One of the many gifts that come from having worked across some of the world’s top agencies in my 40-year career, is the wealth of wisdom and advice from which I have benefited. Some of these sage words that were uttered decades ago still serve as a guiding light for me today. And as many of us do, I’ve share these adages with my teams over the years – and now would like to share with you.

Apologize When Wrong. Don’t Deflect

Early in my career, a press event did not go well. It was, in fact, a train wreck—one of those situations where nothing goes as planned. I apologized, of course, to our client and then to my boss. In explaining what happened, I kept saying I was sorry and then inserted “but” into my discourse to clarify some aspects that were unavoidable. My wise boss shared that a simple apology is the best course of action, and that my attempts to deflect came across as excuses.

Tell Clients the Truth

I have an adage that I often use: Communications agencies are usually in the business of telling clients that their grandchildren are not as attractive as they think they are. While no one wants to hear that their product is not “unique” or that the launch strategy is ill-timed, it is our job. How we say it matters, but not sharing concerns is a disservice that can harm our partner’s business.

Drink Smartly

Another painful lesson. For decades, Fleishman-Hillard, based in St. Louis, proudly represented Anheuser-Busch. As a new, young team member, I thought bringing beer to a late afternoon meeting would be fun. I grabbed what was sold at the local store – a non-Bud brand. The managing director told me in no uncertain words to immediately return the product and not to rejoin without our client’s product. Lesson learned.

Don’t Just Pass the Cookies

As an account executive, my then-boss invited a colleague and me to our first new business presentation. We had no assigned role but were there to learn. I asked one hopefully decent question during the discussion part of the meeting. My colleague remained silent. Ultimately, the company’s CEO turned to her and said, “Other than pass the cookies, what have you to say?” She would have immediately left the room if there was a trap door, but she turned red and stuttered—another vital moment of insight. Offer comments, questions, and/or insights, no matter what your role in the room.

The Gift of Checking In

We have no idea what is going on in the lives of our clients and colleagues. People share what they are comfortable revealing; some prefer to keep their personal lives personal. I was on a call with a client and could tell that something was off. After the meeting, I called her to check-in. I didn’t overly probe but let her know that I cared about her and that we supported her if she was grappling with anything. She said it was the most helpful call during a difficult time. Whether speaking with clients or colleagues, letting people know you are there can be just the amount of connection they need.

Don’t Hire Another You

I recall being incredibly excited to introduce my boss to my top candidate for a VP position. He liked the person and then asked me what I saw in her and how it would complement the team. I shared my thoughts, and he said I was hiring another “me.” It is human nature to hire someone who you can get along with and has skills that you value – but hiring someone unlike you, who brings new strengths to the team, is a far wiser choice.

Say Goodbye with Grace

At Burson-Marsteller, a colleague was leaving to go to a major competitor. The head of our group threw him a wonderful goodbye celebration. When asked why we didn’t just show him to the door, the manager said, “We want our team treated with the same dignity when they leave as when they arrive. You never know when someone could be your next client or return to our firm.”

Be Curious, My Friend

My final words of advice are my own: “hire curious people.” Curious people are natural readers, consumers of trends, and pattern followers. They can connect dots and think, dare I say, outside the box. With a vivid imagination, curious practitioners value diversity in client industries because they learn new things.

These simple guidelines have served me well throughout my career, and I continue to look for glimmers to gather. What are your most treasured words of advice?