Rebecca Reott | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Rebecca Reott

Background:  

Bloomington, Ind.-based Hanapin is a digital marketing company that optimizes clients’ paid search, social and display programs and was recently named among the Top 100 Best Places to Work in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber.

The Mistake:

I was holding on to the cool and new projects for myself so that I could look great at the company, and would delegate off the other projects that maybe weren't as fun or weren't as publicly recognized.

I was working at a company based out of Atlanta, very early in my career, and had recently moved into my first leadership position. I took the job out of college. I had some management experience but not anything in a true and professional corporate setting.

Up until that point in my career, I had been really focused on making sure that my individual achievements were known, and on making sure that my supervisors knew I was doing a good job. So much of the focus in college is on individual grades, individual work. You’re oftentimes graded on a bell curve against your classmates and you’re trying to be at the top of the curve. It emphasizes being individual contributors, and being individually great.

When I graduated with that mentality I took that with me into a corporate setting. In many ways that mentality drives people to be  successful and motivated. But when you’re trying to manage someone for the first time, I quickly learned that is not the mentality that works well to manage others. 

I was excited to take on more of a leadership position at the company and had recently been assigned my first direct report. We were dividing up who was going to work on different projects. And I was having a lot of trouble allowing a direct report to take lead on certain things that I had done many times previously. I knew how to do it, thought I would do it faster, and wouldn't have to spend time retraining others.

Without realizing it, I was taking away an opportunity for her to shine. 

Your individual value becomes tied to the value of your team.

The Lesson:

I’ll never forget it. I was standing in the office and my supervisor at the time came over and she said: “It’s not about you anymore!”

When you’re a manager and you’re a leader it’s realizing that it’s not about you. It doesn't matter what awards you win. It doesn't matter who sees your work. It's about the other people. It’s about the team. It’s about their accomplishments, their awards, their wins. It's about how much you can drive to make others better.

Your individual value  becomes tied to the value of your team, how great a mentor you can be, and how good you are at teaching, coaching, and making them better. It was a light-switch moment where I realized: “Oh my gosh, it’s not about me at all. It’s 150 percent about them."

The more opportunities I gave them to shine the better I was as a leader and manager. And so it’s this realization of “it’s not about me, anymore. It’s about them.”  And living that daily, that truly unlocked my ability to lead and manage teams.

Follow Rebecca Reott on Twitter at @beccabiz and at @Hanapin