After landing at SLW, I faced beginner bumps. I served two masters—the client and the internal team. Everyone hated me. I didn’t initially realize it but remember being made aware. I had to work to gain trust and respect.

The airline account moved fast with killer deadlines. Fare changes kept us busy.

In the pre-Internet era, ads had to run in eleven papers. The fares needed to be correct! (Read: NO TYPOS. UNACCEPTABLE.) If the fare was $300 but was printed for $30, the airline had to honor the $30 fare and lose tons of revenue.

There was a lot of waiting, pressure and working on tight timetables. The client would get new fares with little time to make deadlines. I received one phone call an hour like this: “Are the new fares in? The team wants to go home.”

The team hated the “messenger of working late.” I would have hated me, too, if I were them. How did I gain trust and respect, despite the client’s unrealistic timetables?

I won them over with empathy and a simple solution to the lack of control over their schedules. Here’s how: I told the team that I shared their frustration and apologized for disrespecting their time. I then devised an alternating “work late” schedule. That solution won over the team and earned me their respect.

On my last day, “W” of SLW said to me, “You can do anything you want in the world.” To this day, his words remind me to own the problem and solve it.

Defining the problem and proposing solutions are required leadership skills. Problem solvers are the most valued—the queens and kings. Define the problem, empathize with your team, provide solutions and your team may be forever your subjects.

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