Dare to Navigate Unexpected Opportunities with Reggie Fils-Aimé
A roadmap can be a useful tool, whether it’s directing you up the career ladder or to your next destination. But it’s also not the only way to reach your destination.
This week, In the Details host Karen Allen talks with author and former COO of Nintendo, Reggie Fils-Aimé, to reveal the importance of building and leaving a personal legacy, and how approaching your plans with an open mind can help you achieve greatness.
Unleash limitless possibilities by staying open
Fils-Aimé’s ultimate professional ambition was to maximize his varied skills to run a business. He first took a role with Procter & Gamble in brand management, an avenue he hadn’t previously considered but believed would fit his long-term goals.
The lesson here? It’s critical to have a sense of where you want to go and what you’re trying to accomplish, but the interim steps don’t need to be in a certain order. By being open to ideas and pathways that didn’t initially present themselves, you’re strengthening your flexibility and ability to navigate ambiguity. These two qualities often separate those who achieve success from those who don’t.
How to leave your professional legacy
Fils-Aimé has three tips for someone who’s looking to leave a legacy. First, it’s important to understand what motivates you to address a business problem or grow an organization. Fils-Aimé, for example, loved pace and challenge, which drove his transition from Procter & Gamble to the restaurant industry.
Then, as you enter a new business or industry, you need to have intellectual curiosity. You can’t go in thinking you have all the answers; rather, ask difficult questions and spend time with people throughout the organization to help facilitate your learning.
Lastly, Fils-Aimé believed that by taking the time to invest in people, he could shape a culture that was motivated to overcome obstacles and drive achievement.
The value of investing in people
Fils-Aimé found success throughout his career by making a company’s mission understandable and accessible to everyone, from his No. 2 deputy to the team’s newest member. Investing in people is a long-term and worthwhile expense—the time spent training and developing an employee not only shows them you care, but that you believe they’re capable of the responsibilities at hand. That, in turn, fosters dedication and a deeper desire to work together to move the business forward.
While the corporate world has started using terms like “growth mindset” with greater frequency, Fils-Aimé said he’s been integrating this positive behavior into teams he led since the 1980s. He believes it’s about taking care of staff, helping others to improve and developing the skills of people who work at the firm.
During his years at Procter & Gamble, the company promoted from within, so it was necessary for leaders to invest in their team, because that was ultimately their pool of talent. A company can build a growth mindset by assessing how they leverage their culture and uniqueness to solve a tough problem.
During Fils-Aimé’s years at Nintendo, the company underwent a great deal of innovation in order to be competitive. While there were challenging times, how you view those experiences can impact whether or not you overcome them. How can a challenge force you or your company outside your comfort zone, so you can turn something hard into an advantage, lesson or opportunity?
The ‘so what’ lesson—doing the right thing
In Fils-Aimé’s business memoir, Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo, he shares stories from his career and life interspersed with the lessons he took from them—the “so what” of it all.
He shared one story involving him and his brother as young children. The two were about to buy a newspaper from a bodega when a teenager mugged them and took their money. When they returned home, Fils-Aimé and his brother told their mother, who went back to the store and chased down the teenagers, demanding they return the money. To Fils-Aimé, the story illustrates how his mother had a fundamental belief in always doing what’s right, and confronting any injustice.
It’s a great reminder that in every experience, there’s a “so what” aspect that can influence your future—if you take time to reflect on the lessons learned.
Jill McDonnell is a Chicago-based content writer and communications professional. She has a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller novel.
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