This is probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned from working with men–the ability to be myself.
My first boss told me women didn’t know how to make business decisions. Whether right or wrong, I needed to make one. If I was right – rejoice and if I was wrong - apologize, but either way I was to make a decision. I was not to be one of “those” women. He also listened into phone calls with vendors. He wanted things done his way. I was told I was too soft. I was too nice. I needed to be tough like a man. I was confused–I had gotten the result he had wanted, what did I do wrong?
Another male boss would put words in my mouth. Before every presentation, he would make me a nervous wreck during rehearsal. Say it this way. Don’t say that. Don’t forget to say this. Then one day we had a meeting where I said what I wanted to say. He congratulated me after and said what a good job I had done. I told him it was the first time he let me say what I wanted to say. From that day forward, I never let a man put words in my mouth again.
I’m no psychologist, but I think some of this is about control. And I hated being controlled. I’ve never felt better about myself then the day I realized it was okay to be myself. I don’t have to do it a certain way; I can do it my way.
So what is “your way”?
You need to decide this for yourself. I can’t help you there. I can share my way of being myself, which consists of five things.
1. Treating people like I’d like to be treated.
So if that means being too soft on a call, so be it.
2. Guide people who work for you.
Tell them what they need to do, what is missing, what would make something better, but don’t solve it for them and put words in their mouths. They don’t learn anything that way.
3. Practice what you preach.
I hate when bosses say one thing and do another. I had one who would say, “We need to tighten our belts,” and then he’d take a car service home.
4. Never ask someone to do something you’d never do yourself.
I believe that if the people around you see you rolling up your sleeves they’re more likely to want to do the same for you.