What I’ve Learned: Paul Tarricone

What I’ve Learned: Paul Tarricone

Posted 6/23/2016


Editor and Publisher, LD+A Magazine

Pay it forward. It’s very important to teach and mentor those looking for a mentor. I remember earlier in my career, our department director went out of her way to be inclusive. For example, if she was out of the office when the management team would meet, she would ask a subordinate to sit in as “a guest”, which was a morale builder and appreciated! Another one of my former boss’ would tell you everything he had learned over the years but only because I made the effort to ask.

Straddle the line between delegation and micro-managing. It can be tough to do, but you have to realize people will not execute a plan exactly as you would — I’m still learning decades into my career! Give people the tools to succeed and step back but along the way, always be there for guidance when the need arises.

Professionalism is your calling card. It’s a no-brainer to be act like a “professional” when you’re meeting with a client. I believe the true measure of professionalism is the way we conduct ourselves day-to-day with coworkers; it is courtesy and respect you show up and down the organizational chart. Conversely, just about the worst thing anybody can say about you is “he or she is unprofessional” — it can be a tough climb back from that.

A little enthusiasm goes a long way. If you’re a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger you can be! Treat every job like your dream job, even if it isn’t! I’m really impressed when a new LD+A Assistant Editor–who may not knowledgeable about lighting and architecture — works hard to absorb everything they can about the industry to immerse themselves in the job, that type of enthusiasm is infectious.

Never, ever say “I’m too busy.” A manager I knew would reply to that by saying “we’re all busy!” Managers are looking for people who will raise their hands and anticipate what needs to be done next.

My lovely wife and kids might roll their eyes, but I truly believe in the saying “fail to plan; plan to fail.” I use it around the house a lot. Not much good comes from “winging it.” I was never a Boy Scout, but being prepared is crucial and I believe it’s all part of being a professional.

I’ve learned that “winning” can be ambiguous in the workplace. It shouldn’t be a “zero-sum game”—I win, you lose. Both parties should come away satisfied, or else there might not be a next time. Internally, whenever possible, people should feel like they had a role in the decision and gained something from the outcome. Externally, “winning” a negotiation doesn’t necessarily mean grabbing every last crumb off the table.

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than wait for permission—or to put another way, “fortune follows the bold.” This is a tough thing to learn early in a career. We’re not wired for this after years of being in school, where teachers gave us assignments! Calculated risk-taking is the sign of independent thinking, and companies will value that skill.

There’s no “I” in “team.” I know it’s a cringe-worthy cliché, but like most there’s a lot of truth in it! I’ve learned a lot from managers who deflect praise for a job well done to all members of the team. “We” is a great word when telling your boss about the team’s success. I’ve coached some youth sports, and sometimes this concept can be very hard for children to grasp.

The ability to communicate is paramount. I’m in publishing so naturally I put a premium on this! Communication skills, written and verbal, allow us to persuade and the power of persuasion is something people need in any type of work.

People sometimes leave for money, but more often it seems they leave because they’re bored or need a new challenge. The high from a raise wears off, but hard-driving, creative people need intellectual stimulation. If they don’t get it, they will leave…and it’s not necessarily about the money.


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