“The Key to Excelling In Your Career is to Manage Your PIE (Performance, Image and Exposure)”: Melsha Nicole Key, Senior Marketing Manager at GAP (Video + Transcript)

March 19, 2023

Melsha Nicole Key (Senior Marketing Manager at GAP) talks about the importance of PIE (Performance, Image and Exposure), the importance of PIE at different stages in your career, how to get promoted while working remotely, and shares tips for gaining exposure in a large company.


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Angie Chang: Welcome to Elevate. Melsha Key is a senior manager of marketing at GAP. She has an MBA in marketing and her unique approach to putting customer experience at the center of all her decision making has made her a successful in multiple industries. She’ll be talking to us about managing our pie today. Welcome, Melsha.

Melsha Key: Hi everyone. I am super excited to be here and thank you so much Angie. I’m really excited about the topic that I’m going to share. If you see me looking away, I am trying to set up my slides. My name is Melsha and I am so excited to be talking to you today about excelling in your career by managing your PIE. PIE is performance, image and exposure. And we’ll go more into this during the presentation. This is a quick outline of what we will be discussing today. I’m gonna give you a brief introduction.

Melsha Key: We’re gonna talk about some career misconceptions. We’re gonna go through the different slices of the pie – you see where I did there – and you are gonna have the opportunity to get some of my information to connect with me. I am a wife and a mom. I reside in the California Bay Area, although I do have roots on the east coast. I am a senior marketing manager at GAP Inc, and I do have an MBA in marketing from Rutgers University and I have 15 years of marketing experience.

Melsha Key: I was introduced to PIE from a mentor at my company. She became my mentor simply by me reaching out to her for a 15 minute chat. That turned into various times where we would meet, all online, and at some time we built this trust and I just confided in her about being a little frustrated because I am rocking in my career, I am delivering results, but still no promotion. And that is when she introduced me to PIE and she had me take a good look at it to see if I was really operating in excellence in all slices of the pie. And that is really what I wanna share with you all today. Let’s talk about some career misconceptions.

Melsha Key: Performing well in a role means you’ll be promoted. Mmm, not really. And working hard, you’ll get ahead, yet I’m here to tell you that that can happen and you still not receive the promotion that you might be desiring. Has your hard work gone on notice or have others moved ahead and you’ve kind of been stuck in the same old role? Are you subscribed to the “work hard and you’ll go far” club, or how about hard work and results are rewarded with promotion? I’m here to tell you to cancel your membership to that club because it’s not about hard you have worked, although performance is a part of it. Promotion is not all about getting pro promoted based on performance.

Melsha Key: If owning, controlling your career is your goal, you must learn how the system works. Employees win when they understand that they have to be intentional with the choices that they make to reach the top. Let me tell you a little secret.

Melsha Key: Upward mobility happens from the top down. That means that your leaders are advocating for your promotion. How do you get seen by them? How do they know who you are? That’s exactly what we’re gonna cover today. Understanding PIE helps you understand why some people have success and others do not. The concept is not new and I was surprised to learn that. I thought this was some new type of theory or strategy, but it’s not. I was just recently introduced, which I’m sure some of you might be recently introduced to it today.

Melsha Key: Let’s get into it – PIE. We’re gonna first start off with Performance. This is about the day-to-day work you manage and the quality of the results you deliver. Harvey Coleman in his book “Empowering Yourself: the Organizational Game Revealed”, success is based on pie. Each piece of the pie is critical to your career growth and advancement.

Melsha Key: One thing I wanna drive home that my mentor shared with me is that the slices of the pie are not equally weighted. Wow, that was kind of mind blown. Not only that, but different stages in your career, the slices kind of change in the magnitude of the focus that you should have on it.

pie performance image exposure melsha nicole key

Melsha Key: With that being said, let’s jump on in to the different types of times in your career and how each slide might be different. Early in your career performance is 50% of the PIE.

Melsha Key: Mid-career… you’re thinking like junior, senior level roles all the way from like an experience or even a new manager all the way to like a senior director, that’s probably within the mid-career scope Performance is 25-33% of the pie. And the mature career performance is actually less than 25% of the PIE.

Melsha Key: Let’s get into the early career. Focus on learning, improve your knowledgeable about your role and your area of expertise. This is the time to study your craft. Attend conferences, training, take additional classes. You can be the subject matter expert but it takes intentional action of learning and growing in this stage.

Melsha Key: And don’t be shy about sharing positive feedback with your with your manager. If your business partner is just singing your praises, tell them, Hey, would you mind dropping that note from my manager? So your manager’s also aware of the things that you’re doing to become or to show that you’re a subject matter expert.

