I use to work in Advertising and spent 11 years with an agency, eventually running the business for the Asia Pac region. I loved life presenting to clients, travelling, learning and managing a team. I’m a sales person at heart, and always look for the next rung on my ladder, so client sales and pitching the business was right up my alley. And I was good at it. I was told many times that I was the best closer in the business. I wrote $2.0M worth of business one year. Yes me!
As a young executive I tried to take it all in. I learned from my bosses and colleagues. I was a sponge and enjoyed learning. I had one boss in particular who I travelled with a lot and we got along really well. He was my Sales Director when I first started out and always stayed positive, even when the going was tough. We became friends, he mentored me and I looked up to him.
One day things changed. I was called into the two owners office and we talked about preparing the business for sale. Talked about new clients and contracts. Talked about key people. One of whom wasn’t my boss. I left quite shocked but as I was taught, just got on with it. Tow the line. So I did.
Weeks and months passed and my promotion to Sales Director left me happy and on top of the world. They treated me well and through 2 pregnancies, made life easier than it could have been. I was told my boss was moving to a new role and had issues to sort through. To communicate to my team that I was the leader, tow the line. Get people to back me. Effectively, turn my back on him. I didn’t realise I was doing it until months later, he was on the out and I wasn’t. I’d helped them push him to the side, turned my back and carried on to the next rung on my ladder.
The true reality of what I’d help do didn’t hit me until much later and I felt terrible. A personal mistake in pursuit of career advancement. I got swept up and didn’t listen to the one that mattered most. Myself. As a young up and coming executive, I was so easily swayed and impressionable. The sponge soaked up too much influence and didn’t exert enough of her own.
A couple of years down the track, I’d started to clue into the fact that I needed to start shaping my own style and not just follow. I stepped into an annual review with an executive from our parent company and my current CEO to get feedback on the year. “Good this, good that but ah, we think you’re a bit too soft in your management style and need to be a bit more mongrel”. MONGREL? You mean more masculine, more cut-throat, less personal, less real? Yup, that’s what they were saying. Gulp. I held back tears as I was taught to do. I left that meeting and thought a lot about the feedback but made a consious decision to rise above it and not lead like a pit-bull.
What I know now is that you can run a business, manage people and do so with love, respect for others and no mongrel needed! Sure, I can be firm and make a hard decison but if that decision doesn’t sit well with my morales or integrity, I don’t just have to ‘get on with it’. I can stand up and disagree. Find an alternative. Another way. Be true to myself so I could live with my decisions for years to come.
Running my own business has helped me have this opportunity more and to forge my own management style. To treat not just staff with respect but suppliers, customers and other businesses who we collaborate with.
I don’t regret many things from my time I’m Advertising but I do regret turning my back on my old boss and being too easily swayed by the powers above me. Yes I was trying to do my best but in hindsight, I can see I wasn’t being my best self. I am glad that I didn’t act on the direction to be more mongrel, I listened to my heart and led with it.
Want to learn more about me, read here.
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