In my first full-time job out of college, I had a boss who was known for his toughness. He had high expectations for the staff and the people we were serving – and didn’t hesitate to hold us all to them.
I was his deputy and, with my “good girl” personality, I easily slid into the role of his foil, the Good Cop. For example, he would have a tough conversation with someone and then I would follow up later with a gentler tone. Together, the person and I would process the conversation, understand the main takeaways, and I would guide him or her toward making whatever changes needed to happen on their end. My boss and I worked well as a team and he remains a dear mentor to me until this day.
There was only one glitch in this unspoken arrangement – what would happen when I needed to have a tough conversation in his absence? My heartrate might increase, my palms might get sweaty, and my mouth would dry out. Sometimes I would procrastinate, but soon enough I’d get up the courage to confront the person.
Most of the time it would turn out just fine. I would successfully convey our disappointment, frustration, confusion (you name it) over the person’s behavior – or lack thereof – and manage to still guide the person toward constructive takeaways and a renewed action plan. Sometimes I was too harsh, but if anything, I was more likely to go too soft and risked coming across as a pushover. What can I say? I liked being liked.
To my relief, these conversations got easier with time. I learned to be more straightforward and honest with people. When I reflect on what I would do before these conversations, I see that there were two critical steps: mental prep and communications prep.
Largely, the mental prep involved working actively on
Letting go of the need to be liked by everyone;
Replacing my perception of my “good girl” personality with other paradigms around responsibility and leadership;
Learning to stand my ground.
Most importantly, I would have to answer and re-answer the fundamental question – what kind of a leader do you want to be?
After this internal monologue, I would be able to authentically work on
Choosing my words more carefully;
Saying them with conviction;
Heightening my awareness of the messages I was sending through my body language.
In the next position I held, the emphasis of my internal monologue shifted from having tough conversations toward learning to say no to requests that were beyond the scope of my work. My desire to be liked was replaced by the desire to be needed and valued. It took a few more years to understand that being needed or valued by my colleagues didn’t mean much to the organization if my core work suffered at the expense of my involvement with other department’s projects. In essence, being a team player will only take you so far if you’re looking to get promoted. I’ve come to understand that the ability to say no becomes more and more crucial as one enters positions with higher levels of responsibility, and that people pleasers will eventually hit a plateau, unless they learn to shake off the habit.
Even since founding BraverMe, my people pleasing tendencies remain a work in progress. When reading How Women Rise this past year, I understood that I’m not alone in my journey to let this habit go. In fact, it’s only one of several well-documented habits that specifically hold women back from promotions, raises, or growing their businesses.
Maybe you’re not a people pleaser, but maybe you are reluctant to claim your own achievements. Maybe your radar distracts you from focusing on what’s important. Maybe you overvalue expertise. Regardless, the Bravery Boost workshop is designed to help you zoom on ahead by identifying and breaking free of whatever is holding you back internally from advancing. I invite you to participate in an upcoming workshop and look forward to helping to guide you along your own journey toward fulfilling your greatest potential.