Melsha Key: Operate with excellence. Do not give subpar work. You have to show up and show out with the work that you’re doing. Make sure that your definition of excellence align with your manager’s definition of excellence because if you two are not aligned, how are they going to advocate for your promotion and exceed expectation and continually raise the bar. Don’t just do the work that you that you have to do. See how you can align with the department goals.

Melsha Key: Align with the organization strategies cuz that is what’s gonna help highlight your performance mid-career. This is when we start to move through into management. You might start to get a direct report. You may be leading a team building. Strong teams enable strong performance. Hear me, I’m gonna say it again.

Melsha Key: Building strong teams enables strong performance. I’m going to say it again. Building strong teams enables strong performance. At this level, not only are you performing at an excellent level, you are now responsible for having your team perform at an excellent level, giving them the tools that they need to be successful.

Melsha Key: Mentoring, coaching, all of that comes under the umbrella of performance. Your manager’s managers should at this level know who you are and being very familiar with your performance. Be proactive on being solutions-oriented and keep over-delivering.

Melsha Key: And at the mature stage of your career, performance is at a larger scale. You are driving strategy for the company. You’re delivering on earnings, you’re talking to Wall Street, you’re driving and leading high performing teams. So that was all performance. Performance once again is very necessary for promotion or for a success in your role, but it is not the only indicator that you’ll get promoted.

Melsha Key: We’ll go into Image. This is what other people think of you, the impression they have on you and how you are showing up your personal brand. Do you maintain a positive attitude? Do you lead with solutions to issues, or are you a person that’s constantly being negative saying, oh this can’t be done, we’ve never done it before. We’ve tried that, it didn’t work. That’s not the image.

Melsha Key: You should be the one that’s optimistic. And even if you’ve never done it, if you’ve never been able to do it before your, your image should show that you’re gonna try to figure it out. Understand that image matters according to an article by Monica McCoy. Image accounts for 30% of the reason someone is or is not successful. How others perceive you and how you make others feel, feel it matters as much as the results you deliver.

Melsha Key: People are surprised when they discover that how they see themselves is not how others view them. This misalignment can stall your career. Let me give you a true story on this. I once let a mentor tell me, Hey, you need to ask for feedback and you need to make sure that how you see yourself aligned with how others see yourself.

Melsha Key: I I booked some time with some of my peers, some junior level employees that I worked with and also some senior level employees that I worked with. And through that feedback, I was able to identify themes – and themes meaning like ways that I was showing up that I may not have intended to show up in that way. And so I took that information and then created the strategy to make sure that how I was showing up is how I was being seen.

Melsha Key: Now asking for feedback, I’m not gonna lie, it’s sometimes is very hard because it doesn’t always feel so good. But it is one of the key ways to understand how you are performing, how you are showing up, how others see you. Because as I mentioned before, image it really does matter.

Melsha Key: Personal branding, which is so key and so important in this stage, is more than what you say on LinkedIn. And it’s so much more than what you put out there about yourself professionally on social media. What personal branding is, it shapes the perception of you in the minds of others. This includes building your reputation, showcasing your strengths, effectively communicating your unique attributes and being able to market yourself. In other words, your personal brand will speak for you when you’re not in the room. So make sure that your personal branding is speaking, and it aligns to your professional brand.

Melsha Key: Image – let’s look at it at different parts of our career. Early career, 20% of the PIE. This is where you try to predict what your manager and your business partners love and deliver on this. An example is, if your boss loves to see things in a bullet-point format, give them summaries and high-level overviews and recaps in a bullet-point format. The reason is cuz you just don’t want them to trip up on that cuz that’s not even the meat. The meat is the recap, for example. You wanna present them information in the way that they’re used to seeing it. And this, how does this align with image, is because they can count on you. they start to look at the work and then they can look at you and say, oh, I can always count on this person to give me reliable work or they’re always consistent. You leave out all the things that can trip them up.

Melsha Key: In the mid-career managers to new directors, be seen as a person that can manage a team and deliver results. If you don’t manage a direct report, it’s a great chance in your company to to lead a cross-functional team. Ask for that or ask for an intern. That’s a great way to start to build up your management skills and director to senior director. Be seen as a thought partner and strategic thinker to your team, business partners and senior leadership. And in, in the mature part of your career, image is critical. We notice that it’s 50% of the PIE. Image is critical and at this stage in your career, people need to be able to trust you and follow your leadership.

Melsha Key: This is also a time that you can have the power of sponsorship to help shape other careers of more junior employees than you are at this stage. And you are a thought partner and also a strategic thinker, so take the different opportunities to speak at conferences, TED talks, really build that you are the professional or any other part of your personal branding that you want to come across. Image holds a lot of weight and it’s not easy to change. It will affect how people relate to you and how they treat you. So make sure that you work, be intentional about your professional brand, and really work on what that is for you.

