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Mary Kay: putting on a happy face

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Mary Kay Ash was devastated after her husband died. But the cosmetics queen had a big conference coming up, so she did what she’d always done in the face of personal problems: She put on her best face, went out and led her team.

Ash hadn’t planned to attend the St. Louis conference because of her husband’s illness, but since more than 7,500 consultants were going and since she could do no more for her spouse, she went to the meeting four days after his death in July. She felt a duty not to let them down.

Big sales meetings were supposed to be inspirational, so Ash made sure to “project the happiness I felt for them, rather than the sorrow I felt for myself.” As their leader, she knew that her mood would set the tone. Ash kept herself so busy that she didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself.

Later that month, she did the same thing when her directors descended on Dallas for an annual meeting. In previous years, Ash’s husband had given a short speech and helped serve tea and cookies at their home. She went it alone.

The scene replayed itself in December, when 400 directors were to visit Ash’s home the week before Christmas. Ash really didn’t want to put up a tree. But realizing that 400 directors were expecting a festive reception, she said, “up went the decorations and on went my happy face.”

It’s easy to smile and radiate enthusiasm when things are going great. The real test, Ash noted, was whether you could put on a happy face when deep down, you were suffering with a personal problem.

—Adapted from Miracles Happen, Mary Kay Ash, Harper Perennial.

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