View from the C-Suite with Eileen Mercier, Chair, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

Posted November 16, 2012 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights, Leadership

Eileen Mercier is a true ground breaker and trail blazer. Last week, 12 of our lucky members had an opportunity to have a roundtable discussion with Eileen about her lessons learned from her impressive career. Here are some of her top tips:

Do something really well… Before you spend too much time plotting your next career move, get known for doing your current role really well. Spend time figuring out what you can be really great at and build up your track record. From there you will get invited to do something else.

Know your value… Because Eileen was regarded as a financial expert, she was able to get a seat on several Boards. But technical skills are not enough. Knowing your value and how to sell yourself is the key to having those opportunities presented to you.

Yes… your network is your net-worth… Echoing former C-Suite presenter, Charles Brown of The Source, Eileen spoke of the fact that in her day, there were no executive search firms. Her external network approached her with opportunities or helped her get the positions she wanted. Maintaining a vibrant business network is an essential tool for any leader.

Risk taking is easier when your boss has your back… After analyzing and assessing a situation, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and go for it. At the same time, it’s going to be easier to do this when the “big” people are on your side. If things derail, there’s nothing worse than getting thrown under the bus by an unsupportive boss.

Build your resilience… early on in her career, Eileen taught “Terminal English” (the student’s words) at the University of Alberta. Teaching to this less than enthusiastic (and often hostile) crowd taught her to get comfortable in front of naysayers and critics. An essential skill for leaders.

Don’t lose sight of your longer-term goals… Even when her jobs were complex and time consuming, Eileen stayed involved in Board work. Knowing where you ultimately want to go, allows you to prioritize your development and extracurricular work efforts accordingly.

Others view of failure may be your personal success… many thought Eileen had made a big mistake not completing her PhD. She followed her instincts and left academia for business and hasn’t looked back. Only you can judge what success is for you. Measure yourself against your own goals, not those of the people around you.

Final thoughts… every leader is a sales person. The key to time management is to know how to prioritize…80% is often good enough, so know where you add value. Most people overestimate the risks and underestimate the reward for taking the risk. Don’t be paralyzed by analysis. Senior leaders want people who can make recommendations.

On behalf of our members, we extend our deepest thanks to Eileen Mercier for sharing her lessons and candid opinions. Our final executive forum for 2012 will be held on December 5th where we’ll be looking at the topic of Authenticity… how real can you “really” be? Join our 3 panelists at the PowerRoundtable session: Pam Laycock, Torstar; Rosemarie McClean, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Simon Jennings, formerly of PostMedia.


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