Melsha Key: And finally we’re gonna get into Exposure. Visibility is important to the right people in the right manner at the right time. It represents the people that will get to know about your results and your image. Who knows about you and what you do? It’s great to be a high-performing employee, but if no one knows the work is coming from you or no one knows about you, that is an area of opportunity to work on in the exposure part of the PIE.

Melsha Key: Exposure is the key to success and to get ahead. Relationship-building is key. Take time to build genuine relationships, and it doesn’t always have to be face-to-face. I will have to say one of the benefits for me through this pandemic is the amount of people I’ve been able to connect with just by saying, oh, I love your career path. Can we just have 15 minutes to talk?

Melsha Key: It’s been people within my organization as well as outside of my organization. You don’t just have to network internally, you have the ability to network externally. One of the mediums that I use is LinkedIn. I just recently reached someone that is probably two levels from where I currently am and I was very interested in their career path and they shared some nuggets with me.

Melsha Key: And I think another way to add value is to follow up and let people know, “Hey, I took your advice and this is what the results were”. People love that. They appreciate that because they know that their investment of time was worth it. Always have the mindset of adding value, and this is how you make your mark on people.

Melsha Key: At different points of your career exposure, early career exposure is about 30% of the PIE, mid-career is about 33%, mature career is about 30%. So early in your career, ask for those speaking opportunities, put yourself out there, grow, lean in on your manager to help identify those opportunities for you. Join a cross-functional team. Real quick., I did that just to get to know other people, but the reach was far more than what I thought. I actually wound up presenting in front of a very senior leader who sent a message after I presented about the work that I did and how impressed they were. Sometimes you don’t understand that reach, but join those cross-functional teams, build those relationships. Join employee resource groups and professional organizations and volunteer to share learnings that you’ve had.

Melsha Key: Mid-career? Volunteer to do stretch assignments. Work with your manager on that and work with other teams. Speak at large events. Always take advantage of different opportunities as it comes to those exposures. Also, make sure that it feels right for where you’re trying to go, but take advantage. Don’t let fear stop you. Also, director to senior managers, they take on larger stretch assignments, join task force, speak at town hall, and then from a mature career, you’re running divisions, you’re running regions and developing new and improving existing markets. So you’re already really out there from an exposure part, but that is 30% of the PIE.

be intentional melsha nicole key

Melsha Key: We’re gonna do a quick summary. Be intentional about your performance, but effort doesn’t always equal impact. You want your performance to impact the business. Don’t get caught just doing busy work. Ask for feedback. Once again, do not shy away from that. Give people the permission to be honest. You just don’t need, oh, you’re doing great, you’re doing great.

Melsha Key: Dig deeper, ask for more feedback. That’s really gonna help your career. Look for themes and when you get this feedback and decide if it aligns with your personal brand, understand that PIE components change as you move in different roles and even as you move throughout your career. And be aware of that network internally and externally and you can network virtually. I will be the first to say, I recently got a promotion and it was all over our remote environment.

Melsha Key: Don’t think just because hey, I’m a remote employee, I can’t get promoted. You can, or if other people are back in the office and you’re still working remotely cuz you were hired remotely, you can still, you just have to be intentional about the parts of the PIE. Questions to ask yourself, how does your work align to the organization’s goals and strategies?

Melsha Key: Once again, don’t be a busy bee. Be intentional about your goals and how that helps your department win because then that sheds a a wonderful light on the work that you’re doing. Are you great at what you do? If you don’t feel, take an honest assessment. If you don’t feel like you’re great at what you do, then take a course, talk to your manager, attend a conference.

Melsha Key: You have the power to change that image. Do you have a professional brand statement? If you don’t, I will recommend that you take the time to do it because you don’t want anyone owning your voice. And the professional brand statement is your voice and you don’t want someone to own that. Be intentional about that. When was the last time you asked for feedback from your business partners? Do people enjoy working with you? That is a key.

Melsha Key: You can be the best performer, but if people don’t like working with you, that’s the problem. So make sure that you are a person that people wants, wants to work with exposure. Are you intentionally building your network? Is your manager’s manager familiar with who you are? So these are some homework assignments.

Melsha Key: Finally, you could connect with me on LinkedIn. I’ll be happy to connect with you. And this is my personal email. I just love the whole mantra of “Lift as you climb” – you also have the responsibility to lift others up as well. Please feel free to reach out to me. And I believe there’s also an opportunity for us to connect in rooms later on. I will try to make myself available for that as well. Thank you so much.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Melsha. That was excellent. I love your slides. I’m sure we’re all gonna be hitting replay as soon as this session is over. And thank you so much for giving this talk and then we’re gonna move on to our next session now. See you on the other side.

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