The Best Advice I Ever Received

4 years ago

I'm participating in a Blog Hop with Midlife Boulevard and the topic for this post is "What's the best advice I ever received?" 

I've had a lot of good advice in my life, but the most practical and useful for every aspect of my life was from my first boss at my job at a Fortune 50 company.  


In the first month after I had started this new job, I was invited by the vice president of sales to attend a meeting with all of his senior sales directors.  This was my first time meeting with all of the sales directors and the first time I was seeing them all interact together in one room in the same meeting.  They had asked me to join them to share the details of a new marketing campaign that I was launching.  

Credit Image: Nomadic Lass on Flickr

I was excited about presenting to this important group and spent a lot of time putting together my Power Point presentation in the weeks leading up to the meeting.  The day before, I spent several hours rehearsing my presentation, making sure I was clear in my communication so that I could quickly gain their respect as well as their support for the new campaign.

And then the next afternoon I drove about 2 1/2 hours to Philadelphia during rush hour to get to the meeting site in a Philly hotel.  I entered the rather informal room full of male executives (I was the only woman in the room, all the sales directors at this time were male) and sat down, waiting for my turn to present my initiative.

And, I waited.  And waited.  For over two hours.

A new finance manager had also been asked to join them at this quarterly directors meeting, and he had a lot to say about their sales quotas, which generated a heated discussion that went on for a very long time. Not surprisingly, they were talking very energetically about their sales funding and bonus plans and the conversation went on and on, well over its allotted time.

My scheduled time to present my program passed.  Another hour passed and then another.  I was becoming more and more frustrated and felt tremendously ineffectual.  The testosterone in the room was very high, I was the only woman and I was new to the team. As the clock ticked away, it became clear that I wasn't going to get my allotted 30 minutes to present.  In fact, I would be lucky if I even got 10 minutes.  And the information I was sharing warranted at least 45 minutes.

After several hours, I finally got to do a highly abbreviated version of what I had originally planned, and the vice president of sales apologetically promised to give me more time at the upcoming national sales meeting.

I drove home feeling defeated and frustrated at the amount of time I had spent driving there, sitting in the room listening to them and then spending just 10 minutes presenting a program that I had worked on for months and which warranted a good hour of conversation.  I felt ridiculous and unimportant and thought that my new job was NOT going very well.

The next morning I spoke to my boss, telling her that the entire meeting was a waste of my time and I would have been better off just staying at the office and working on the project, vs. wasting a day driving there, sitting for hours and driving back with only 10 minutes to share my initiative.

I will always remember her response.

With a wonderful and supportive smile, she asked, "But what did you learn from that experience?"  

I stopped and looked at her.  "Well, it was clear that the vice president didn't get along with the Northeast sales director."

"Good information," she said with a smile, "and what else?"

"Well, I could tell there's some type of restructuring about to take place because all of them were jockeying for position.  I could also see who got along well with the vice president and who he didn't really connect with, who his favorites were and who wasn't in the "in" crowd.  I could tell that there are big issues between the VP of sales and the finance group."

She smiled again and said, "Aren't you glad you had that chance to watch and observe all of them on their own turf, interacting like that?  That was invaluable information for you down the road in this new job.  I'm so glad you went to that meeting." 

And she was a thousand percent right.  And, I soon realized that if I took her approach in every new situation in my life, it would be incredibly helpful.

I think of her advice almost every day.  Every new interaction, every time I think I'm wasting my time and wondering why I'm in a situation, her question pops into my mind, and I ask myself what this particular lesson is teaching me.

 And there's always something that I've learned that is useful and meaningful, in every single experience when I approach it with that question.

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