Define Success For Yourself

Define Success For Yourself

Dearest Grace,

Over the last three decades, I have learned a lot. Working in corporate America, the highlight being my tenure at the Estée Lauder Companies, leading not-for-profit boards and now serving on the board of the Capital Group’s American Funds has taught me that mistakes are the best teachers.  The most valuable things that I have learned mostly came about by stepping into my own mud puddles and observing others splashing into their own.  To help you avoid these messy spots and accelerate your growth, I am sharing a few things that I have learned along the way.

  1. Be friends with everyone. This is at every level and stage of your life -- when you are in school, on sports teams, and in a company setting.  Having a wide array of diverse friends will help you learn more about people and provides a great foundation as you navigate complex situations. I went to a large public high school in SW Virginia – my best friend was the homecoming queen and is still one of my best friends decades later.  But I would never have passed driver’s-ed without my chewing tobacco buddy who taught me how to parallel park.  I treasure them both.

  2. Wait a beat. The number of times I have gotten myself into an embarrassing pickle because I reacted emotionally or without needed perspective are too many to count. “Wait a beat” is my mantra – give yourself time to process, respond thoughtfully and appropriately rather than risking your hard-earned credibility with a reactive remark or action that you might later regret.

  3. Define success for yourself. For me it is delivering your best with kindness and integrity.

  4. Ask for help and give help to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  People love to be asked for their expertise and insights.  And even when it’s not asked for, reach out and help someone who might need your help.  They will never forget your kindness and will help others navigate potential land mines as a result.

  5. Culture. Appreciating and understanding an organization’s culture has advanced my career but almost once derailed it.  Culture is not what the company says or produces – it is about how it behaves, treats people and lives its values.  Being fluent in your organization’s culture requires a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).  This takes asking the right people the right questions and careful observation.  Understanding the nuances of how things operate, the ways people connect and how decisions really get made is understanding culture.

  6. How vs. What. For me this the single most important contributor to a person’s success in life and in work.  I assume that anyone that I am working with or hiring has great professional skills and expertise.  All of that goes out the window if their “how” – how they treat others, how well they collaborate, how constructive they are in bringing new ideas and in solving problems and if they operate with integrity, kindness and respect for others – is crummy.  If the “how” is broken, they probably will not last in our company or on my team.

  7. Ask your boss: “What do you need from me?  What does success look like to you?  What keeps you up at night?  How would you like me to communicate you? What can I do to make your life easier.”  This provides you with very clear direction and shows your leader that you are truly committed to really understanding and supporting that person or organization – even if it isn’t on a formal job description.

  8. Challenge the status quo.  Always look for ways to deliver more value and to improve or toss engrained processes, procedures, workflows.  We are so often zooming along that we don’t stop and ask (kindly), “Why are we doing this?  Who benefits?  What are we trying to solve for?  Is there a better/more effective/faster/less expensive way to do this.”  These are conversations that I have every day with my team at all levels.  The results are amazing – we have changed the way we work, stopped doing things that don’t add value and engineered new approaches to what we do.  This is energizing for the team and empowering to all our members.

  9. Bring others up with you.  If there is one thing that I hope that I am known for (besides mother to wonderful you) is that I want to bring others – especially young women – up with me.  Success is always the result of people working together at every level.  There is nothing that makes me happier than to mentor others, teach them and promote them both literally and figuratively.  This is why we work so hard and is the one thing that truly matters.

I don’t want to end this without telling you how much I have learned from you, Grace – you chart your own path and follow your own compass with great intelligence, compassion, pragmatism, scholarship and love.  You teach me so much and your life lessons make such a huge impact on me.  I love you, my sweet daughter and if I had to add the 10th point, it would be to say, call your Mother --  she is always here for you.

Xo Mom

About Alexandra Trower

Alexandra Trower is the Executive Vice President of Global Communications at The Estée Lauder Companies.