Sheryl McCabe is a careful, deliberate person. (She is an accountant, after all.) So, five years ago, when the opportunity came to move from a large company to a smaller, newer firm, McCabe wasn’t sure about making the big change.
“Do I go crazy and join this startup company where there really is no plan? Or do I do the safe route and learn from the way [my previous company] already does things?” she recalls thinking. “But my nature is also to not shy away from a challenge.”
McCabe joined RAMMP Hospitality Brands, which owns the Mr. Mikes restaurant franchise. Soon after joining, “the company shareholders acquired three additional businesses, so their structure then had 20 legal entities and I had to build a finance and accounting team, and all of the systems and processes and reports, all from scratch,” McCabe said.
McCabe felt as if she had been thrown into the deep end. But it was also exciting to learn new things and take on more responsibility. Most importantly, her bosses encouraged her to learn new things and didn’t expect her to have all the answers right away.
“One of the owners acts as the CFO. I had to ask him for help: ‘What’s the best structure to do this? Where do I start?’” McCabe said. “He was supportive, but he never tried to just give me the answer – he tried to point me in the direction that would lead me to find the answers that I needed.”
McCabe now tries to encourage staff who report to her to take the same risks and develop the attitude that it’s OK to make – and learn from – mistakes.
“I was given a lot of autonomy to try things on my own, so I definitely try and relay that to my team,” she said.
McCabe now aims be excellent rather than perfect, meaning that when things don’t turn out according to plan, she tries to learn from the mistake and carry on.
“I get guidance. I give it my best shot. And aiming to be better than yourself is really good because you’re never going to be perfect.”
On being vulnerable but not weak | “Me being a younger woman dealing with really smart senior executive men, there’s an element of being outside your comfort zone that’s being a little bit vulnerable, and to me vulnerable isn’t being weak. It means you’re going to ask for help when you need it and you’re going to take that risk – you’re not going to be scared to ask for help.”
Has a work or life challenge taught you a key career lesson? Contact Jen St. Denis at firstname.lastname@example.org