Career Success

Building A Successful Career: Executives Share Their Advice

By Natalie BarbaMarch 29, 2017

As you may have already seen, to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we kicked off an online community series with four executive women mentors. Our panelists addressed a collection of questions previously submitted by the community on career building and networking.

For this first Ask Her Anything, we highlighted women mentors from the executive ranks:

  • Dina Keswani, Adjunct Instructor, Project Leadership and Systems Design and Leadership, eCornell
  • Lauren Fogel, VP, Production & Digital Studio, STEM, Pearson
  • Felicia Guity, Channel Officer Worldwide Public Sector – Education, Microsoft
  • Mylene Pollock, EVP, Creative Director, Leo Burnett

We’re appreciate the women taking the time to share their experiences with our community members. Below find their advice on managing large teams, telling your career’s compelling story, negotiating pay, and delivering constructive feedback.

How do you effectively manage 80+ people and ensure that their day to day and professional development needs are met? How do you keep them motivated and passionate about what they do? And lastly, how do you divide your attention between your direct reports?

“With such a large team it really helps to have a strong management team in place – with 80 people you really need strong pillars to support you. And it is those managers who should be responsible for the day to day issues with the staff. As the leader of the team it’s important to set the broad context and ensure that people know who you are and what you and the team stands for. I’ve had success with the following: 1. Clearly articulate the mission, vision, and values of the team, putting those in context of the overarching goals of the organization and tying those goals back to the work that the team does every day to help them see how important their work is within that broader context – that helps with collective understanding and buy-in. 2. Establish a regular cadence for large departmental meetings (mine are quarterly) during which you can report on corporate initiatives that people need to know about, report on the progress of the team (deliverables met, products released), report on the financial situation (sales to date, balance to achieve, departmental spend against goal, etc), offer team members an opportunity to present their work so that team members are aware of what others on the team are doing (that has to be planned in advance, of course), and take questions.  3. Talk to people and build personal relationships – I block out time twice/ week to walk the floors and check in with people – just 5-10 min chats about how they’re doing, asking questions about their projects, etc. I believe that having a relationship with the team leader helps people to feel more accountable.

Regarding how to divide time between your direct reports – that’s hard to answer without more context. FWIW here’s what I do: I meet the four of my six direct reports who have the most complex, cross-functional work and the most people to manage 30-45 min/week. I meet with my longest-term director who is incredibly self-sufficient once/month (but make sure that he knows he can come to me anytime). And I put aside 30 min/week for my departmental coordinator.”

Lauren Fogel

As an undergrad some years ago, I felt like everyone was telling me to get out there and explore. I did this, but now I feel like the people on the other end struggle to understand my resume. I’ve done some amazing things and have good reason for taking each job I’ve held but recruiters seem to view me as an eclectic, loose cannon. Any advice?

“The key is to find (create) the golden thread that weaves throughout each of your roles and make a compelling narrative around that thread. You want to bring this up proactively BEFORE the interviewer broaches. I have a friend who was a copywriter in NY, then went abroad and became a jewelry designer, she then returned to NY to work in sports marketing. Now she is working in Dallas as a consultant. She is able to bring so much to her job because of her innate curiosity and life experience. Be proud of what you’ve done but focus on what links each experience and then weave a succinct story around that.”

Mylene Pollock

How have you broached the topic of requesting a pay increase or a bonus greater than what was originally offered?

“As my grandmother always said, “It never hurts to ask as long as you ask nicely.” I suggest that you start by thanking your manager for her support, telling her how much it means to you as a demonstration of her confidence in your work. Then you might want to present a case that shows the value add that you’ve brought to the organization and how you believe that your compensation adjustment should be greater, and clearly indicate what you are looking for. If that doesn’t get you anywhere immediately, another strategy would be to request that your compensation be reviewed again in six months based on your successful achievement of agreed upon goals.”

Lauren Fogel

“I agree with everything Lauren writes. If money is tight or there is a hold on increases, an unorthodox build is suggesting a work-around. I’ve seen examples where people have been given a bonus instead of a salary increase, or extra paid time off, or even been sent to a special conference. It’s important to be appreciative of the support but confident in your worth.”

Mylene Pollock

How do you find out if your compensation is on par with your male counterparts? And if it’s not, how do you ask for a raise not based on merit but based on equality?

“The most pragmatic way to do this is to do some research to get grounded in facts. Glassdoor and other internet sites have salary range information.  The real question is not if you’re on par because statistics show that this is far from reality. What you want to know is if your compensation is commensurate with your contribution and value. Getting a benchmark salary range allows you to have a factual conversation and not a gender or equality conversation. Hope this helps.”

Felicia Guity

How do you approach giving constructive feedback to your team?  

“First make an appointment to meet with your team member (don’t do it in the hallway) in a place where you can speak privately. Schedule the meeting toward the end of the day so that if the person has a hard time with the feedback, they can leave the office shortly thereafter. It’s good to have some tissues nearby in case your employee gets emotional.

When you’re together, sit across from the person and be sure to make eye contact. Have your thoughts organized and even written down so that you don’t lose track of what you’re going to say. When you give the constructive feedback speak slowly and clearly and provide specific examples of the issues, why they were problematic, what you expect in the future. Pause and let the person absorb the information. Be comfortable with the silence – try not to talk over it. Ask if they have any questions. Be patient and let them answer. Don’t rush it. Give them a plan for how you want them to work going forward and establish a time when you will check in next to discuss their progress.

I usually approach giving constructive feedback like making a metaphorical sandwich:  first you say something nice about the person and their performance (that’s the first piece of bread), then you give the feedback, that you looking for improvement in certain areas (that’s the meat/veggies/cheese) and then you make a supportive statement – e.g. I’m really confident that you can turn this around, I am here to support you, we’ll check in regularly on your progress, I’m here to answer your questions and troubleshoot with you, etc, (that’s the top slice of bread).”

Lauren Fogel

Check out more of our mentors’ recommendations on the discussion board, or sign up to be a mentor and offer your own perspective to our community.

Natalie Barba

Natalie Barba

Community Operations

About the Author

As Associate Community Manager at Everwise, Natalie focuses on engaging with a global community of professionals and connecting them with one another. She’s passionate about working with children and supporting others’ growth.

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