Key Takeaways from the C-Suite Meet with Shenan Reed and Nadine McHugh
By She Runs It
By Rachel Appel
Last week, Shenan Reed, President of the US L’Oreal Business at MEC, was joined by Nadine McHugh, Senior Vice President, Omni Media Strategic Investments and Creative Solutions at L’Oreal USA, in an open and incredibly insightful conversation as part of the She Runs It series, C-Suite Meet.
From hearing about Shenan’s long and twisting journey in her career to their impressions from CES this year, the conversation was packed with insights and pieces of great advice. Here are a handful of takeaways from the conversation:
It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. This piece of advice is an oldie, but a goodie. It came up with a bit of a backstory. Shenan was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school and at the time, Shenan’s mom wasn’t really given an option, she was told Shenan had to be held back a year. If Shenan’s mom had asked permission to homeschool her when she was diagnosed with dyslexia, she wouldn’t have had it. But her mom, a determined, solution-oriented woman, didn’t ask. She taught Shenan herself, and after a few years, when Shenan was ready to re-enroll in school, she could have entered back a year ahead of her grade. This gave Shenan confidence during pivotal years of her childhood, an experience she says impacted her for the rest of her life.
Write handwritten thank you notes. Early in her career, Shenan worked as the executive assistant to Isabelle Stevenson, who taught her the power of handwritten thank you notes and the impression they can leave on the people you meet. If you’re trying to stand out early in your career, this is a low-cost, high-impact way to do.
When you’re negotiating for a raise, don’t use the excuses of what life costs, but the value of what you bring to the table. Early on in Shenan’s career, she asked for a raise, and when her boss asked her why, she talked about her personal reasons for needing the extra money. Unfortunately, they declined her request. In retrospect, she realized that she should have made the business case, not the personal case, for her raise. In Shenan’s words, “You lose your power as soon as you use the excuses of what life costs, rather than the value you bring to the table”. A huge lesson learned.
You can’t afford to burn bridges. Shenan has been in the media industry for decades, and one thing she has realized is that you never know where the people you work with are going to land. In Shenan’s words, “This is a really small industry. Do everything you do, whether you are coming into something, or walking away from something, with your head held high and with the best of integrity.” In her career, Shenan has seen too many times where someone has burned a bridge and it has come around to hurt them later. You should fully expect that someone that works with you will one day be your boss, treat them accordingly.
Be fearless, but don’t let it get the better of you. For many people, and women, in particular, a fear of confrontation can be a critical hurdle to get in their career path. It is incredibly empowering to own your voice and your ideas and to not be afraid to express your passion with confidence. That said, Shenan has realized that, although learning how to own her voice was hard, what’s even harder is, to not take it personally when the force on the other side decides to go in a different direction. Sometimes, you need to know that your voice has been heard, and that it’s more important to be supportive and get onboard, than to continue to fight. Or, as Shenan elaborated, “You only have so many f’s to give, so be careful how you use them.”
Being open to meetings and conversations is a great way to stay on trend. Shenan mentioned quite a few resources she uses to keep her finger on the pulse, including reading everything Whitney Fishman puts out, as well as listening to the Ozy Presidential Daily Brief or the New York Times Podcast. But, she said, the best way she’s found to stay on trend is to take a lot of meetings. Shenan tries to spend a healthy amount of time meeting with partners and hearing about how they are evolving their businesses. Through this she is able to notice “the nugget of something interesting” before it is a big trend.
The boy’s club at CES is a real issue. Nadine noted that attendees at CES this year were certainly talking about the fact that all six keynote speakers were male for the second year in a row. An organizer issued a statement saying that, in order to be considered as a keynote speaker, someone must be the head of a major company with name recognition, and “as upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions”, and in response, Nadine noted that she knows plenty of women who would meet that criteria that she would love to hear from. “The more diverse the panel, the more interesting the conversation”. Hear! Hear!
The key to health and wellness is having a team you can trust. This final piece of advice came from Shenan. She noted that, although she tries to get enough sleep, has invested in a personal trainer, and has a love of baking that locks her into many unplugged hours, for Shenan, the real reason she’s able to enjoy any of those things is because she knows her team has her back. “It’s really hard to disconnect, it’s really hard to take that moment to breathe if you feel like nobody else has got it.” Fortunately, Shenan has built an amazing team that can hold each other up and enables that balance for each other.