Leadership Series: The Opportunity

07-10-2012 7:13 AM

Tara Eustace, President of Mary Kay EuropeToday’s blog post is from Tara Eustace, President of Mary Kay Europe. During her 19 years of service, Tara has worked her way up from an unpaid intern at the Mary Kay Russia start-up to leading the 18 countries that are in the Mary Kay Europe region. Tara shares her Mary Kay success story.

“Mary Kay is a unique way of life that provides the brushes, the oils, the pigments and the canvas on which you can paint your life as you really want it to be.  You chose your own colors, your own design and your own pattern.  It’s a place where you can reach higher, think bigger, grow greater and live deeper than anyplace else on the face of the earth.  Your Mary Kay career can help you to paint a beautiful picture of your life as you want it to be.

This beautiful Mary Kay quote in my mind is side by side with a quote from another woman who influenced my life – my mother.  Some of you might have heard me talk about how I left home, left the country where I grew up (yes, the U.S.), started on an amazing adventure that would lead me to Mary Kay and to a life very different from the one I had imagined for myself, in a country (Russia) I had no “reason” to choose.  The words my mother told me when I was 22 years old, setting off to Moscow, Russia, with one friend, no job and no real plans were “Luck is preparedness meeting opportunity.”

Since then, I do not believe in luck. I believe in embracing opportunity and in being prepared with the attitude, the tools, the energy and the willingness to work hard and to maximize that opportunity.  To me, this is what all of our leaders in Europe are doing as we spread this unique opportunity across 13 time zones to so many women and their families.

I strive to be an effective leader, and I believe for the most part I succeed - at least I hope I do. I know I work at it every day.  I am honored to lead a wonderful group of employees in Europe, from general managers to region teams to country employees.  I learn from them and they learn from me.  I feel such joy to see our employees developing within the company – I especially enjoy when staff whom I “taught” years ago are now teaching me things.   My teams of employees know that I started out in Mary Kay as an unpaid intern almost 20 years ago. They know that I have done so many different jobs in all departments. They know I appreciate the work they do and that I do not ask anyone to do anything I have not done or would not be ready to do myself.

The deep appreciation that I have for each job strengthens the deep appreciation I have for each employee.  My experience helps me understand people and their desire for work-life balance, fair compensation and a work environment that nurtures success. Every employee wants wings to fly and that can’t happen if I micromanage. It hurts trust. My role is not a boss. My role is a leader.

A leader supplies tools, supports people, provides direction, guides development and sets a vision. A good leader understands people and can see the perspectives of others. Quite simply, a leader walks in the other person’s shoes. I’ve walked behind my teams to push them forward when needed. I’ve walked in front of my teams when barriers needed to be removed. I walked beside my teams when goals had to be met.

I have a list of five Mary Kay Ash concepts which “sum it up” for me:

1.      “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”  Your achievements say more about you than your background.  Many, if not most of us, come from simple backgrounds, but with Mary Kay it only matters what you do, how you use your talents and how high you set your sights. 

2.      The story of the bumblebee.  You all know the story. According to laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee should not be able to fly. Too big a body for too small wings. But as we all know, the bumblebee flies beautifully, not knowing anything about aerodynamics.  We are all “bumblebees” and we need to believe in ourselves like bumblebees – until we believe in ourselves, we will achieve nothing no matter how hard we try.

3.      “You can achieve anything if you are ready to work hard and pay the price”.  Mary Kay Ash knew the value of hard work. She knew that we all value less what comes easily. 

4.      “A leader is someone who knows where she is going and is able to take others with her.  One day she looks over her shoulder and realizes she is leading a parade.  Leaders teach. They motivate. They care.  For them, life is never lonely at the top.  Leaders make sure that the way to success is always broad enough and straight enough for others to follow.”  I love this quote.

5.      “Enriching Women’s Lives” – to me simply means helping each other become our own personal best. Giving the opportunity we received (or sometimes the one we wished we had received) to another.  And in doing so, we as a company, as leaders truly do change and in some instances transform the lives of women and their families around the world.

My experiences with Mary Kay taught me several things about life, taking risks, understanding people and leading with purpose. If there is one thing I want you to remember, it is this: if you ever get a chance to walk a mile in someone else’ shoes, don’t just walk in them. Run in them, even when that path takes you in directions you never thought possible for you.