Key lessons learnt while climbing the corporate ladder

Marie McCrea has learnt some very valuable lessons climbing the corporate ladder. Marie is passionate about empowering people. A partner at the Centre for Innovative Leadership, she has proven skills and ability in supporting organisations in managing their change and transition projects through attention to the people, systems, behaviours and processes. Marie is an ACCA Fellow.

For me success is not measured by wealth or position in society or the organisation you work in, but by whether you are doing the best you can and remain true to yourself in the process.

Do not be afraid of hard work. Do each task well and if you want to gain more responsibility then do it better than it has been done before and in the process of doing ask at least 5 times why? Why am I doing this task? Understand how each task fits into the larger organisational picture, who needs it and why. You will be surprised at how many tasks you can stop doing, and improve or create new tasks that really add value to the organisation and meaning to your work.

You only have options if you have competencies. However, knowledge and skills are not enough, your attitude and application of your knowledge and skills is more important as well as the values that guide you.

Know who you are, steer by that and be authentic. Clarify your purpose (your reason for being) and what you want to achieve (vision). Otherwise you will go blindly through life and be in the service of your work rather than work being in the service of you.

Be trust-worthy in the best sense of these words. People view information as power – be sure to share the information that helps build your team and the organisation and enables them to perform better as a result but be trusted to hold safe, confidences shared with you by individuals/the organisation. Do not be the source of or the spreader or rumours.

I initially learnt to work with companies and view everything including the people through a financial lens – it is how I was trained. Staff = FTEs, HCs, salaries, productivity figures etc. This did not sit well with me from the outset. An organisation is a living complex system and the people, who work in it, are the critical element. Each and every one of them is different and unique. Systems Thinking, or seeing the organisation as a whole is a key skill to understanding and viewing organisations and life in general. Looking for the interconnections between elements rather than focusing on the parts has always been more useful to me.

Also, open yourself to engaging with your colleagues, your team, your bosses – listen and learn. Quality conversation is important in these engagements – learn and apply the skills. The lens with which we view things is only one view – consider viewing challenges and problems in the workplace from their perspective and in a systemic way.

Have at least 2-3 people in your team, who can do your job as well as you can and can fill your shoes when you move up

Real learning can be painful – but so worth it.

Have fun and be humble. There is an ancient saying in China; “The lower the vessel the more it can receive.” Real power comes from below,not from above in organisations.

Marie McCrea
Partner, Centre for Innovative Leadership (CIL)(

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