Tag Archives: Clinique

Lessons in Leadership

My first team leader job was a Clinique Counter Manager position in my early 20’s; I was responsible for 1 full-time and 2 part-time beauty consultants. Back then, I could not have imagined that my entire career would revolve around various management responsibilities, or that learning about leadership would be a lifelong pursuit. My passion for servant leadership started a few years after the Counter Manager gig, when I accepted a position as Sales Manager for the Cosmetics department at a Rich’s store in a South Atlanta shopping center called Shannon Mall. It was the time I spent at Rich’s Shannon with 15 female sales professionals that ultimately became my foundation for  how to build a dynamic team and how to be a supportive boss.

Shannon Mall, sadly, no longer exists. It closed in 2010 after 30 years of business, and online pictures of the declining retail facility do not help me recall my years working there. The memories I cherish come from a folder I have kept since the 90’s, with photographs of my team, documenting a time when we created an encouraging work family. These are the women I grew to love, and for whom I would do anything to create a pleasant work atmosphere.

When the Store Manager of Rich’s at Shannon Mall offered me the opportunity to run my own department, I was initially uncertain. In an effort to help me decide, I visited the store and skulked about the cosmetics area to get a sense of it. I watched the women working there, who seemed to have a sense of dedication and camaraderie, and I could easily imagine myself in their midst. I accepted the position and the transformation began immediately. From the impressive individuals within that small space, I learned how to be a team leader. They taught me about building a culture, resolving conflict and communicating in a positive way.


There is a popular leadership quote: “people want to know how much you care before they care how much you know”. I approached the job with this in mind, in a position of humility, knowing that I was young and inexperienced and that they knew the business top to bottom. Once the team had a sense that I was more interested in offering support than disruption, they began to trust me and provided me with the tools I needed to succeed as their leader. The key, as is so often the case, is to listen for the answers, instead of forcing one’s own answers onto others.

I constantly asked questions and accepted guidance. I rolled up my sleeves to work with them. I was open to new ideas. I was not afraid to put in long hours. In exchange for this, the team rewarded me with not only their knowledge, but their kindness and their trust. They made grand gestures for my birthday (see photo of a money tree above) and they were committed to the success of our business. We worked hard and played hard and cared about one another. There were struggles and fights, much like any family, but at the end of the day, there was respect.

When I think of the kind of boss I am today, I know that I have these women to thank. I am not afraid to have the tough conversations with people, but I know that you have to do it with calmness and consideration. I am known to launch innovative projects, but I value process and protocol. I accept that there is a fine line between supervisor and friend, but realize that you can truly love the team members you serve and fight tooth and nail to make sure they are happy. All of this I learned from these 15 women, and my subsequent team members through the years can give them the credit (or the blame) for the type of boss I eventually blossomed into being. Although we only spent a few years together, it was a pivotal time in my leadership development, and an experience I greatly treasure.

Angela’s Greatest Hits


Taken the day of the concert, see Superstar post

Have you ever been suprised when an artist who has only been recording music for a short time decides to put out a “greatest hits” collection? When I hear about it, I invariably think, “Really? Isn’t 20 years old a little young for a retrospective?”

Of course, it really doesn’t matter what age they are, or how many hits they have. They must have had some inspiration to assess and re-assemble their short ouevre into a “best of” compilation. I respect that. In fact, despite my short “career” in the blogging world, I have decided to do likewise. I just need you to pretend not to notice that I only have 2 greatest hits in my blog collection.

Today’s peek at my stats page showed me something I had not seen before, which is the blog ranking. One of my 48 posts has been seen the most by a phenomenal margin over the others. Almost all of my posts have 1-168 views. (I know, I know, but I’m only 20 years old in blog-years!) My leading blog, however, has an impressive 1,871 views. That is amazing to me.

The winning blog in my short 3-year career is “The Former Clinique Consultant”, about how my time with that company impacted my life. https://angelamaskey.com/2011/12/02/the-former-clinique-consultant/  Turns out, someone who had just started a management job with Clinique found my little story, and made all of her consultants read it as a learning opportunity. She wanted them to take my first-person narrative to heart, and remember the customer’s perspective as they put on the lab coat each day. Short of getting a teacher to assign your blog to their class, or getting Oprah to talk about it, I’m not sure I could ask for much more to help get attention for a single article.

The next blog in line, although with much less fanfare, is my sentimental favorite. It is an incredible story of getting to meet my all-time favorite singer, Rick Springfield (who, by the way, is very justified in doing greatest hits collections, considering his multiple decades of creating music). Rick is not the star of the blog, however. That honor goes to my Kevin. It is a touching story of how much Kevin does to make my life extraordinary.  https://angelamaskey.com/2012/06/09/a-true-superstar/

Shortly after I wrote the Superstar blog, a co-worker (who just so happens to be a tough, brawny technician) told me that he wished he hadn’t read it at work, because he had to pretend not to have tears in his eyes when people walked in his office. When you can make an ultramasculine Lexus technician start to cry, you may be onto something. I’ve had a few other people tell me of a similar emotional reaction to the blog. That’s powerful stuff, and means more to me than all the viewers and followers in the world. I’m also hoping it garners me a little forgiveness for putting out such a young Greatest Hits collection.

The Former Clinique Consultant

I have a recurring dream that I am selling cosmetics and it is going horribly. There is chaos: too many customers, the products are in disarray and I cannot find what I need. I am unsure what to do and I scramble through the drawers trying to find a lipstick, or a cleansing cream. My hair is a mess and my make-up is faded. My co-workers are unwilling to help me, and my frustration builds until I wake up.

