Everything you need to know about life, you can learn in the business world

I’m a corporate kind of girl.  Other than the blip in my life known as law school, I’ve spent the vast majority of my career at companies of varying size, and always in fields that demand discretion, diplomacy and presence.  (Those of you who really know me may get a chuckle from that, thinking back on times in my life when I’ve severely lacked in those areas).  Anyway, I was recently reflecting on the rules of the corporate world , and realized that the keys to success are the same things that I should aspire to in my personal life:

  • Be responsive.  In the corporate world, this means get back to people timely, even if it is just to say that you are looking into something.  Employees become “go to” people because they always return messages promptly and even if they don’t know the answer, they attempt to find out.   Real world translation for me:  don’t put people on the back burner just because you are busy.  I’ve been known to completely flake out on dinner dates, birthdays and the like.  It’s not good.
  • Be kind.  I’m always amazed at how some people get to certain levels in an organization and believe it’s OK to treat those beneath them as if they are beneath them.  I believe that a true leader treats the lowest person in the organization with as much respect as their boss’ boss.  Real world translation for me:  get over yourself.
  • Be positive.  This can be extremely difficult as we all have bad days and let’s face it – there are always office politics to contend with.  In these  tough economic times, we are all doing more with less.  But it’s draining to have someone on the team who just complains all the time.  Real world translation for me:  save it for your blog.
  • Be a leader.  Seeing projects or initiatives stall because no one is driving them forward drives me crazy.  I’ve found that there are many people looking to take credit for something big; not too many who are actually willing to roll up their sleeves and get it done.   If you are Type A and enjoy leading, this is a good thing.  Real world translation for me:  if you wait for your husband to wipe down the table, don’t get mad when you are scraping off dried oatmeal at dinner time.
  • Be trustworthy.  One of the best parts of my job is listening to and advising senior managers.  It can be a challenge in my role as some of these people are reporting in to each other.  But I make it a point never to betray a confidence.  If I lose trust of my leaders, I might as well pack up my desk.  Real world translation for me:  it’s tricky when your best friend is your husband’s sister.   Just keep things on a need-to-know basis.
  • Be dependable.  Follow through on what you say you are going to do.  Senior executives do not want to have to chase you down.  Real world translation for me:  if you can remember to set up a follow up meeting about that group project, you can certainly remember to bring your son’s sippy cup to school.  After having been reminded three times.
  • Be ambitious.  Too many people in the corporate world complain that they are passed over for promotions or development opportunities, but take no initiative to move their own career forward.  People who seek out mentors, who explore new careers and jobs, who invest in their own development and education are usually the ones getting these opportunities.  Real world translation for me:  snoozing on the futon is not going to get you out of Allston.
  • Be accountable.  If you make a mistake, admit it.  And don’t blame someone else.  Figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.  I always like to compare professional credibility to a bank account – if you build up deposits over time, you can afford to make a withdrawal (or two).  If you make too many withdrawals, your bad credit will follow you around.  Real world translation for:  on those very rare occasions when you upset your husband, say I’m sorry.  Unless it was his fault in the first place!

In sum, I’m probably one of those people who is better in the corporate world than in the real world, but I resolve to mentor myself in 2013!

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