Q: What would you like to have known early on in your professional life?
Chanda Chambers, Owner & President, Chambers Welding & Fabrication, Corp.
I wish I had known to challenge myself to always pursue the goals I had that I knew would help strengthen me in the long run. Challenges not only help you grow in skill and knowledge, but they also help you develop a stronger belief in your own capacity. Where there’s security, there’s nothing forcing you to rise to the occasion of maximizing your potential.
Beverly Coulter, Board Chairman, Friends of the Zoo
One of the things I wish I had known early in my professional career was to not take myself so seriously. I have learned that it’s okay to disagree with others when things aren’t going well in the workplace. At the end of the day, it’s just a job. Being judgmental of someone who doesn’t agree with you never pays off.
Rusty Gray, Managing Shareholder, Baker Donelson
Professional careers involve so many moving parts, especially in the early days. So much of success as a professional, however, simply entails focusing on doing a good job of taking care of people and solving their problems. That goes for internal co-workers and external clients. It would have helped me early in my career to simplify things by always returning to the key goals of providing good service and solving problems. Get your co-workers and clients to the finish line with their problems and provide caring service in the process.
Derek Bullard, President & CEO, Siskin Children’s Institute
Early in my career, I obsessed over details and managing every project, contract, and opportunity at the micro level. When my organization was small and we had early wins, I attributed this success to my hard work and obsession over every detail. However, as my company became larger, this approach hindered our growth and eventually caused me to lose staff. After lamenting the loss of a key employee early in my career to a competitor, a mentor gave me sound advice that I use to this day: “Focus on the ongoing development and skills of your employees, delegate effectively, and allow your staff the latitude to take calculated risks.” This approach empowers employees by showing you trust them and helps create resiliency in the organization.
Charles Lathram, CEO, Galen Medical Group
Don’t expect everyone to feel the same way you do, and don’t get disappointed when you realize they don’t feel the same way you do. Meet your employees and co-workers where they are, not where you want them to be. I have a philosophy that I have called the 10-80-10 Principle. It notes that 10% of your employees are happy regardless of the circumstances, and 10% of your employees are generally not going to be happy regardless of your attempts. The 80% in the middle are the ones you have an opportunity to positively impact, and they should be your focus.