I don’t know how to analyze dreams, but I suspect that this one does not have an underlying meaning that relates to my career. It has been almost 20 years since I left the cosmetics business, so it is not a part of my daily thought process. When I have the dream, it is probably more a reflection of what I ate that day, or the temperature in the room. Still, I cannot help but think that I harbor some subconscious connection to the days when I wore the white lab coat with the silver “C” pinned on it.

Back then, in my 20’s, working for Clinique was a dream job. I had been promoted to cosmetics from the men’s department, and immediately took a liking to it. While not a superstar sales consultant by any means, I did well overall because I worked hard and offered good customer service. I liked staying busy, organizing everything and studying the new products. I quickly learned that each item in the famous light-green box with silver C emblem was of the highest quality: Clinique, after all, is the number one prestige skin-care line in the world.

When Clinique began in 1968, they were pioneers. It was unheard of at that time to talk about exfoliation, sunscreen, and facial soap at the fancy department store make-up counters. Even today, the strength of the brand is that it is unique and innovative. I was proud to be affiliated with that. Despite standing on my feet all day, and working through holidays and weekends, there wasn’t much I didn’t love about the gig. I especially loved the product and the customers.

The best thing about my job, however, was the training. This company was impeccable in their consultant education. They had Account Coordinators to visit stores and share product knowledge, and a Training Manager to facilitate comprehensive, hands-on classes. My training with Clinique is some of the best I have had in my career- and that is saying something, considering that I have worked for some impressive companies, including Hilton Hotels and Lexus. I still recall Melody and Nancy, the trainers during my 7-year tenure in the industry. I admired their sharp presentation, their confidence in the product, and their dedication to the company.

The lessons I learned from my Clinique training would stay with me forever. I once had an Account Coordinator (LeeAnn) tell me that she bled green-that is how much she loved the company. At the Macy’s store in Athens, I can still remember how she responded when we made a comment about a new eye-shadow color. The shade was Yellow Moon, but it should have been called Obnoxiously Bright Lemon, because that is what it looked like. It was color #50 and I can picture it to this day. We were concerned about our ability to sell this color, and she told us, with complete conviction, that “everything Clinique makes is wonderful”, and that we would grow to love Yellow Moon as much as Bronze Satin or Silver Peony or any of the other top sellers. Now, you need to understand that Leeann wasn’t selling us a story, and the lesson wasn’t even about Yellow Moon as a color. The lesson was that we should ALWAYS be positive about EVERYTHING. If Clinique does something, it is awesome. Period. I realized then that if you tell yourself that something is great enough times, you will eventually believe it. This was a lesson in “The Secret”, decades before any of us would hear anything about the power of positive thinking. I would never, from that point on, say anything less than enthusiastic about a Clinique product.

I rarely said anything less than enthusiastic while away from the Clinique counter, either. It became a mind-set. That concept of keeping things positive would eventually bleed into the rest of my life, and years later, when people would comment about my proclivity to see the glass half-full, I would tell them my Yellow Moon story. I wish I could find Leeann today to thank her for the heart-felt company passion, and for her faith in a color that should have really been reserved for ice cream or wall paint. Color #50 was, of course, discontinued within a year, but it certainly was not from a lack of Leeann’s attempts to save it.

Another concept I picked up from Clinique was the power of the open-ended question. Clinique knew that the secret of successful selling was a healthy dialogue with the customer, and the way to do that was to ask them a question to which they could not give just a short “yes” or “no” answer. We all came up with open-ended questions designed to keep the conversation going. “What do you like about this Balanced foundation?” “How long have you been using this Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion?” and “Tell me more about your skin care goals” were some of my favorites. When I began selling cars in my 30’s, I would use this skill again, and later came to realize that healthy conversations and open-ended questions are at the core of all productive relationships. The key is to show a genuine interest in people, let them talk, and care about what they say. This is not a selling technique, it is a life technique.

For Clinique, though, the technique was a rule, along with the positive outlook axiom. I like to think that their rules were a large part of Clinique’s success. The rules all seemed like common sense, but they were good habits for us, and we were held accountable to them: always look polished, no earrings larger than a dime, long hair pulled into a ponytail, always use full product names, always capture customer information on a file-card, always offer your customer a sit-down consultation and always skin-type your customer on the Clinique Computer. Successful companies set expectations of their employees, and this clear structure worked well for Clinique.

I say “worked” because I really have no idea if any of these rules still exist. I tend to think that they do not, because I have been purchasing the products for the last 20 years and rarely have anyone offer to put me on a card file, or skin-type me, or sit me down for a consultation. That’s not a bad thing, cultures change, and maybe those strategies don’t apply to today’s busy consumer. But in my heart I know what the person in the white coat should do when I ask to purchase Continuous Coverage Make-up, and I’m disappointed when they don’t ask me what I like about it. I’m dying for someone to get to know me like I knew my customers, remembering their names and their favorite colors, and where they worked, and their skin-care goals. It makes me think that if I could do the job again, knowing what I know now after growing up, and working for places like Hilton Hotels and Lexus dealerships, that I would completely rock it. I fantasize that I would rise to the top as a Sales Consultant superstar, following all the rules and breaking all the sales records. And just when I start to become convinced of my enormous potential, I have this recurring dream…..