A few months ago I was attending an event and was sitting in a room with other 200 women listening to a discussion panel of other successful women. At the end, one of the attendees asked “What advice would you give other women in order to be heard and to advance in an organisation?” This is when, one of the panelist said: “It never helps to speak your mind in meetings, you won’t be heard anyway. Instead, talk to the opinion leader before or after the meeting.” While I am sure the person meant it well, you can imagine my heartbeat going faster–and honestly, I almost jumped out of my chair. My friend and I looked at each other and our look said it all; we couldn’t believe our ears. We were in shock.
In our society is normal to ask more experienced and successful people for advice. But not every advice is a good advice. In my opinion, the advice given above was one of the worst I have ever witnessed. While there are so many good advices out there, this led me to collect the worst advices I have ever heard. Here they are:
1. Don’t let those you are leading see you as a peer
Building relationships with your employees is one of the most important traits as a leader. While many people still think that appearing superior to those they are leading is key to good leadership, I find it ridiculous. Respect isn’t built by superiority, it comes to life by empathy, mutual admiration and equal standing. Leading through ego has no place in modern leadership. If people have the need to assert superiority over those they lead, then they have a problem with their ego. As a leader you don’t need to treat those you are leading as your best friends (you may if you wish so), but you are all members of a team with a common goal and different roles to play. Act accordingly. You can be highly approachable and friendly without being a friend.
2. You can’t tell this the CEO / the boss
This is one of my favourites. Open communication is a concept that almost all companies claim to value, but very few truly achieve. Without it, a company can survive, but not thrive. By not sharing certain things, trust, openness and mutual respect get broken.
So, when you are being told not to share the following issues with your boss, do it anyway:
- When you have made a big mistake leading to the company losing money. Don’t try to cover your mistake or pass it on to someone else. Take responsibility, learn from it, share it, ask for help if needed and then fix it.
- When your boss keeps handing you projects with delivery dates you and your team can’t possibly meet. Set real expectations with your boss. Don’t promise the impossible. Unless you are up to induce a burnout for you and your team members.
- When you disagree with your boss. In a good organisation people are expected to voice their opinion even though it might be controversial. A good leader will know how to lead the discussion and will listen to you.
3. Don’t speak your mind
As mentioned above, I believe that not speaking your mind can be very detrimental to your career. You have been hired for a reason and the company needs you to voice your opinions. You are not expected to know everything, but your boss wants you to try. This is how you add value.
Speaking up is essential for three reasons:
- to expand your reputation: meetings are an opportunity to show your ability to think critically, to show your knowledge and help the organization to progress. People respect others who are capable of voicing their opinions.
- to build your confidence: put yourself out there and speak up your mind. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. If it doesn’t work well, acknowledge your efforts for speaking up and learning.
- to being promoted faster: showing that you are actively engaged and interested in helping the team solve an issue is a leadership quality, every leader looks for in his/her team members.
As this takes practice (especially if you are an introvert), try the following:
- listen actively (don’t be busy worrying about what to say next and if to say anything – leave your doubts at the front door and focus your mind on listening about the topic)
- ask or answer a question (just simply state your opinion, nobody is expecting you to be 100% right all the time)
- share a finding (if you are attending the meeting you surely are involved in the project/task – find the right moment to share an important finding)
What was the worst advice you ever heard or got? Happy to hear about it.
“Photo by Ben White, Unsplash”