From A Conversation With Martha Stewart
I’m not sure Martha Stewart would want me to call her the Queen of Quality, but “quality” is certainly signature to her brand, and I dub her that with all due respect for an amazing career which among other things, launched the “lifestyle” industry and continues to innovate it.
In June, I was in Las Vegas, doing research at SHRM19—The largest convention for human resource leaders in the world, put on by the Society for Human Resources Management. There were over twenty thousand people, and I personally met many amazing and insightful people.
One of the first morning keynotes was a conversation with Martha Stewart who was interviewed by the SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
Martha looked great, and was funny, engaging, forthright, and inspiring. No subject was off the table and she talked about everything with candor, humor, and the wisdom that comes from living a full life—every day.
Here are twelve tips I took away from the conversation, expanded on by me. All of them are great reminders for those starting out and for those who have been around the block a few times. Most of all, they are a challenge to us to seek a caliber of excellence in all we do—be quality, create quality, and give quality.
12 Leadership Tips I Learned From Martha Stewart
- It’s never to late to start something new. Martha wrote her first book at 40, started her magazine at age 50, and at her current young age is still going strong, doing new things, starting new ventures and reinventing her life and herself. Most of us are going to live into our nineties so think carefully about your work, career, and the fact that you can have several stages in your life. It’s not just young, middle-aged, and old. It’s whatever you choose to make it. Ms. Stewart continues to make it interesting.
- Value everyone. From the coffee maker to the executives—everyone contributes. We know this. But we don’t always act on it or acknowledge it. If you’re working late and the cleaning person comes to dump your trash like he or she does probably three nights a week, you should know their name. Do you?
- Pay your creatives well. Always pay your idea makers and developers well—they are creating the product. Without that, there are no sales, no marketing plans and no profits. I would like to make that a Royal Edict! Creativity requires technical, imaginative, and analytical skills. Great creatives are both intuitive and editorial. They strive to iterate for the best possible result. Just because you can’t always see the process, doesn’t mean there isn’t a rigorous process going on.
- Leave the door open. If you have good people and they want to leave and try new things, let them know they are welcome to come back. People do more than one job and career in their life, but top talent is top talent. Opportunity might come back knocking on your door, and that’s a good thing for everyone.
- Stay current and encourage your employees to do the same. Maintain your curiosity in all things new, all things around you, what the new trends are in America and abroad, what’s happening in music, culture, business, etc. It will keep you on top of your game and help prevent stagnation or being blindsided. You also don’t know where the next idea will come from. Turn FOMO into a positive.
- Be smarter than the young ones, but encourage them to learn. Learn from new workers while teaching them the old tricks. They can bring freshness. Embrace it. There are a lot ways the youth can keep you on top of your game. But they also need teachers and mentors.
- Set goals. Be clear about goals for your team every day and help them achieve them. A good work ethic matters. Teach your employees to be hard workers. “Be tough, have expectations, and give bonuses!” I appreciated this one a lot and it’s important for some people to really understand. Being tough is not disrespectful. Tough is not taking advantage. Tough is recognizing and believing in the capabilities of your team. But reward their achievement in a timely manner. It matters.
- Reward your people. As noted above—bonuses and monetary compensation are important. But so are more creative rewards, especially for important milestones. Recognition goes a long way—so do off-sites, dinner celebrations, and days when you feed them with inspiration.
- Accept change. Change is guaranteed. Accept it. Expect it. And encourage your team in a positive way with a positive attitude as you lead them through changes. It might be hard for you too, but be the example.
- Ask yourself this.“What are you doing that’s quality?” Do you feel challenged by this question? You should. This is a great question to help us examine our work daily. What is our focus? Are we prioritizing right? Are we creating true value? Are we acting with quality? Are we producing quality work? This one question requires us to hold ourselves to a higher standard every day.
- Don’t look back. It’s hard to make the best of disasters but move forward, don’t look back! “If you’re good, you will always be good.” I love that quote, because let’s face it—we all have setbacks and they make us have doubts. Get over it. Look forward and remember that you’ve got it!
- The world is beautiful. Nature, simplicity, showing care in all you do—beauty is in the simplest things and the most caring actions. Martha didn’t say this. Everything she creates says it.
Go forth with quality.
Tricia Cerrone is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and designer.