Throughout a considerable period of my career, I moved from company to company every year and a half. These changes were not always triggered by me, but for one reason or another, they occurred almost systematically.
As far as this article is concerned, having worked in various companies, sectors and countries, also meant having a very considerable number of bosses. Some were just that, bosses, others were leaders. And for better or for worse, I learned from these two categories of … profiles.
Time as passed, and I am now able to evaluate the role they played in my life: with some I learned in a continuous fashion, with one or another I realized what I never want to become as a leader, others made me question what I thought I knew for sure (not in a good way), and some I can hardly remember. But what is more important is that from the ones that made the difference, I brought the lessons I bring with me every day, in the way I work, in what I am and what I want to be. Here is what I learned:
1- Not to present a problem without a potential solution for it. And I remember well going into the office of one of my ex-leaders with a problem, and it being “returned” to me with this premise, so simple, elementary even, but that requires a much more proactive attitude, and focus on the solution, not the problem.
2- I learned that delegating is a way of saying “I trust in you”, it demands responsibility, but it also leaves space for learning, for personal challenge, for the development of one’s potential and progress as a professional. And the opposite message is conveyed when you do the contrary.
3- Not to make negative reviews, devoid of context, without first highlighting the positive ones. And to do constructive criticism, to explain it, to take into account the receiver of the message. I also remember th specific moment in which this lesson was taught, although it happended more than 15 years ago. And though I have learned it in regards with the relationship between client and creative agency, I find it relevant in any working environment.
4- I learned the power of praising. Not necessarily the random compliment, but the constructive one, made as a sign of recognition of a job well done, and that alone works as a trigger for motivation. An environment with no (deserved) praise is in itself demotivating, making any criticism way more destructive.
5- To be well acquaited with every subject related to our market, to be aware of trends, market shares, prices, to know sales numbers at your fingertips, who bought and who didn´t buy and why. And actually, it wasn’t in a commercial department that I was challenged on a regular basis to put this lesson into practice, it was in a Marketing one. Ultimately, not to be caught off guard and not to leave loose ends. And although this doesn’t appear to be so obvious in my current activity, it has encouraged me to always be alert, to want to know more and not to accommodate myself.
6- I learned to build presentations. About strategies, results, marketing plans, about the company, about the market, about a partnership, a brand, a product, a proposal, among several other topics. But I experienced quite a lot of growing pains … I got bashed in the head sooooo many times, for a long time, because my presentations lacked this or that, or because the arguments presented, or the agenda or the sequence of slides or the numbers were not correct. And with each presentation, I improved the ingenuity to build them, to make them more objective, more appealing, more assertive.
7- But don’t be fooled. Building presentations contributed to way more than knowing how to make a cute document in power point. It has helped me to structure my reasoning and to present it, and that is priceless.
8- I learned respect for family and personal urgencies and issues, and that when we give them space, we are also giving responsibility, trust, and in return you get loyalty, recognition and increased dedication.
9- I learned that a good leader needs to combine emotional intelligence with technical competence, and that is where the difference lies between a leader and a boss. And that the ability to manage people does not necessarily result from the same set of skills that leads a professional to be a skilled salesperson, engineer, marketeer or even entrepreneur. The ability, the art of managing people, is not for everyone, and may it be an innate talent or a trained competence, you have to want to learn it and decide what kind of leader you want to be.
Until not so long ago, my listening skills were not my strongest ones. But the will to learn and to absorb information made me a good “student”, an attentive observer. And so every lesson I “came across” with was well apprehended.
I learned many other things, by myself, with my peers or superiors, with clients and suppliers and agencies. But in the era of endless, deep, sweeping (and annoying enough…) inspirational quotes, the one nobody taught me, but I was always privilleged enough to experience, is that “he who chooses a job that he likes, will never have to work another day in his life. With the necessary adjustments, and fully aware that this is a prerogative that not all profit from, this was my formula for one of today’s hottest topics, that of personal and professional balance.