If you are good, it shows.
If you are good but are ‘hiding’, then no one will know!
Take Reema’s case.
Reema had 14 years of work experience and led a 40-member team. She was soft-spoken, timid, and clever. She offered great clarity on the rare occasions when she spoke. She was doing a 1-year-long women’s leadership program sponsored by her organisation.
One day, she said ‘I wish my manager would see what I am capable of but he doesn’t. He ignores me. I have been waiting 3 years for a promotion and am frustrated. What should I do, Sai?’
Here’s what I knew about Reema:
Reema was a hard worker, but rarely talked about her work. She said there were many instances when the ideas and work were hers, but her project manager presented it and got the credit. She had kept quiet.
She was the brain behind many initiatives. Yet she considered herself a ‘backend’ person.
She did not showcase her work in performance appraisals. She assumed her manager would do that.
She did not get the promotion she deserved. After 2 cycles of such performance evaluations, she realised that she needed to do something different to claim that higher role. The conversations on the women leadership course had shaken her up sufficiently.
Here’s the diagnoses:
Reema grew up in a home where most people were quiet-natured. She absorbed this way of being.
She believed people would ‘find’ her and her good work.
She harboured a fantasy that her leader would call her out and publicly reward her one day. It was a daydream fantasy that she shared with the group.
She allowed others to ‘steal’ her ideas and did nothing when they showcased them as theirs.
She spoke too little during meetings so others didn’t get to know her competence.
She did not know how to make requests and felt a sense of obligation.
She was very attached to her identity of being timid and soft-spoken.
She held many stories in her mind about her manager. She believed he was ignoring her and that it may be because he did not like her. ’He likes only smart, outspoken people,’ she said.
We figured out a lot of this through the group work we did and the coaching conversations that we had as a part of our program.
The solutioning and coaching:
Over the course of the year, Reema learned the concept of ‘missing conversations’. These are conversations that ought to be had between people, but are pushed under the carpet instead. Sitting under the carpet, they fester, making us resentful and resigned. We begin churning them within us, with many unhelpful assessments and stories about others, like the assumptions that Reema had about her manager. These stories, along with some of our limiting beliefs, keep us stuck.
In conversations, we listed out some of her limiting beliefs about herself and her manager. We examined the stories her mind had created about her manager and about who she could be in life.
We examined stories about herself and her identity.
We worked on her confidence and her approach to tabling issues that matter to her.
We role-played so she got an idea of how to structure a difficult conversation.
We also worked somatically so she can take on the posture of focus and confidence. This was important for peer meetings and other 1-on-1 conversations.
Finally, she decided she was ready to speak to her leader.
Here’s how the actual ‘missing’ conversation went:
Reema did a centering exercise she had learned on the course as this helped her feel calm and strong.
She blocked her leader’s calendar for 45 minutes. She sent an email stating she wished to discuss ‘my career expansion and the questions I sit with’. Smart wording, I thought.
She prepared a list of ideas that were hers, which she hadn’t taken credit for. She listed out the tasks that she accomplished well over the last 3 years. She outlined the tasks that she performed consistently at a higher level than her role. She also listed other questions on the team’s structure and function.
Her leader listened to what she presented. He was surprised and asked her why she did not share all this before. She authentically said ‘Manoj, I am the scared type of person and am only now learning to claim what is important to me.’ He smiled and said he liked her honesty.
She asked him about his views on her work and how he sees growth for her within the team. This allowed her to see that the stories in her mind were baseless. He seemed to be an open and fair person. He could not praise what he did not know about her work. He told her that showcasing her work was her job.
Reema made a request. She asked that for 6 months she be given the responsibilities of the next level role, and requested that he monitor and guide her. She expressed her wish to be promoted in the next cycle based on her competence.
Reema was lucky, she had timed this conversation well. Her leader was happy to have someone ask for greater responsibility, and demonstrated a keen enthusiasm to deliver.
Reema performed the higher-level tasks well as she had already developed a quiet competence in them already. In the next performance cycle, Reema got the next level role that she wanted.
This experience changed Reema. She shared that she has learned a ‘lesson for life’. She put it well when she said, ‘Since I was so good at hiding, I was not found. Now I have learned to show up and am glad I learned it.’
The Step Up women leadership program I teach is a 1-year intervention within organisations and has many such stories in it. It prepares emerging women leaders for bigger leadership roles. They dream up career expansions and learn skills to show up rather than wait to be found!
Here is where you will find more details about the course: https://physis.co.in/services/women-leadership/step-up/