#1 Piece Of Advice For Budding Executives

Young executive in a meeting with other executives

So, you've been moving up in your career for a while now. And congrats! You land your first job in the C-suite. But, how can you succeed in this new role—a role completely different from any other role you've ever had before?

We asked some leading executives their #1 piece of advice for budding executives. Here's what they want you to know before you enter the C-suite:

​Bonnie Patrick-Mattalian, Multi-Unit Business Operations Executive

Young executive talks about one of her ideas during a meeting


My advice? Be the innovator.

We've all likely shared the same experience at some time in our careers. We're in a meeting or on a call, and someone comes up with a strategy, concept, or tactic that feels like it came out of left field—yet it was brilliant.

The creation and conceptualization of brands are born this way, and existing brands stay relevant through constant change and evolution. Come up with a strategy, concept, or solution for your company or client that helps them to:

  1. Better define and capture market share, perhaps better differentiates their brand.
  2. Resolve a significant issue or pain point.
  3. Provide more excellent value to the end user.
  4. Improve net margins.

And if you want to knock it out of the park, close the loop and take your thought from strategy to implementation, throwing in a few options along the way. Get feedback from peers to ensure you are on the right track and solving the "right" problems.

During my career as a consultant, I provided multiple process and strategic improvements, bringing great value to our end users. The group that retained me was delighted. They said, "We want someone who thinks like you." So much so, they invited me to join their company in an executive position.

Don't be afraid of putting yourself out there and potentially being rejected. That has happened to many of the brightest and best business leaders and innovators, including Walt Disney, Bill Gates, and Thomas Edison. And now, our world is a better place because of their creativity and contributions.

I believe the time is ripe for innovations. Discover how you can make the world a better place through your actions and initiatives.

Bonnie Patrick Mattalianbuilds high-performing teams and businesses in both the private and not-for-profit sectors. An engaging and collaborative leader of multi-unit operations, Mattalian has improved EBITDA by 3-12% annually with proven solutions for customer experience delivery success, financial profitability analytics, strategic planning, and team leadership development. She has facilitated the successful launch of more than 60 businesses throughout her career, turnarounds for another 20 locations, and was most recently responsible for a book of business for a global company of more than $25M in revenues and 1200+ employees.

​Karen Doerr, Business Development And Healthcare Sales Leader

Young executive helps out a colleague


I think the #1 tip for budding executives is to get involved in volunteer activities that are work or non-work related and continue to build your network. Find ways to showcase your special skill sets (i.e., marketing or project management) in a different environment that helps others succeed, such as a community response to filling the shelves for local food pantries.

Budding execs need to remain connected both internally and externally to continue to grow personally and supplement a limited base of life experiences. I know as a budding executive, it was easy to become self-absorbed on the next promotion or win and lose sight of the greater good.

In the end, it is about giving more than you receive. And if you can make a lifelong commitment to not only ensuring your own personal success but trying to improve the success of others, you will find that life is not only good, but possibly great.

Karen Doerr is a business development and healthcare sales leader who enjoys introducing new tools and services to payers and providers that increase patient access and eliminate waste in healthcare delivery. Karen has helped start-ups and medium-size companies establish national brand awareness and accelerate revenues exploiting gaps in the complicated healthcare ecosystem. In her last leadership role, she led sales and marketing efforts for a digital healthcare start-up targeting chronic disease and is most impactful at the intersection of primary care, technology, and care management.

​Jon Weisblatt, Global Business Development Executive

Young executive thinking before a meeting


The number one piece of advice I have for budding executives is be curious.

Say "yes!" when presented with opportunities. Look for them, and then take them when offered. An assignment overseas? Take it. A project that is going to stretch you? Try it. Push yourself, and let others push you.

We all have to start somewhere, usually in an entry-level role, and find ways to challenge and diversify ourselves. I was incredibly fortunate early in my career, working in public relations in Washington, DC where junior PR people are more abundant than cherry blossom petals in the springtime—and just as disposable.

I had a manager who took a chance and brought me on to a high-visibility project pitch, and through the course of our working together, taught me how to think strategically and tactically, and like our client would. It was hard work, including some nights at the office until 3 a.m., but we delivered an incredibly well-thought-out pitch and executed against it. It was magical. Find projects like that.

In the course of being curious, ask a lot of questions. And pay attention to everyone around you—the questions they ask, the mannerisms, the jargon, etc. If something doesn't feel right, ask; either pull a manager aside, or have the confidence to ask a question in the meeting in front of everyone.

There's no shame in asking questions. "Why would we go that direction on this project, when customer XYZ told us that they wanted something different?" You may not get a satisfactory answer—the manager may not know, or corporate leadership wants to go in a different direction—but just bringing it up, demonstrating critical thinking skills, is very valued.

And if someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer to it, play it straight, just say so with both confidence and curiosity, and circle back later with the answer.

Jon Weisblatt is a global business development executive with 20+ years' experience in B2B technology, marketing, sales, and partner development. He has developed and implemented programs that have reduced customer acquisition cost (CAC) to almost $0. His most recent position was leading a strategic relationships team for an e-commerce marketplace in the transportation/logistics space.

​Tonya Towne, Strategic Planning Leader

New and seasoned executives in a meeting


Have you ever known a leader that tried to have all the answers themselves? Surrounding yourself with people who know more is the best recommendation I have for emerging executives. For instance, I have seen a few leaders in business that would not allow their employees to answer questions on behalf of the department and requested everything be directed to the leader. This is a recipe for disaster and dictates a short leadership career. When you surround yourself with the right people, it fosters an environment of learning and growth for all parties involved.

A part of learning and growth comes self-awareness, which is extremely important to embracing your strengths and being modest about your weaknesses. It did take some time for me to accept my weaknesses and seek out folks to supplement my areas of opportunity because I allowed my ego to control all my actions. I once read a passage in The Wisdom of Sundays (Chodron 108), "…the only reason we do this grasping and fixating on what you call ego is because we feel we have something to protect." This really resonated with me because I had not fully accepted my path for growth which was to allow others to help me and embrace their value. I needed to be challenged by those who knew more and would make me a better leader because I set high expectations for myself. Once I began to adopt this in practice, I noticed a positive shift in my professional relationships, better execution of business strategies, and improved work environments.

For emerging executives, understanding your weaknesses will help you identify the right people to bring into your circle and nurture a long, successful career of continued learning.

Tonya Towne is a strategic planning leader with extensive experience in the financial services industry including mergers and acquisitions, process transformation, product management, and non-performing asset sales. She has developed and led teams of 2-20 employees with operating budgets of $1M - $15M and maintained employee engagement results above 90%. In her most recent leadership role, she managed program portfolios from $2M - $50M in technology investments, as well as led the sale of $1B in unpaid principal balances of non-performing loans and credit cards in Canada and the U.S.

Landing an executive position is a big accomplishment. The seasoned executives above want to help you succeed in your new role. Follow their best pieces of advice, from being the innovator to giving more than you receive to being curious to surrounding yourself with people who know more than you. If you do this, you'll be sure to find success in the C-suite.

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