This month’s Woman Leader of PECO is Amber Roberts, Executive Assistant to our COO, Bob Myers and leader of our daily Cincinnati fitness classes. Amber joined Phillips Edison in 2013. Her poise, professionalism and incredible work ethic have led her to be involved in a variety of company initiatives, helping to promote the company’s culture and continuously enhancing our wellness programs. Her reputation for being calm, reliable and caring, combined with her keen insights and amazing problem-solving abilities make her a go-to person for many people on the PECO team.
Outside of her day-to-day role, Amber is passionate about healthy living and helping others find ways to build wellness into their daily routines. She shares this passion by planning and leading a daily 12:15p workout which is offered to all associates, both in person and via Skype (for those not in the Cincinnati office). She was also instrumental in establishing a convenient café with healthy choices in our Cincinnati office and is an active participant and leader in PECO’s annual Wellness Week programs.
Amber truly lives what she teaches. In her personal time, she enjoys golfing, swimming and biking. She also stays extremely active working at her farm, raising calves, bailing hay and more. Amber is always pushing her limits and encouraging others to do the same. She leads by example and is always willing to share her time, expertise and excitement with anyone interested in making healthier choices.
Amber recently led a roundtable discussion on wellness at our all-company Annual Meeting. She also wrote a blog on Phillips Edison’s website. She was kind enough to agree to an interview for this segment and answered some of our questions on leadership, career challenges and her hobbies. See what she had to say!
What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you tackle it?
I once had a challenging boss who ran a company with an attitude that was often unfavorable to the hard-working associates. The environment was oppressive and I wanted to sprint to the nearest exit and never look back. While new to the role, although I wouldn’t let it show during the workday, I cried quite a few tears, which was highly unusual for me. The job market was tight at the time, so I did my best to settle in and focused on being the VERY best executive assistant possible.
I remember well when my boss said the first caring thing to me. I nearly fell out of my chair. In time, the day-in-and-day-out, consistent effort I put in started to pay off in our daily communications. I tried to be the type of associate that could be seen as nothing but an ally and partner, someone who could be counted on no matter what, someone you couldn’t help but be kind to. It took time to build trust, but I started to earn respect and while no one could have convinced me I would gain a lifelong friend through the trial, that’s exactly what this person became. Significant outside pressures had turned my boss’s heart of gold into something temporarily less desirable, but everyone deserves grace and better days are always ahead.
Sometimes, personality differences and challenges can make things pretty rough, but I let situations like this remind me that I’m still in control of me. I still decide how to react to any undesirable “weather” around me. No trial lasts forever and the end result can be far and away better than you would ever expect.
What advice would you give to women looking to grow their skills and move into a leadership role?
Leadership is most often associated with someone who is the boss but that’s not always the case. Organizational charts don’t make leaders. When we look for a leader, part of what we search out is personality and someone’s ability to encourage and empower others to achieve goals. When we like what we see, we jump in. It starts with relationships. You have to learn about and care for others before anyone is willing, much less excited, to join your journey.
Another quality of leadership is the desire to keep learning and applying new ideas. Read or listen to audio books and podcasts. Invest meaningful time in the people around you so you can learn from them. Can you think of anyone who has a skill you would also like to possess? Make a pie crust or woodworking or piano date with someone who would love to share their hobby. Talk with each other about the things that make our days better. Life is far too short for negativity and gossip, but energy and positivity are contagious. I find that when I’m really bought into something it’s easy to get people to come along for the ride. Think of the kind of person you enjoy being around and do your best to shape yourself with those characteristics. Every day won’t play out perfectly and every project won’t be exciting, but we each have the opportunity to be the constant, steady and joyful cohort through it all.
Also, watch for the ways you can jump into opportunities that happen outside the hours of 9:00 to 5:00. You have one-and only one-life to live and if you don’t do it for yourself, no one else is going to pull you off the couch and make it colorful. Our PECO Ladies Golf League (non-sponsored) is one example. Those of us interested in becoming better golfers enjoy playing nine holes together after work one day a week in the summer. We have a great time and experiences like this make our co-workers start to feel like any other friend. We make connections that help us all work together better. Find what you most enjoy and share that enjoyment with others. Be available and allow yourself to be shaped as well. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Fitness plays a significant role in your life. How has it helped you reach your goals and be successful?
Many of you know about the farming side of my world. With no hired help to keep 15 – 20 head of cattle fed and thriving, I have no choice but to be physically fit. Work is everywhere in the form of digging holes for fence posts, cutting firewood, maintaining equipment and keeping a significant part of the 57 acres mowed and trimmed. It’s “game on” all the time and I’ve got to be ready. Our lunchtime workouts have made me and so many others stronger and prepared for anything that comes at us. We are all very grateful to have a way to fit fitness into the daylight hours.
Then there’s the sit-down job. Never have I had as much energy as I do now. It’s been years since the 3:00 slump has hit me. Being physically fit helps keeps my mind sharp. Working out hard every weekday also keeps my emotional well-being in check. When I was small, I remember my mom chasing my siblings and I outside after too many Saturday morning cartoons. We would get a little loopy and rambunctious after a while and she knew we needed physical activity. She was right and it always brought the desired results. That doesn’t change just because we are adults. Our bodies were made to move.
And if you want to tie fitness back to our overall topic of being a leader, believe me, leadership skills are tested when you try to get 20 or so people to do squat or lunge jumps in rapid succession. It might not work so well if I wasn’t right in there with them! Anyone can stand on the outside with a whistle or megaphone and shout out orders, but get right down and struggle alongside someone, and we all dig deeper. Simply going through the motions is no longer an option. We push each other. That’s when results happen.