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My first job was a trainee accountant in 1991 with the Dublin office of Arthur Andersen. I thought accountants were nerdy, and I never really wanted to be one. However, the job market was weak and opportunities were limited, so I was thrilled to have a job and threw myself into it with gusto. A trainee accountant is pretty low on the totem pole in any accounting firm, and my duties included running errands for senior staff, packing audit suitcases, making tea on demand and learning to “suck it up”along the way. I went on to become a manager in 1994 and had the new trainees make my tea—what comes around, goes around!
This story first appeared in the December 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
My biggest learning, however, was not on the audit or accounting side but on the importance of employee performance management. The worst-ever performance review I received was also the most valuable. My manager was ruthless and told me all the things I needed to improve, the mistakes I made, the behaviors I needed to change and the skills I needed to learn. I ripped up the review in front of her, threw it in the bin and stormed out. I went for a few pints of Guinness that night and realized she was right. The next day, I apologized for my reaction and thanked her for her candor. She then produced the performance review and said, “I thought you might not react well, so I made a copy beforehand.” To this day, I still have that performance review.
Today,as the president and chief executive officer of Revlon, whenever I feel like I’m on a roll, I look at that review and, yet again, my feet are planted firmly on the ground. I look back fondly on my days at Arthur Andersen and am grateful for that specific performance management experience, which has helped me to be a better people manager.