Madge’s LEGACY is simply that anything is possible even when the odds are stacked against you; and that the following lessons can help get you there:
In the interview and on the job: focus on the “ABCs” A is for ATTITUDE, B is for BEHAVIOR, and C is for COMMUNICATION (and also CONFIDENCE!). Madge is a proponent of a firm handshake (falling somewhere between a dead fish and knocking over the other person). She also advocates for coming in with a positive attitude, treating everyone (including the janitorial staff) with respect, and communicating needs with negotiation and a solid understanding of the needs of the business.
Negotiation is friendship in Chinese culture. Growing up in communist Shanghai, Madge still carries with her some lessons and proverbs from traditional Chinese culture. For example, negotiation is actually friendship, and can be employed more often in those difficult manager/employee conversations. If you get an assignment you’re not excited about (or don’t see the value in it for your own development) then ask questions of your manager: How does this support the organization? Why did you suggest this opportunity for me? And, probe if there are alternatives; i.e. “Can I take on this project instead?” or “Is there a chance for me to take on another responsibility for a different area of interest and growth?”
Bad managers are like guardian angels. Everyone has an experience where they don’t agree with their manager. Those individuals can be guardian angels because they often times push us to find new opportunities. Madge was settled and happy at one company, receiving top ratings and praise; however, it was a manager that didn’t promote or value her the way she deserved that pushed Madge to call up a recruiter, get a financial raise, and move on to her next huge promotion.
Success takes hard work (duh) and also connection and relationships. Simply sitting down and grinding away isn’t where the reward and pay off comes. Instead, success comes through connecting with everyone in the organization. This means truly getting to know people in the elevator, in meetings, at after work events, and literally networking your way up. Every person (even the male ego, Harvard Business School football player) craves connection and relationships with their colleagues—so capitalize on that.
Waste no energy on the things you cannot control. To this day, Madge has an accent, and her daughter and husband correct her English. Every single day Madge is committed to improving her speech because it is something that she can improve upon. What she cannot control, however, is the prejudice of the people around her. If men want to walk past, attempt to look down on her, or assume she isn’t the boss in the room, that is their problem. Madge focuses on the things she can improve upon and change, not the details she can’t change in other people.
Focus on priorities, not balance. Madge says there is no such thing as balance. Instead, females need to focus on different priorities at different points in their lives. If family is a priority, then let people at work and in your life know it. And, perhaps take a job for a little while that supports family (i.e. the job that lets you leave to pick up your kids, or not travel internationally). If your current priority is professional growth, take the big chances and the jobs that require a greater time commitment. Priorities are a choice, and sitting down and recognizing what matters to you is the choice only YOU can make for your own self.
Want more advice from Madge? Grab a copy of her award-winning book, The Innovator’s Path.