Treat People as Human Beings. Novel thought. And yet, it is with that single guiding principle that Mary Kay Ash founded her “dream company” and then built it into one of the most iconic businesses of the 20th century.
The Mary Kay Way is as much a lesson on human decency as it is as story of the Mary Kay organization. Through her words, we learn quickly that Mary Kay stands for more than lipstick and pink Cadillacs. Built on, around and through the ideals and beliefs of its founder, Mary Kay is a champion of the inner strength in all of us that, when nurtured, is capable of overcoming all types of obstacles and creating the lives of our dreams.
The Timeless Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Mary Kay lived her life and ran her business under the strict philosophy that everyone – colleagues, clients and the public at large – deserve to be treated as a human beings. The business model she created – the business model that has created more millionaires than any other company on the planet – is founded squarely on that one principle; people deserve to be treated well. As Mary Kay puts it, “nice guys, and gals, do NOT finish last.”
It’s a nice thought, and a great sentiment that few among us would disagree with. Yet, in the fast paced work environment where so many of us exist, it can be difficult to slow down long enough to remember to treat people properly. Here are a couple valuable suggestions from Ms. Ash herself…
Remember the Invisible Sign
“Whenever I meet someone, I try to imagine him or her wearing an invisible sign that says: MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT! I respond to this sign immediately, and it works wonders.”
The Mary Kay Way, page 21
How do you like to feel? Important or Disregarded? The easy part about making people feel like a million bucks is to remember that they are just like you. Everyone wants to be appreciated as a valuable contribution. A contribution at home, at work, at sport – everyone just wants to feel like they are capable of making a contribution. The question is, how do you make those around you feel? Do they feel appreciated? It’s amazing what a small amount of praise, or even simple acknowledgement, will do for an individual’s disposition. A slogan I love that I picked up years ago is “catch someone doing something right.” It’s easy and natural to find the flaws in a person’s performance. There’s no skill in that, no real talent. A talent of a strong leader is to root out and recognize achievement. Regardless of title or relationship, you can be a leader with those around you. Just remember that everyone wants to feel special, and all it takes is personal recognition. You’ll be amazed how much loyalty that can build.
Build your team
“People naturally resist change.”
The Mary Kay Way, page 95
How do you combat that? Tap into basic human psyche and recognize that “People support that which they help create.” Mary Kay inc. has built an empire by embracing that idea. Every corporate development, every product addition is designed with real feedback from a panel of Sales Managers. Obviously, with over 1.8 million independent sales reps worldwide, getting feedback from everyone is impossible for the organization. And yet, by inviting even a few members of the field to partake in big picture planning and development, Mary Kay Inc. has created a culture that embraces change. No small feat for an organization, let alone one that operates in 35 countries.
If it’s possible in a corporate environment as large as Mary Kay, imagine the possibilities in your own life. Mary Kay tells a story about a woman she knew who was planning a European vacation with her family of five. Rather than dictate where they were going and when, she let each of her three kids pick one country to research, plan and play “tour guide” in. Think of the power in that! Not only did the kids learn more than they ever would have by simply “attending”, they acquired a sense of pride and accomplishment in their research. On top of that, “mom” was able to please the whole family while simultaneously delegating the work that normally would have been by her alone.
How many activities in your life, be at home or at work, are you currently performing that could be team activities? Logically, we know that “two heads are better than one” when it comes to problem solving, but it’s also important to remember the intrinsic value in bringing people in to the “inner circle”. Teamwork and discussion are basic, yet valuable tools in making people feel important.
The Subtitle of The Mary Kay Way is “Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur”. It’s that word timeless that needs to be appreciated. Upon her death in 2001, Mary Kay Ash was worth over 360 million dollars. She built a company that will long outlast her, and a community of women that numbers in the millions. Yet there was nothing groundbreaking about her business model, or about her philosophies. Mary Kay’s strength was her belief in a timeless principle. She had an unshakeable resolve that all of us, men and women worldwide, were created equal and have a right be treated as such. She believed in the power of a kind word and eye contact during conversation. She believed in teamwork and family before work. She has been described as a visionary, but in getting to know her through her book I’d say this – Mary Kay Ash was an unwavering reminder that there is potential in all of us, we simply need to recognize that potential in each other. In supporting each other together, we can accomplish incredible things. One of her National Sales Directors described Mary Kay and her purpose perfectly when she said,
“Her wisdom was simple and deep. A great puzzle comes together from small, beautiful pieces.”