20 Lessons From a (More Than) 20-Year Career: Wayne Strickland, Hallmark Executive
Before retiring to become a consultant and speaker, Wayne Strickland spent 38 years at Hallmark, the greeting card company that controls 44.4 percent of the share of the combined U.S. paper and e-card markets.
Strickland was Hallmark’s team leader for the company’s biggest customers in North America, including Walmart, Sam's, and Target. He also led the launch and development of the Hallmark Greetings business across multiple Amazon platforms.
Since leaving the company, Strickland has been a regular speaker on the topic of leadership based on his time at Hallmark. He’s also the author of “Get Over Yourself, Decide to Lead: Insights from Hard Lessons Learned.”
Work + Money asked Strickland to share 20 lessons from his career. Here’s what he told us.
1) On Talent
Build the best team possible because the best team always outperforms teams with less talent. This is the number one responsibility as a leader.
2) On Answering Questions
The answers to most questions are in the marketplace, not in a conference room. Leaders need more time in the marketplace and with customers rather than people who tell them what they want to hear.
3) On Feedback
Never give feedback about your boss to HR. If you have something to say, say it directly to them.
4) On Communication
Communication is one of the top skills of a leader. It’s not only what you say but when, where, and how you say it. It’s a critical leadership skill. Without it you will not lead.
5) On Responsiveness
Responsiveness is a requirement but it’s a fading skill. People are not responsive today but if you can be, you will stand out.
6) On Arrogance
Arrogance is the number one reason a leader will fail. Reading your own headlines and believing them will lead you to unemployment.
7) On Making Choices
You are the master of what you don’t say and the slave to what you do. Choose wisely.
8) On Promises
Under promise and over deliver. You will always be a high-quality employee if you over deliver against your plan. But do not over promise.
9) On Whining
Don’t complain about your compensation, earn it. The whiners never win long term.
10) On Facts
Facts are your friends. Do not confuse assumptions, hypothesis, and strong beliefs with facts. Stay focused on the facts. What gets measured gets done. Choose what you measure carefully.
11) On Mentors
Have multiple mentors. Mentors run their course and sometimes leave the company. For long-term success, have multiple mentors.
12) On Socializing
For a leader, nothing good happens after dinner. Having a few drinks with the team has lots of downsides and not much upside, if any. Go home or back to your hotel.
13) On Threats
Never threaten to leave your company more than once. The second time you do it, they assume you will eventually leave and make plans accordingly.
14) On Your Peers
Your peers promote you, not your boss. Peer relationships are critical in moving up in an organization.
15) On Friction
To move faster, find the friction. Find out exactly where the friction is at that is slowing you down and solve it.
16) On Speed
Measure your speed with a watch not a calendar. The marketplace is moving fast and you must move faster.
17) On Titles
Look for jobs that give you new skills, not just a fancy new title.
18) On Culture
Culture is more important than strategy. If you don’t have the right culture, you will never be successful.
19) On Confidence
Confidence is not a replacement for skills. Being cocky will not help you move up in the organization, it requires skills.
20) On Salaries
Don’t have short arms and deep pockets when it comes to compensation. Pay your people if they deliver results.