of your organization, not just those in your immediate circle. Encourage their creativity and forgive their minor mistakes, which generally aren’t consequential in the long run. Explain straight forwardly what you’re looking for, and then move on. Thank them for their enthusiasm as well as their achievements.
Always follow the Golden Rule. Treat others, talk to others, work with others, and lead others as you would like them to do with you. It isn’t a guaranteed formula for success, but it works out far more often than not. Similarly, help those around you any way you can. Give of your time. This keeps you grounded, so you never start to believe your own press.
Broaden yourself. Have interests beyond the workplace. Balance is important, and you will learn things that can help you throughout your life. Become an interesting person. For me, reading fiction is a wonderful doorway to knowledge and a world view, but so is traveling or simply meeting new people.
Last but not least, take advantage of good luck. I’ve never had a career plan, but I’ve reached out for things that interested me at opportune moments, and I’ve been fortunate to randomly meet some good people along the way who have helped me. With success then comes the responsibility to help someone else. This makes it all worthwhile.