“Pride deafens us to the advice or warnings of those around us.”John C. Maxwell
It’s a wonder, that when we are young, we toss aside all the great advice we get, in favor of our own inexperience, only to reflect years and years later, the advice was really useful and came from a place of caring. As humans, we inherently choose the path of hands on learning through experience.
It is the arc of life, to be fearless, invincible, all knowing at the start; refraining and reflective in the middle; to waking up to the brilliance of that early advice and accepting its truth as we slide into the later years in life.
Lesson 1: It takes no extra time to be kind…
My mum instilled this message of kindness, in me, from my earliest memories. In my youth I was always in a hurry. And the message didn’t really register. It was about getting things done quickly and efficiently and if people were slow, it would be a time waster. How can you not be irritated with that? How did patience and kindness even connect?
However, I watched my mum have patience in every situation that I found unbelievably arcane. As a teen, isn’t everything arcane ?🤦♀️ Why be nice when the person just needed to snap to it? I mean at 16 I had all the experience I needed to know what should be done. 🙄
Reflecting back, seeing her consistency in message coupled with action, the lesson infused in my being in a sneak attack. One day, I just noticed I had adopted this as part of my life. I am not perfect at it, there are times I still get really impatient, but then I hear her British accent saying “it takes no extra time to be kind” and I put myself to rights quickly.
I realize now how important that consistency in words and actions are. The consistency is also a lesson, one that I strive for each day.
Bonus: Mum also taught me that any problem could be solved over a nice cuppa tea. It’s the process of making it, that reinforces patience, and the time is filled in with talking about the issue and potential solutions. It is also incredibly soothing.
Thanks Mum ❤️!
Lesson 2: Ask for help …
One of the hardest things to do is ask for help, especially when your trying to show your competent and want to reassure your boss that they made the right choice to give you the “big” assignment.
It feels like admitting your weakness to ask for help, and it usually pretty uncomfortable. You want to have the answers and to be seen as intelligent and useful. Often without the right experience, there is no way you have all the answers or can accomplish something without help.
Being a very independent person and goal driven, my mindset was failure is not acceptable. So, asking for help, was something I couldn’t admit to myself, let alone a boss. I would say it was a deep insecurity, and fear, I totally put on my shoulders.
Early in my career, I was working on a big analysis for our companies CFO. It was a really big deal and it would be used for truing up a major contract. He said numerous times, “Call me anytime if you run into a challenge or want to talk through anything. This is very important and I am here to help”.
Although I heard the words, I couldn’t fathom interrupting the CFO on the preparation of staff work. I surely should be competent enough to complete the assignment, right? 😳
I toiled through the day and night, only going home for a nap and a shower. We were on a tight deadline. I came back in ready to review the results with him.
Within seemingly just a few seconds, he let me know it was not what he had been expecting. He chewed me out big time! BUT not on the analysis, not on the hard work, not on the results BUT on not calling him and asking for help. Did he not make that clear? I stuttered and stumbled and tried to explain that I didn’t want to disturb him, and he basically laid me out again for not trusting him at his word. 🤦♀️ To be honest, I didn’t really know how off track it was. I wasn’t feeling super good with the results, but wasn’t sure why. He was able to hone in on the issue quickly and he jumped in, rolled up his sleeves and worked with me to fix it so we would be ready for the meeting.
This lesson set in like an anchor. Had I trusted and believed he would help, I would have had a better product and a good nights sleep! 🙄
Not only is it hard to ask for help yourself, it is hard for your teams to ask for help. Our societal norms tell us that it signals weakness, when in fact it actually signals strength.
Given this very valuable lesson, I strive to both empower and engage to in a way that gives help organically through adopting a method of iteration with teams. This also helps increase collaboration and trust.
No one needs to feel like a failure or weak for asking. Asking is just part of the process. In this way we can learn and grow stronger as a team and deliver better results over all.
Lesson 3: Be brave, ask for what you want …
This one piece of advice I am still trying to be better at. I have a lot of bravery for advocating for others, just not as much for myself.
A very successful board member shared with me that her learning was that women don’t ask and it costs us close to $1M over the course of our careers. That was very powerful, and it still took me a very long time to embrace it.
This seems to be a clear gender difference, as women don’t naturally ask for raises, promotions, stretch assignment … etc. Men seem to do this seemingly effortlessly, as they are encouraged to be the ones to ask and see rejection as nothing personal.
