Heather Ziegler | Crain's Connecticut

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

Heather Ziegler

Background:  

Deloitte provides accounting, audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of America’s largest companies. Heather Ziegler, a New Canaan resident with about 20 years of public accounting experience, is managing partner of Deloitte’s Stamford office, which houses about 1,100 employees. The office is one of the largest employers in Fairfield County’s professional services sector.

The Mistake:

Letting other people control my career path.

I had an opportunity early on, in 2001, to enter a leadership development program. I was an experienced manager at the time and it was something that I felt I was ready for professionally and personally.

I went in and made my case to the managing partner. He told me that he recommended someone the day before, then he walked out of the room.

It was very disappointing to me. I knew I wasn’t growing and I needed the program to fulfill my potential. It was eating at me. I had to get out of my comfort zone and challenge that decision.

Taking charge of your career is one of the most profound changes you can make.

The Lesson:

Back then it wasn’t in my nature to push for something like that. I didn’t feel like I should be challenging leadership. I have always been a team player, taking on extra work and always being respectful.

Two weeks after getting turned down, I asked for another meeting with that same managing partner. Those two weeks felt like an eternity, but he took my appointment and I got ready for the meeting. In the earlier meeting I didn’t explain as well as I could have why it was right for me. I made my case again but this time I talked more about how it was right for the firm and people I was working with. I spent a lot of time laying it out and explaining it thoroughly.

Well, I think he was impressed because he recommended me for the program. Now I realize I had to show leadership in order to get put in the leadership program. It was really something I was passionate about but I had to thoroughly explain why. That’s something a leader must do.

So much of the time I had let others make the decisions for me. Taking charge of your career is one of the most profound changes you can make.

Follow Heather Ziegler on Twitter at @zigCT.

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