Learning from the Boss

Images I had breakfast with someone this morning and it made me think about work environments.  Then later in the day I met with someone who is of the same generation and we talked about collaboration among non-profits in Africa.  That collaboration is better for everyone.  When we share resources and ideas the outcome is better for everyone from the top down.  I am a big believer in collaboration but many people of older generations, particularly women, were always of mindset of having sharp elbows to hold down their territory probably because they weren't always embraced to be part of the team. 

When I worked at Macy's, fresh out of college,  I found that there was definitely a group of women who screamed louder, back stabbed better and worked four times as hard as any of the men who were at the same level.  As a young aggressive bull in a China shop, I found that behavior concerning that women didn't seem to be treated as equals and wondered if I should sharpen my elbows too. 

I was in my third job at Macy's which was an assistant store manager of the New Rochelle store.  I loved that job.  I was responsible for 1/3 of the store and I over saw cosmetics and all of womens ready-to-wear.  I loved helping each person who worked for me grow in their career and teach them the business.  Being able to make daily changes that would directly effect the numbers of each individual business was rewarding. 

I learned so much in that job.  I happened to work for an amazing woman who was all about collaboration.  After working for one woman who created the fear of god in everyone and wasn't very warm to a woman who was dumb as a post and just fed on her power over me to a woman that created a cult like atmosphere, the store manager of New Rochelle was so refreshing. 

She taught me about the power of being a woman and using it.  Every 6-8 weeks the men (literally) who were the top brass at Macys at the time would come visit the store.  It gave the store an opportunity to basically clean house prior to the visit.  Every store room would be cleaned, every floor would be organized and the place would shine.  The men would walk through each department and the sales managers would come out to shake hands and introduce themselves and answer a few questions.  As the assistant store manager, I would walk them through my areas and recite data that they wanted to hear and answer questions. 

Every morning, the store manager would always ring me.  Every been in a store and hear those bells.  Every person at a certain level has a certain bell.   I'd hear my bell and I'd call a number which was the store managers to find out what was up.  She would come in the morning and sometimes ask me to come upstairs to give her a fb (french braid).  You spent so many hours there it was like a family and she was wonderful. 

The day of the visit I got there early and as usual heard my bell.  I called and she asked me to come upstairs to prep for the day.  I was wearing my black suit.  I walk upstairs and see that she is wearing a tight black leather mini skirt with a tight red sweater and 4" heels.  She had an incredible figure.  When I saw her my mouth dropped.  I said "did you forget who is coming today?"  She just smiled and said, "I know exactly who is coming today and I believe you should use everything that you got." 

She was incredibly smart saavy and chic.  She taught me an invaluable lesson too.  Be yourself and if that means standing in 4" shoes then do it.