We all go through rough patches at work, whether we are the employee, the manager or the business owner. Some are more easy to navigate than others. I always appreciate when someone successful talks about a rough patch and how he or she steered through it.
Recently big time corporate executive Beth Kaplan came to South Florida to address a women's organization. Instead of giving the typical "I made it to the top" speech, Kaplan spoke about the rough patches she has hit in her career and how she handled them. To me, that's valuable insight!
Kaplan has hit more than one rough patch. First she worked at Rite Aid, where there was a massive accounting scandal. She managed to leave with her reputation in tact.Next she worked at Bath & Body Works as executive Vice President of merchandising where she spent a ton of time ina different city, away from her family. She left when she could no longer handle the work life balancing act. Next, she worked as president and COO of Rent the Runway in 2013, a New York-based online company, that loans designer dresses and accessories to women for special occasions. She left that position in October 2015 and today she is a strategic advisor and board member at Rent the Runway.
In an interview with Wharton's Knowledge@Work , Kaplan explained that a key part of steering through rough patches is knowing how to exit a job with grace.
“It’s amazing to me that people don’t talk about how to leave an organization. They all talk about how to join one, but they don’t talk about having to leave.” she told Wharton. She noted that Bath & Body Works had an extensively documented six-month onboarding process, provided in a large binder to new hires, which made no mention of how people should behave when leaving the company.
She talked with her boss, and together they designed a program with which, Kaplan said, she compiled all her insights and learning, and then “left with grace.”
Kaplan outlined “certain ground rules” about leaving with grace. Be transparent with your manager, she said. “You go to your boss and say, ‘Look, I found this other opportunity, but I really care about this organization and I’m very thankful for everything you have given me.’ By the way, say that even if you don’t mean it.” Ask your manager how you can help make the situation a win-win, and discuss how much time it will take to wrap things up, she added.
Kaplan recently shared a few stories and lessons learned from her career with 220 of South Florida’s leading women at The Commonwealth Institute’s Leadership Luncheon at Jungle Island she and had lots of wisdoms to impart. Fortunately, Lisa Cawley Ruiz, (pictured to the left) a content marketing manager at Kaufman Rossin, one of the top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S., captured those insights. She originally posted them on her firm blog but allowed me to share them with my readers as well.
Here are Kaplan’s top four tips for success:
1. Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It is your personal brand, and follows you wherever you go.
2. Don't underestimate the impact you have on other people. Our behaviors (positively or negatively) affect those around us more than we realize, which is why it’s important to solicit quality feedback frequently.
3. Make a graceful exit. How you leave a company is just as important as how you enter.
4. Pick the right partner. “We don’t always agree, but he always has my back,” Kaplan says of her husband. “He reminds me of the things that are most important in my life.”
Kaplan acknowledged that women often feel pressure to conform to expectations, and sometimes have to make decisions that may not be popular. If you’ve given a decision careful thought, you should stick by your choices, she said. “Never apologize for something you’ve thoughtfully considered.”
When the decision in question is whether or not to take a job, thoughtful consideration includes conducting due diligence on a company’s culture. As Kaplan learned the hard way through her experience of seeing Rite Aid nearly collapse in a high-profile financial scandal, culture can make or break a company. (The right culture makes steering through rough patches more doable!)
Recent reports have blamed a mean girl culture for numerous departures at Rent the Runway. However, while in South Florida, Kaplan said culture has been one of the top priorities for the leadership team at Rent the Runway. The online clothing rental startup recently changed its compensation structure, eliminating bonuses and raising salaries in order to underscore its trust in employees, shift employee focus to long-term strategic thinking that can help scale the business, and create a culture of learning that encourages feedback, she said. Giving your team members “unvarnished, truthful and constructive feedback,” is important. And if an employee is no longer a good fit, address it sooner rather than later.
Kaplan's final piece of advice for busy women: Find a way to unplug and recharge. For some, it may be taking a vacation, working on a hobby or spending time with friends. For Kaplan, it’s ballroom dancing.