Kelly Lafferman | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Kelly Lafferman

Background:  

Findsome & Winmore is a digital marketing agency in Orlando. Kelly Lafferman, who began her career at The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, is responsible for managing the agency’s client services, marketing and brand communication practices.

The Mistake: 

I always had a dream to work in sports marketing for the Olympics. Once I landed at the Atlanta games right out of college, I was very focused. I was always there, committed. I was promoted over my peers and became a senior person in the department very quickly.   

My recollection — and it stuck with me — was that everyone went out after work for happy hour, and I had a kind of social, let-your-hair-down kind of moment. This guy I worked with came over and put his arm on my shoulder, and he said, “Wow, you are fun.” He said it in a very surprised way.

It was in that moment that I realized that this drive and this level of intensity to achieve had impacted my ability to create any relationships at work. I thought I was super fun. What I realized in that moment was that my coworkers didn’t think that. After that, I really changed my whole attitude about getting to know people personally. Because when you do, it really changes everything at work. 

I didn’t think I needed it. I had this mentality that I don’t need to hang out in order to get my job done. The reality is that I did and didn’t recognize that at the time. An important part of the process is to connect with people and get to know one another. It was my first lesson in networking. 

I had this mentality that I don’t need to hang out in order to get my job done.

The Lesson: 

If you are a caring person and people aren’t recognizing that, you aren’t being caring — period. That’s just the way that it is. Perception is reality. So show that. Demonstrate those qualities — that you do care about other people.  

I would say to someone, let’s start with something simple: Why don’t you look up from your desk once in a while at what’s going on around you? Start there. Then, eat in the break room with everyone instead of at your desk. When you get to work in the morning, ask everyone how they’re doing. As I became a manager, the lesson became far more important. I go out for coffee with everybody who is on my team quarterly. Our rule is: We don’t talk about work. It allows us to connect on a personal level. Each person that works for me has different things going on in their lives.  

The work-life balance is almost like a necessity to younger workers. I’m impressed with it, actually. I do think that this generation genuinely wants more balance because maybe they’ve observed a lack of balance. Also, they’re constantly connected.  Their ability to connect with their coworkers and have fun together is more natural. 

I’m still friends with those guys from the Olympics. We’ve come across each other at different stages in our careers. If I hadn’t developed relationships with them, they wouldn’t have helped me. So it’s not just about someone saying, "She’s a hard worker.” It’s about them also saying, “And she’s a good person.”  

Follow Kelly Lafferman on Twitter at @klafferman.

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