Sheryl Sandberg’s commitment to banning the word “bossy” is powerful, insightful, and refreshing. In essence, she noticed that this word is causing young girls, and also women to avoid leadership roles. I mean, who wants to be called bossy?
What if, in conjunction with “banning bossy” in school systems, we focused on backing brilliance in the workforce? This concept would have helped me last week. Check out this story…
In hopes of learning from her wisdom, I reached out to Janine, a successful, and well seasoned, leadership coach in Washington, D.C. This woman has an awesome elevator pitch, and I wanted to gain her insight, as I am in the process of strengthening my own.
Prior to the fifteen-minute call, I sent Janine an email, detailing my greatest areas of strength and expertise, and the market I am the most suited to serve.
Less than two-minutes into the call, Janine prefaced her comments with, “We’re not really competition.”
“If I thought we were competition, I would not be on this call,” I responded, a little thrown by her comment.
“I think you should focus your business on middle-level managers within large companies, not executives. There’s a ton of money to be made.”
“Hmmm,” I thought, “I’ve coached dozens of middle-level managers, and doing so doesn’t seem to strengthen the culture. That’s my greatest area of interest,” I said.
“Look – you need to crawl before you can walk. I don’t work with anyone older than me.”
Considering the fact that I started coaching when I was twenty-five years old, I can only imagine the lost opportunity if I lived by Janine’s rules.
“Your clients are probably older men, who think you’re cute, and like being around your energy,” she said.
I was dumbfounded. And so I did what I usually do in these situations – froze! As my silence continued, so did she… “I saw you moderate a panel a couple of years ago. If I recall, you had more to say than you should have. Consultants give advice, coaches listen.”
My insides were exploding, and all I wanted to do was defend myself. “Maybe I should send her a copy of my resume,” I thought. But, stayed silent as she continued.
“Well… if you don’t want to work with mid-level managers, maybe you should focus on old, tired, CEO’s who just need a little juice to get through the next ten years until retirement.”
Of course, none of her “coaching” made a bit of sense to me, and so I struggled for the next twenty-six hours. That is, until I shared the story with a female friend who insisted that I, “See the compliment.
“She sees that you’re up to great stuff, and doesn’t want you to take the spotlight off her success. She sees you as competition. It’s a compliment!”
I prefer nicer compliments, thank you!
Then, I remembered the research I read about in this exceptional book, Tripping The Prom Queen. In essence, starting in elementary school, little girls learn that there can only be one “queen bee” (or girl in charge). This same dynamic plays out in the workforce through women (unconsciously) stepping in the way of younger women.
Naturally, there are plenty of women who champion the success of other women. Yet, many are stuck in the paradigm they learned about women and success in elementary school. Afraid of losing their footing as the queen bee, they seek to protect the throne. Therefore, thwart the success of anyone nearing their territory.
In the mix of all this protecting, they lose out on the opportunity inherent in karma, and giants. The more you lift up another person, the more you rise. And, successful people have been known, for centuries, to stand on the shoulders of giants. The more giant hands you offer, the more you are given.
So, what will happen when we “ban bossy” in the school systems, and back brilliance on all levels? Will more young girls begin embracing their own brilliance – their unique talents/gifts? Will this free them to see and support the brilliance… the greatness… in other women?
I think it will!
When we stop worrying about getting too old, outdated, less attractive, or less brilliant, and begin focusing on living our quest, and supporting every woman in their journey, we’ll transform the dismal number of women in leadership now. So, where does this process begin? With you (and me) claiming our greatness… our brilliance.
When you do, you’ll teach everyone around you how to do it. Then, you can support all the “hers” around you in achieving it!
So, I agree – let’s Ban Bossy, and Back Brilliance every step of the way!