Forget What You Learned in Kindergarten from Anne Pramaggiore

Posted May 23, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

This morning, I attended an event with Step Up Women’s Network featuring ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore. And she had some of the most interesting advice I’ve ever heard for women in business. She talked about this famous book/poster/advice called “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” This has long been famous advice, but Anne Pramaggiore begs to differ. Instead, she offered to the women at this event the following:

Forget What you Learned in Kindergarten

  1. Color outside the lines. Anne tells us it’s easy to want to follow all of the rules, stay traditional in our tactics, and ensure everything looks clean and perfect. But some of our best ideas and our best work comes when we let go a little, don’t hold ourselves to such high standards, and allow ourselves to color outside the lines.

  2. The teacher isn’t always right. In this piece of advice, Anne reminded us to stand for what we believe in, even if our teachers/bosses don’t agree. You know right from wrong, and you know what’s right for you. Stand by your values and beliefs and know that sometimes those above you will go against those things. Believe in yourself and your convictions and you will go far.

  3. Sometimes you have to interrupt to be heard. Anne tells us she means this both figuratively and literally. Literally, sometimes you have to interrupt as a woman. Sometimes, especially when you’re the only woman in the room, it’s the only way you’ll be heard. Figuratively, think about your career in terms of a voice – sometimes you have to speak up and allow your goals to shine through to truly excel.

  4. Spend time in the hallways without a hall pass. Ms. Pramaggiore says you “cannot lead from your desk.” Nothing could be more true. When CEOs remove themselves from their employees, engagement suffers across the board. Anne suggests for all leaders getting out and talking with the people in your company, not resting in the comforts of your office. She told the story of one banking executive who was hired from outside the company and disliked by many inside who believed her job should have been filled internally. How did she learn what she needed to know? She got out there and talked to the bank tellers – believe it or not, they know all.

  5. Failure is good for your grades. Someone who spends their lives getting straight A’s in school and in life will never succeed without a few failures under their belt. More than anything, Anne says, resilience is key. More impressive than the person who does everything right is the person who knows how to own up to their mistakes and make them right.

  6. Big girls do cry. While Anne cautions us not to “take things personally,” she reminds us that “business is personal.” And 20th century bureaucratic leadership won’t hold up these days. You must be sensitive to your employees, approachable, and authentic to really succeed and craft a culture of collaboration and excitement.

No matter the lessons you learned in Kindergarten, these six are the ones you should absolutely ignore to get to the top. Following in Anne Pramaggiore’s footsteps can’t be bad. As the first female CEO of ComEd, a $6.1 billion company, she hasn’t done too shabby for herself.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."