My career has been more like a jungle gym than a ladder. Because I have a thirst for learning new things, I have chosen to work in a number of functions and industries. Early in my career, I spent about 24 months in a role before expanding it or moving into a new role. I have learned to start developing my successor as soon as I begin a new role. Having a successor ready to step in to my position, enables the company to better leverage my skills and capacity.
One of the best career moves I made was to a general management position with profit & loss responsibility. It was a lateral move, but looking back, I realize that learning to oversee customer service, support frontline employees, and manage profit & loss has been extremely valuable. Dare to jump to another jungle gym and climb away!
On Getting People to Know Who You Are and What You Can Do
As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve spent more time learning about my colleagues and clients, and sharing with them who I am (my background, my family, my hobbies). It’s how we build human connections. I take time to have lunch with people, or join social and networking events.
Business gets done through people, so making connections and building relationships of trust is critical. I am a very hard charger (starting my career with 11 years in the military), so taking the time get to know people helps me remember when I am working with them to be sensitive and treat them with respect.
On the Importance of Doing the Inner Work
I have learned over time that we succeed in business not just because of WHAT we do, but also HOW we do it. One of the important ways I improve HOW I work is by conducting a 360 feedback process every 18 to 24 months. This allows people with whom I work to give me candid and anonymous feedback regarding HOW I work with them.
I use this feedback to understand what is working well and what I need improve. I select one area, and over the next year, I create and follow a development plan to improve that skill or capability. My inner work is best accomplished when I narrow my focus.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Success depends on understanding the market, building trusted relationships, and making data-driven decisions
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
Bob Knowling was an early mentor in my business career. He worked with me in a way that gave me confidence that I could accomplish bigger things than I originally thought I could.
On Facing Challenges
My biggest challenge was taking a company through bankruptcy.
Mary Kay’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Find your voice: Learn the language of the business you are in and engage in the discussion. Plan to be a constant learner through your career. Go for It!
2 Comments on "Mary Kay Runyan"
Mary Kay is the sort of leader you absolutely want to have on your playground (especially those full of jungle gyms). She is incredibly smart, self-aware and constantly looking to improve – herself, her environment, her team, her projects… all while taking care of the business in a manner that is both impactful and lasting. Great article!
Congratulations, Mary Kay! What fantastic and deserving recognition.