How to make a great career at your company – 7 tips from an adidas veteran
I’ve been with the adidas brand for over 26 years.
During this time, I’ve held various roles across marketing, communication, product, design, samples and showrooms and currently corporate affairs.
I’ve had 10 different titles across eight different departments and been led by eight different presidents at adidas America.
I’ve seen the great highs and the not so great lows.
So today, I wanted to share the seven basic principles that have allowed me to flourish at adidas and contribute to the brand throughout the years.
1. Assume goodwill
Ross McMullin served as one of the adidas America presidents and instilled in me the notion of “assume goodwill.”
When someone has a different opinion from mine or a different idea, I always do my best to put myself in their shoes rather than simply dismissing their ideas as not as good as mine.
It’s not always easy but it can have amazing results.
We once had a discussion about where to donate samples. Everyone was on board with giving them to local high schools.
Someone suggested we donate them to a foster child program. Everyone initially balked at the idea.
It turned out the person making the suggestion was in fact a foster child growing up.
After hearing the logic of why it made sense, everyone changed their minds.
2. Be humble
We all love accolades, but I’ve learned you can’t rest on past successes.
I take credit for my work, hopefully receive praise and then figure out a way to do it better.
I learned early on that perfection does not exist.
3. Manage up as well as down
I always figure out how my manager likes to be managed. Yes, it is a two-way street.
My first few days with a new manager, I write up a one sheet on what I’m working on and topics I need guidance on. It keeps my manager in the know and affords me the opportunity to learn from him or her.
When I‘ve managed people, I’ve always taken the “servant manager” approach: I believe you need to serve your people by empowering them.
I give them guidance, give them tools, offer help along the way and then get out of their way.
Micro-managing has never worked for me or my direct reports.
I believe if people I manage don’t get promoted within a given timeframe (even if it’s into a role above me) I have not succeeded as a good manager.
4. Ask questions
None of us has all the answers. We can be ‘experts’ in our fields, but like I said earlier, perfection doesn’t exist. I have learned most of what I know by being inquisitive.
Before starting a project, I always ask:
- “Does anyone else have an idea?”
- “Have we tried this before? Did it work, and either way did we learn anything from it?”
One of my first and best managers would give me an assignment and always say, “Can you do this? Please ask questions along the way. If you don’t, and toward the end of the deadline you tell me you weren’t sure how to get it done, then we’ll have some serious problems.”
5. Keep a startup mentality
I keep my job fresh by treating everything I do as if I’m working for a new startup company.
We are a huge global brand with processes and procedures, but I’ve learned questioning things, offering new ideas and procedures helps me get things done.
I’ve learned throwing ideas at the wall is much better than not throwing at all.
Some ideas stick, some stick for short time and then fall, and some simply don’t make it to the wall.
I certainly don’t always get a yes, but I’ve learned the answer is always “No” if I don’t ask. I had to learn that No is not a bad word, nor a reflection on my idea.
My successes by throwing things out there far outweigh the downside of potential missed opportunities.
6. Be authentic, not political
I’m often told my voice “carries” so when I say something about someone, others always caution me to be quieter as “they might hear you”.
I have no problem with that as I never say anything about someone that I wouldn’t say to them directly.
In over 26 years at adidas I have seen my share of people politicking. And in 26 years, I’ve never seen it serve any purpose.
Aligning yourself with the “flavor of the day”, be it your manager, a department head or anyone else serves you well as long as that person serves in the position you need them to be in.
Once they move on, you are left on your own and you’ve more than likely alienated yourself from a lot of other people.
In all my roles I’ve had to adapt. Sometimes it meant simple tweaks and other times a complete overhaul of my skill sets.
I am a firm believer that change is good.
I may not always like it but I do my best not to fight it (it’s a losing battle). I accept it, and then ask questions so I can adapt to the new role, situation, manager and go full speed ahead.
I was managing our internal creative group and during a re-organization was asked to manage samples and showrooms.
I said I would do whatever was needed for the team, but after a certain period wanted my “dream job.”
I had little experience in either and at first it seemed like a demotion, but after a few months I got to know all the merchandisers and product people on a whole new level.
I gained valuable experience in product, go-to-market, pre-lines and sales meetings.
And low and behold, two years later during yet another re-organization, I was given my current role, my dream job.
I’ve made a great career at adidas by being passionate about what I do and the brand I do it for
“Longevity is really pretty simple: Be true to yourself, be true to others. Never let the passion for what you do waiver.”Tom Hughes, Manager Corporate Affairs
If you do these things, coming to work each day should be a great adventure and a lot of fun.
thank you so much for your comments. I believe that anyone who is looking to have a career with adidas would greatly benefit from reading this article.
Your 7 tips should obviously be carried over to ANY corporate environment, but to know they have provided you with the success you enjoy today with the company I am striving to be a part of is amazing to say the least, considering we share many of the same views on work ethics.
Through your article, I can and will remain content as an adidas Group external (Herzo) for the time being , knowing that our common views on “the 7 dos at adidas” will pave my way to the internal scene.
Very inspirational. Thanks again,
This is a great basis to make a good career.
thanks for your comment.
You're right, there's more than just knowledge which counts when making a good career. We believe that an athlete's attitude makes you move forward beyond sidelines as well.
All the best for your career's kick-off,