Over my career as a leader, only One (1) female reporting to me has ever asked for a raise or initiated the career conversation.
For me, I have had to learn to be Sadie Hawkins and be the one to ask. Without that bravery, and facing the horrendous potential of a NO, you just can’t move forward to achieve what you set out to do, or even get to the YES. Coupled with this is shifting the mindset to “nothing to lose if you ask, and all the more to gain.”
I am now much more aware and share with women that it’s okay to ask for stuff and I encourage it.
Bravery is also standing up for others who can’t stand for themselves and speaking truth to power. It can be incredibly frightening, to stand alone, advocating for righting a wrong or telling someone a truth they do not want to hear. Especially if they have suspended their disbelief and in a position of authority over you.
Bravery, is living with yourself and being strong for others. One way to ease the fear is building a coalition and broadening the insight. Sometimes what you’re seeing is only a part of the whole. With a wider context, and differing perspectives, you can gain more info and then be more balanced.
Lesson 4: Get to know yourself...
As Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true”. Getting a good handle on yourself will allow you to know how your wired. How you react, what your triggers are, what you’re good at and what feeds your energy.
Through this process, you can grow from a greater perspective of yourself and how others see you. This helps you hone in on the impact you have.
There will be people that are complete opposites to you, that will drive you too distraction. Knowing why, let’s you harness your frustration and find ways to connect and compliment the other person.
You will also grow on your ability to adapt to different situations and leaders that you definitely will have over your career. Once you can do that, things will get easier and your energy will be on what is important in driving to whatever your trying to achieve. If you let others steal your energy, you won’t get as far as you can.
Knowing yourself also helps discern when you get feedback. Is it feedback that reflects you, or the person giving it to you? It is really important to understand when people are projecting themselves onto you. It tells you that they see you as different to them and they are not comfortable with that. This then will give you a choice to flex more to them if you can be authentic or stay to the path you’re on.
It also helps with knowing others, which is crucial in any part of your life. Everyone is different and you get better when you understand what drives others, what they care about, how they think about things.
Knowing yourself is the gateway to begin relationships, taking time and being open to others is the gateway to a happy and fulfilled relationship.
Lesson 5: Lead with humility, authenticity and compassion…
When I started my career in the late 80s, with my big hair and shoulder pads, keeping work and your personal life separate was an unspoken norm. When at work, you worked and you might get a drink after, but it was work banter. The only things that crossed over was big life events … weddings and funerals.
I don’t remember a leaders striving to be be humble, it was more autocratic in the sense of, you just did as you were told. There were not stories of vulnerability, humility, compassion … etc.
However, the exception was the Vice President of the area I was assigned to. He was all of these things. He taught me about leading with compassion, humility, authenticity and respect. He took time to explain assignments. He encouraged me to do my best, he said he believed in me, he shared stories. These were micro moments, where he was giving me a new assignment because I was eager to learn. He listened to my questions and taught me so many things.
It took me too long to put this into practice, mainly because mainstream leadership wasn’t about these things at that time. It was odd. But now that we have evolved to expect leaders to have these qualities, so many of his early lessons come back to me as a solid sea wall against a brisk sea. His lessons are engrained in me and I feel you can now be accepted when you lead this way. We are all so much more effective when we can lead and act authentically.
I could add so many more pieces of advice that my mentors and sponsor have given me over the years. All of it helped me breakthrough barriers that I had created. Each gave me a new perspective to chew on and ultimately grow through.
When you open yourself up to listening, learning and experiencing advice from a mentor or sponsor that truly cares about helping you, it is one of the most rewarding experience you can have.
It is hard finding a true experience like this, and I am ever grateful to the mentors and sponsors I have had in my career. If you are able to help others achieve their potential, spend some time doing just that. If your looking for a mentor or sponsor, don’t get frustrated take time to find the one that is right for you during that period of your growth.
Reflecting back, my mentors and sponsor unlocked my passion to help others. In learning about myself, I learned that my altruism, intuition and EQ scores point directly to this being well aligned to my passion, and thus validating what they saw in ‘me so many many years ago, and long before I saw it.
My joy comes from helping others unlock their potential and fly to the heights they want. All I want is for others to soar.
Find your truth, your potential and your joy and Shine Brightly!