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February 28, 2017
Joe Creed is one of Caterpillar's newest executive leaders. He became the vice president of Caterpillar’s Finance Services Division on January 1. Joe has responsibility for corporate accounting, tax and treasury functions, as well as mergers & acquisitions and investor relations.
I grew up in a small town in central Illinois. My father is a retired middle school history teacher and high school principal, and my mother works in a small factory in my hometown. It’s from them I learned the importance of a strong work ethic and sticking to your values.
My family is everything to me. My wife, Tammi, and I met at Caterpillar playing recreational volleyball, and we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary later this year. We have four wonderful children – Molli, Sammy, Kaci and Peter – all eight years old and under. They keep Tammi and me extremely busy!
While finding a healthy work/life balance can prove challenging at times, spending quality time with my family is really important to me. I don’t always get it right, but it’s something I work at constantly. I signed up to coach Molli’s basketball team this year for the first time. I was a little nervous committing with my new job and all of the other kids’ activities, but it’s all about prioritizing the important things. I’m glad I did it because the experience has been so rewarding for both Molli and me.
This is not an all-inclusive list, but these are a few things I learned along the way that I think are important.
First, have your own brand. It’s important to be conscious about this whether you are approaching your first internship or taking your first leadership role. People are always watching you and it’s very difficult to change your brand once it’s established. Remember to be genuine and true to yourself – don’t try to be someone that you’re not. Stick to your values and embrace what makes you unique.
Second, don’t worry too much about your salary grade, especially early in your career. I was given this same advice numerous times when I was a young staff accountant. And, you know what? I hated hearing it every time! But there really is truth to it. I am a firm believer that if you continue to work hard and focus on being great in your current role, you will achieve your potential. For some, the path is a quick one, while for others, it might take a little longer. Often times the pace is determined by things that are out of your control – being in the right place at the right time, what’s going on in the economy, etc. What’s important is staying focused on you and the task at hand. Seize opportunities when they arise. Early in my career, I watched others get promoted while I was in the middle of multiple lateral job moves. But it was those roles that rounded out my experiences and helped shape me into who I am today.
Finally, be willing to get out of your comfort zone. If your heart rate never elevates or you never get anxious, you might be too comfortable in your job. Take advantage of opportunities to stretch yourself to help you reach your full potential. It is okay to ask yourself, “Am I ready for this? Can I do this?” The more you get out of your comfort zone the more you will have the opportunity to grow. I remember taking an assignment in corporate accounting a little over 10 years ago as a mid-level manager. In addition to being my first manager role, it also served as my first exposure to being in meetings with the Executive Office. I asked myself those very questions my first week on the job, but I’m glad I took the assignment. That experience early in my career definitely prepared me for more senior leadership roles.
There is nothing more rewarding as a leader than seeing the people you have helped develop succeed. Unfortunately, we often get lost in the career planning process itself and fail to remember that career planning and coaching is personal. Yes, tools and templates are great, but there is no substitute for the one-on-one conversation between a leader and an employee. Leaders need to understand what employees want from their career, and they also need to understand each individual employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Leaders also need to have honest conversations with employees as to whether or not those goals and strengths are in alignment. That’s not always easy to do, but it’s critically important to have that transparency.