Words from the wise – Tracey Willmott

01 July 2011
Words from the wise – Tracey Willmott

Tracey Willmott, people engagement director at Eat The Elephant, shares her business secrets

You are in control of your career choices Having worked up from catering manager to area manager, I then moved into development and HR roles - I believe that we are all in control of our destiny. We can't wait for the move that never comes or cry "they" never gave me the opportunity. We create our own chances and opportunities. We should "cause" great things ourselves - not be "affected".

There are only opportunities, not problems If you think there's a problem, then the problem may be you. We spend a tremendous amount of time at work so be positive and look for good and new ways of working and tackling challenges. At times I have felt that obstacles stood in the way of my career progression, but it was important to remember that I was in control. If obstacles do exist, there are always alternatives. Sometimes you need to move on to a new role or even organisation.

Have a "can do" attitude and be part of a winning team No one comes to work to want to do a bad job - most people want to give their best and be part of something special. So expect and want the best, not the worst, in people. Positivity breeds positivity. Always approach people and situations with an open mind. I've inherited team members who came to me with labels given to them by previous managers. These can be hard to leave to one side and it takes real effort to take that fresh approach.

It's more important to give than to receive Reward and recognise others rather than just wait for your own. It makes us feel good and shows your people that you are interested and value their contribution. Whether it's a thank you card or time given to staff to undertake personal development, think short and long-term benefits.

Don't waste energy on negativity Complaining, moaning and blaming other people… it all gets you nowhere. Even after all these years I still find myself falling into this trap. I once blamed my manager for hindering my career progression, when in reality I needed to own the situation and either navigate around her or look for wider job opportunities. I ended up going to a different organisation and it was one of the best career moves that I ever made. We all have to take personal responsibility and control.

CV highlights

1985-86 Management trainee, Gardner Merchant/Sodexo
â- 1992 Area manager, Brian Smith Catering
â- 1998-02 HR and development manager, Catering Alliance
â- 2003-04 HR director, Aramark
â- 2004-present People engagement director, Eat the Elephant
â- 2006 Fellow, FCIPD

Best piece of advice

I remember a Dale Carnegie quote: "Don't worry about what you can't change." How true this is still. When I find myself worrying about things that I can't change I focus on something good and worthwhile and wonder why I am wasting my time on negative energy. So be positive - enjoy life, in and out of work, and expect the best from people - you'll probably get it.

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