- Wise Words -
To Crush It, Partner With Your Manager
by aurelia duke
Aurelia Duke has worked in both New York and Paris for Cosmetics and Media businesses. Despite lipstick and advertising being very different products, being a professional in both industries requires very similar skills. In this column, Aurelia focuses on the lessons she learnt on the way to becoming a seasoned professional: partnership with her manager, working through other's errors and not taking "things" too personally.
None easy topics!
Your Manager as a Partner
Working in the corporate sector after film school was not an easy transition for me. Looking back, though, I realize how fortunate I was to start my career with amazing bosses who saw my potential and developed me, and to them I say thank you! That said I had to learn some serious lessons on my route to being a "professional", like the majority of us do.
Listen To Your Manager. Trust Your Manager. It's a Partnership
You can learn much and learn it more quickly by listening to those with experience and partnering with your manager.
On entering the workplace, I couldn't help looking down at "the suits". I was a creative after all! I just didn’t trust "managers". I thought them power hungry and out for their own interests. I wish I had spent less time resisting my first bosses who did so much to recognize my skills and potential and who trained and mentored me while pushing me outside my comfort zone.
It took time to open up to my managers, but they became my mentors and encouraged me to take on more responsibilities and grow! My first “real” corporate job in Paris was working at Mexx France’s headquarters. I started there as a temp. One day, almost out of nowhere, a loud Parisian woman asked me to do more. I am also a loud Parisian woman! She wanted me to track sales using this alien "Suit Software" called Excel. And then she asked me to do competitive reports. I had never used Excel before. I thought she was mad and told her I was hired to do admin work only.
She insisted, saying that I spoke English so I could do anything. She explained that Excel was just another language.
Crazy lady, right?!?
Through her belief in me I was able not just to conquer "Suit Software", but also gained a promotion. In my new job I learned all about business and sales analysis, helped her manage a national sales force, and took on payroll and commission for the company. I was not even 25 and owe this great experience to this manager who believed in and pushed me.
Dealing with (Other People's) Mistakes
What took me longer to learn was to not blame others when something went wrong.
As an Early Stage Professional I was not sensitive enough to realize how important it is to handle other people's mistakes with grace. I will always remember when one of my bosses at L’Oreal coached me through this development area. We were in a meeting and some numbers were wrong. It happens. When my boss looked at me and asked if I thought the numbers were correct, I said they weren't and then blurted out that a colleague of mine was the one who gave them to me and it was their fault.
I remember my colleague going red in the face while everyone looked at her. At the end of the meeting my boss asked me to stay behind. She pointed out that in blaming another team member I had not behaved well. I was mortified. In being so caught up in needing things to be black or white, I had been insensitive to another person. It was a bad habit and once my manager flagged it to me I took the time to change and be more understanding of others.
What I do now: I now strive to always give positive credit to others, and will happily take the blame if it can help not waste time in pointing fingers and finding a solution.
It's Not Personal.
My biggest mistake as an Early Stage Professional was taking things way too personally. It’s great to be committed, to care about what you do and to want do things right. However, when you care too much you can take things too personally, be too critical of others and also risk getting emotionally too involved and exhausted. And all of this for no real reason.
Work is not personal. It’s work.
There is absolutely no need to feel personally offended by what happens in the work place, unless it’s discriminatory or harassment. I remember when I was 25 or 26 years old working at L’Oreal and my boss, who was this incredible super smart young force of nature, kept losing or misplacing all the reports that I had filed for her. She would keep coming into my office asking for the same print outs.
It drove me nuts. I was convinced she did it on purpose, thought little of me and that my time didn’t matter to her. I ended up melting-down.
What I failed to notice was my boss was under a lot of pressure, had an extremely small team and was running at 100 miles per hour just to keep up. She was always being pulled into meetings, always asked to justify every single thing she did. Looking back, I am completely puzzled by my reaction. It still makes no sense, but I am not alone. Through my years as a professional I have witnessed many employees taking personally what their boss did or didn’t do, when they shouldn't have.
Instead try to give your manager the benefit of the doubt and do your best to put yourself in their shoes (not easy when you are new to the workplace) and understand where they are coming from. This will help you no end.
So in the end I guess my advice is simple: embrace learning from those with experience, don’t blame anyone for being wrong (we all get it wrong at least once a year ok maybe at least once a week!), and don’t take things personally in the corporate world.
Aurelia Duke has worked in both New York and Paris for Cosmetics and Media businesses. Despite lipstick and advertising being very different products, being a professional in both industries requires very similar skills.
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