Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: This huge career mistake almost got me fired

Suzy Welch: This huge career mistake almost got me fired

As you advance professionally, it's inevitable that you're going to make mistakes. Hopefully, what you learn from them will shape your future for the better.

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch learned a crucial lesson as the result of a blunder she made early in her career.

"I was almost fired from my well-paying consulting job just one year out of business school," she tells CNBC Make It.

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch.

Welch says she was on her way back from visiting a client in Ohio with her team when she committed an offense that could have potentially put her out of a job.

"We were all good friends inside work and out, my teammates and I," she says. "So, one day, while waiting for our delayed flight home, I decided to entertain everyone with one of my old party tricks — doing impressions."

She mimicked the client's CEO and a few other executives. The routine seemed like a big hit with her coworkers, and at the time, she thought everyone was amused. But when she was called into the VP's office the next morning, she knew that she had bombed.

"He was furious, and let me know that my 'comedy act' was a fireable offense," she said. "He didn't let me go, but he put me on notice."

Welch says that as she was leaving the office, he told her, "Remember Suzy, you don't work for your colleagues. You work for the customer."

She says those words stuck with her and permanently changed her approach to client relationships.

"You go to work each day because of, and thanks to, the people ultimately writing your paycheck — satisfied customers," she says. "He was right. I knew it in my bones."

After the embarrassment of her mistake wore off, Welch says she quickly became a "complete customer zealot."

"Fast forward to when I became a manager, I never missed an opportunity to tell my employees, 'Love the customer like your job depends on it,'" she said. "I'm here to tell you, it does."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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