Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't Be Afraid to Stand Behind Yourself in the Face of Rejection

One of the most important things I've learned in my career is to not shrink from a comment or position you take just because someone "poo poo"'s it - even if it is the President of the company. Sometimes you are off base, but many times you are right on target, but others just haven't caught up yet or don't really understand exactly what you are saying. I have been in more than my fair share of management team meetings with over-bearing bosses and Presidents who don't always take the time to think about what you say and essentially tell you that you are crazy, that you are off-base or even to just shut up about it. Today was another such example.

The President of the company I work with told me in essence I was being "negative", speaking out of turn and I was going to have to leave if I didn't "get on board". Two things were happening here . . . first, I was suggesting a different perspective and presentation of key information to potential investors (and in a way that was more reflective of our actual business model and that highlighted our role as an "ingredient" to many specialty products vs. his way of focusing on the specialty products themselves and how great they were). Second, he wasn't quite understanding where I was going with my suggestion. Luckily this man is as open minded as he is impulsive and overbearing at times, so while it may take 5 to 30 minutes (or longer sometimes) for him to digest something, he is open to coming around to considering something beyond his own thoughts. So, I stuck to my guns - but without trying to jam it down anyone's throats. That is always the challenge in these situations . . . to stand behind yourself without being pushy.

So, another opportunity came up to express my different perspective . . . I tried again to express my perspective about the specialty products being impressive vs. us as the "ingredient" in those products being impressive.. . . I expanded on how we could have a "specialty products choose us" page. He got it . . . . and  said "Oh yes, and thereby show that we are just the raw material and not having to make the product" . . . . ding ding ding . . .give that man a prize! "Yes, exactly! That's what I'm trying to do is highlight us as the ingredient who the specialty products choose because we're so special and not worry about all the details of the specialty product, which we don't make" . . . Ahhh, they see the light . . .He nodded his head in delight, and from that point on in the meeting he seriously considered everything I said as a valuable contribution. You would think that I had just started working with the man....but this is a SIX YEAR WORKING RELATIONSHIP. You would think that they would learn after the first several dozen examples of how you represent a valuable perspective. Unfortunately, however, it is a never-ending process of continuing to prove why you are there and why you are valuable.

So, to my women colleagues, my message to you from my experiences is to carefully evaluate whether the comments you are receiving are valid or misguided. Sometimes we are off-base, but many times we are not. Woman have a unique ability to see things that often times men cannot see (to use a gross generalization). Woman - generally - are multi-taskers with men generally being not so good at that (with the usual exceptions) - we all know and accept this. As a result, we women do not think linearly. That non-linear thinking brings tremendous value that many others will not see right away. This is especially true if you are on a management team of mostly men. If you believe you are not off-base and the criticism you receive is simply steeped in misunderstanding of your position - STAND BEHIND YOURSELF. DO NOT SHRINK INTO YOUR CHAIR OR THE WALLPAPER. HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF AND YOUR THOUGHTS. You never want to be annoyingly pushy, but you always want to stand behind what you say. If you can think of another way to state your position, even better. Don't let others shut you out of the conversation. Be assertive and confident in yourself, and chances are high that you will win the day in the end with your thoughts if you are working with reasonable people who don't have a personal agenda other than doing the best thing for the company.

I welcome comments from others on their similar experiences so that others can benefit from the wealth of experiences of us all.

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