16 Questions on Leadership & Mentorship with Edithann Ramey, CMO at On The Border
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16 Questions on Leadership & Mentorship with Edithann Ramey, CMO at On The Border

16 Questions on Leadership & Mentorship with Edithann Ramey, CMO at On The Border

Name: Edithann Ramey

Brand: On The Border Restaurants 

Title: Chief Marketing Officer

Years in franchising: 25+

No. of units system-wide: 125 restaurants in 31 states and Asia

What do you wish you had known before taking your first management role? Don’t be the manager you want for yourself. Be the manager your people want and need. Understanding your team’s needs and flexing your leadership style is critical not only in working with a team, but also in collaborating with your colleagues.

Which leadership skills were most difficult to develop? Learning to presell and seeking input before finalizing a recommendation. You may think you have all the information you need, but you must stop and remember that others will have incredibly smart points of view. Seek input, alignment, and support before any big meeting to set yourself up for success.

Who helped you on the way to the top? Individuals who were honest and gave me true feedback. Giving people feedback is not easy at all. But there were several key people along the way who took me aside and said, “You do this really well, but when it comes to this, here is some feedback on how you can improve.” Those moments were critical to my success. At On The Border, there has been only one other female C-level executive, Diane Sanford, and she has been instrumental to my success as a newly promoted chief marketing officer and C-level executive. Why? Because she helps me prepare for meetings, gives me feedback post-meeting, and is that one person who tells you when there is a stain on your shirt. You need those allies and friends who help you to the top by looking out for you, cheering you, and being your best feedback coaches.

What was the best advice you ever got? Don’t make a long list of activities and then feel like you “got it all done” when you cross them all off. Choose the activities that drive the desired results. This was a game changer for my career. There are some things that are great to do, but if they don’t deliver the results you need, don’t do them! My “to-do” list was forever changed, and my ability to focus and deliver results was much improved.

Is that different than the advice you give? No. Do the activities that drive the desired results is my mantra – to my team, to my kids, and to myself.

How do you mentor, and what advice do you give those you mentor? So much of success is driven by the ability to try something new, get out of your comfort zone, and lean in. So when I mentor young executives just starting out, I often just remind them to be brave and strong. If you don’t succeed, the fact that you took a risk, tried it, and had conviction in an idea is so much more powerful than focusing on a win.

What skill sets do you think are imperative for young women leaders? Looking out for other women. When I first started, it was not like that. Over time, as we’ve realized, “Hey, we all can have a chance at success and growth,” this has gotten so much better. I also think speaking up, daring to be outspoken and hold your own, is key. For many reasons, this does not come easily to women, but it’s key and necessary to being in a boardroom and talking about your business.

What are your leadership do’s and don’ts? Do: Lead by example. Proofread everything you write, even emails. Be optimistic. Champion others. Don’t: Ignore other people’s feelings, or the impact of the decisions you make. Talk more than you listen. Take credit for what others say. Show up unprepared.

How did you learn to embrace risk-taking? After the first time I failed and realized, “Hey, I didn’t get fired.” I failed. I knew I’d tried my best and that was appreciated within the organization. After that I was not afraid to keep taking risks.

How should aspiring female leaders build allies? Pick people you would be friends with outside of work. You spend too much time at work with co-workers not to choose allies you like and appreciate spending time with. Pick someone you can stop by and chat with about your personal life as well as your professional life; they are so intertwined. It’s nice to have someone you can connect with when things are crazy at home or at work!

How do aspiring female leaders balance patience and perseverance? 1) By focusing on the purpose. Always know your “why.” If you have that clear purpose, you will persevere even when it’s extremely tough. 2) You must really want it, so you will work hard enough to obtain it. That desire will keep you going even when your patience is truly taxed! 3) Goal-setting is key. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? 4) Willpower is so important. Delays, capacity, timelines, and budgets will affect you, but exercise your power to continue, to evolve, and to do it and you will get what you want.

What roles do education and experience play in leadership development? For me, they have been so critical. My graduate degree in crisis communications really helped me prepare for the significant amount of writing, conflict resolution, and pressure that has been at the heart of my career. Focused experience – meaning 20-plus years in the restaurant industry – really does pay off now, as companies seek to benefit from years of marketing in a tough industry, an industry that seeks to bring people together for a great experience.

What about attitude and mindset? Attitude and mindset are critical as a leader. I once read about how prisoners of war who survived terrible hardship were the ones who were optimistic, who had hope and focus. Survival did not depend on special survival skills or experience. I’ve never forgotten that, even in the toughest of times, stress, pressure, etc. Attitude and a positive, focused mindset will be most important to succeed, even more than whatever skills I might have. In another business book I never forgot (by Patrick Lencioni), I learned about being kind to your employees and giving them a positive experience with a great attitude as a leader. The thinking was that happy employees go home and have happy families and great lives. I have the power to make others’ lives better just from my attitude and mindset. I never forget that, and I exercise that power every day.

Was there a time when things didn’t turn out as planned? How did you bounce back? Yes. Whether it’s the promotion I didn’t get, the project that didn’t succeed, or that one team member who left despite much development, disappointment is tough. I always remind myself that I gave it my best, I was brave and strong, and as long as there are no regrets, I can quickly rebound.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned, and how has it proven invaluable? That self-awareness is essential. Not easy, as you have to be aware of your weaknesses and constantly be addressing them. It also helps to know this, because you can hire against your weaknesses and truly build a strong team.

Why is it so important to give back to the next generation of leaders? With an entire shift in office culture post-pandemic, supporting future leaders is key in moving businesses forward. Companies that harness future leaders will be better positioned for the future. When you combine experience with new ideas, you can achieve extraordinary things!

Published: March 8th, 2022

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