When NAWIC LA asked me to share my story on February 20th, I opted to share “Lessons Learned” throughout my life, my career, and the seventeen years I’ve been with Giroux Glass, Inc.. As a CEO and a mom, I knew I didn’t want to give a speech on how to achieve the perfect work-life balance; that would’ve been a 30-second conversation for me (Pick the most pressing priority at that moment!). But I did want to share my passion for mentorship and life-long learning, which I could talk about endlessly. I decided to reflect on my life experiences, and discuss what I’ve learned from them, and the helpful lessons that others have imparted on me, which I can now share with you!
Nataline’s Lessons Learned:
- Don’t label yourself
Growing up, I was always labeled the “shy girl.” It influenced my college major choice—Business–because I could hide away in a cubicle someday. If I hadn’t labeled myself, I would have done so much more throughout my school years; but I was stuck on labeling myself. One of my previous bosses, who ended up being my mentor, consistently threw me out there, so I didn’t have a chance to be shy anymore. So, be open. Only you have the opportunity to change yourself every single day. If you label yourself, you’re only going to hold yourself back. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are, you can change today.
- Don’t ever sway from your morals
No matter what industry you’re in, you’re going to be put in situations where others say, “This is the way we do things. If you want to succeed, you have to do things this way.” And you don’t. You don’t have to go to a business meeting in a setting that you’re uncomfortable with. You do, however, have to stick to your morals and to do what’s right for you. Sometimes you think that if you step out and you’re not in the norm, you’re not doing what everyone else is, that maybe you’ll fail. Perhaps someone won’t give you the opportunity because you don’t fit in. I used to be so intimidated when people asked me what I had to do to be in my position. Don’t do anything that isn’t in alignment with your true self.
- Always be yourself
The biggest challenge for me as I was transitioning from CFO to CEO/President, was thinking, “What the heck am I supposed to do as CEO?” My former CEO is very different from me, so I thought I would disappoint her because I’m different from her. I realized that I just had to be myself. Even if I tried, I couldn’t be like someone else. One of the ways I pulled myself out of this type of thinking was through joining an organization called Vistage, a CEO advisory group. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have a lot to offer as a brand new CEO. Now, after 3 years, I feel like I have just as much to offer as my peers do. Find ways in which you can put yourself out there, and put yourself in new, healthy environments which help support you to be yourself.
- Take the risks that scare the heck out of you!
It’s easy to get stuck on “what ifs,” but what do you have to lose by extending past your comfort zone? There’s usually more to lose if you don’t. Don’t waste your time being afraid of risks, just go for it. Now, stop and think. Are there situations in your life where you’ve labeled yourself, swayed from your morals and it didn’t work out, where you were intimidated about being yourself, or did you take a risk that scared the heck out of you?
- Always listen to advice, but follow your own path
My mentor put me in situations that tested and pushed me. He often believed in me more than I believed in myself, to the point where I thought, whatever he says to do, I’m going to listen. There were some major circumstances in my life where I should have done what was right for me, instead of feeling pressured to meet a goal which others had set for themselves, and even encouraged for me. I was so set on checking off all of my boxes, that I didn’t listen to my gut. I wanted to do what someone I admired had told me. In the end, you have to do what’s right for you.
- Give it your 100% at all times
Sometimes we hold back. We ask ourselves, “What if I mess up? What if people don’t recognize what I’m doing?” Nothing can go wrong if you give 100% all the time, even if you fail or make mistakes along the way. People will notice your efforts, but more importantly, you’ll never regret giving something your all and doing your best.
- Always choose quality over quantity
One thing that weighs heavily on my heart is being a working mom. When I was only a week into my job at Giroux Glass, I met my husband. Now, 17 years later, we have a 13- and 14-year-old. They get mad at me sometimes and say I’m never home. Especially when they were younger, I knew my time was spread very thin. I learned to aim for quality time with them instead of focusing on quantity. Similarly, in your job, you may be cranking out work to say, “Look how much I got done!” However, if you’re not producing quality work, does it really matter how much you got done? People will remember the impact you made with quality work and effort. Don’t move too slowly, but go after quality.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want
Men and women alike feel that if we work really hard and know what we want, other people should recognize that. I found myself thinking, “they should know what I want, so I’ll wait until they talk to me about it.” Those other people are probably busy and not thinking about – or aware! – of what you’re feeling. You must ask for what you want, and also be able to deliver what you’re asking for. With pay increases, be resourceful and do your research, then ask. But watch what you ask for, too. Don’t sell yourself short, but make sure you’re able to back up what you asked for. Be prepared for your new job, or for your raise. If not, don’t complain that you didn’t get what you wanted, or that people didn’t come to you to give you what you want. Your bosses are busy, it’s not that they don’t care.
