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3 qualities that took McCann to the top

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Renetta McCann worked her way from lowly media assistant to CEO of media company Starcom North America chiefly by anticipating problems, dealing superbly with people and persisting despite intense internal competition.

Result: McCann engineered two consecutive years of 20 percent growth. In 2001, Starcom added the $600 million Walt Disney World account to its list of clients including Hallmark, McDonald’s and Sara Lee.

McCann’s genius lies in three areas:

  1.  Taking aim at problems. “A lot of people [can juggle multiple problems],” says one of McCann’s colleagues. “But what sets Renetta apart is that she can come at problem No. 25 with the same unflappable nature and same style she does with problem No. 1.”

  2. Staying cool under fire. “With all the pressures, I’ve never seen her express anger,” says assistant Mary Martin-Jarnegan, who has known McCann for 25 years. “I’m focused on solving the problem,” adds McCann. “If I’m losing my cool, that rarely solves any problem.”

  3. Hanging tough. On her way up, McCann competed with three vice presidents. Even though she technically outranked them, she had to prove herself before winning authority over them.
“I just kept doing the work,” she says. “The reason people fail at this is because they let others into their head. At this level, everybody’s got an agenda. A friend on Monday is a foe on Tuesday. I don’t let anybody mess with my head.”

— Adapted from “No Commercial Breaks,” Sonia Alleyne, Black Enterprise.

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