- Don’t allow yourself to blame someone else for your failures or setbacks
You don’t want to be the “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” person. If you are, you’re never going to be content. You can’t control anyone around you but yourself. You’re able to take action best if you get to a place where you’re not looking to place blame on others or make excuses; when you’re not using your upbringing, your boss, or your coworkers as excuses. What are you going to do about hold-ups and snags? You must stop, look at yourself, and keep plugging away, for the goodness of your health or to stay committed to your goals. It’s disabling to get hung up on everything around you and why you’re not getting what you want. It’s powerful to exercise not letting anyone or anything have that much power over you.
- Give back to others
Part of what motivated my topic today is an attempt to give back for all that I’ve received in my life. Giving not only creates better opportunities for others, but it causes us appreciate what we have and make the most of ourselves.
- Be HUMBLE. There will always be someone else who has something you can’t offer
Some people think that if they don’t tell someone how wonderful they are, then they’re not going to know it. But no one loves a “Ms. Know-it-all.” Remember that you can learn from everyone around you, no matter someone’s position or level of perceived power. Everyone knows something that you don’t.
- Being scared is a complete waste of time
The anxiety and stress caused by fear can kill you. Don’t waste your time being afraid. Once you make a decision to go for something, or not, fear leaves you as the choice is already made. We must also accept and come to terms with what is not in our control.
- Let things roll off you like Teflon
If something negative happens, someone approaches you the wrong way or gets under your skin, address it, and then let it roll off of you. Chances are, they don’t realize that they’ve done something that affected you the way it did, or maybe you hurt them and didn’t realize it. Somebody has to give in. Often, people don’t realize they’ve done something to hurt others and they just walk away, or they truly don’t care and they’re fine with that. All we can control is how we react and let things affect us.
- If you can do more, do more!
Take a step above and beyond, all the time. Never do just enough. That’s how you’re going to set yourself apart. Take on the challenges that no one else steps up for. Even if you don’t really understand the task at hand, volunteer. If someone’s giving you the responsibility to do something, once you hand your work back to them, think, “What are they going to do with it next?” Try to do that part, too. Look into this provider, and two or three more. Weigh out the differences, go above and beyond, and strive for excellence. It’s not all about setting yourself apart, it’s also about what you get out doing your best.
- Always be open-minded
This one can challenge me at times. One of my pet peeves is a set, “this is just how I think” mentality. At the same time, people seemingly put down ideas, when in reality, their type of thinking could instead complement and offset your own thinking. There are times where I may just energetically go for something, while my teammates approach the situation from a more realistic perspective. Embrace and be open-minded about people who think differently than you. Actually, seek them out. At work, on a jobsite, wherever you are, ask your polar opposites for feedback: “How is it working with me? What can I do better?” We already know how we think. Actively seek out people who think differently, and ask their advice and their opinion on how they approach things.
- You don’t have to look hard for mentors. They’re all around you
I used to stress out about not finding a mentor. Some of the best mentors I’ve had are people I’ve supervised, not just my bosses or peers. Again, be open-minded and look around you. You can learn a lot from anyone, it doesn’t have to be someone in a position you’d like to be in, or your boss. Most of the time it’s the person sitting next to you, your neighbor, family member, anyone; especially those who don’t think like you but care about you, because they’re most likely to call you out. Look at the people you meet and your life experiences as ways to learn and grow.
- You can never say “please” and “thank you” too many times
It doesn’t take much effort to say “please” and “thank you,” but if it’s sincere, you will make people feel appreciated and respected. They are more likely to go above and beyond for you the next time, or more importantly, perhaps you can help turn their day around. Some may wonder why they should say please or thank you to others when they’re simply doing their job. You say it because you’re a nice person. It doesn’t cost anything. Someone who communicates these things with a kind and genuine heart, goes a long way. Think of how nice it is when you hear these words, and when someone shows appreciation for you.