Resist the impulse to keep asking for permission and just do. Just do it.
Stop. Saying sorry for something that isn’t your fault. Stop using too many pleasantries, “please and thank you" is nice but when you have it in five different places in an email there's a problem. “Sorry, please, excuse me” No. Stop it.
Remove the adjectives, go to the point and trust me i understand this can be hard for some. I mean, i still edit my emails to date to the remove the extra "pleases and thank yous" that are just off.
Stop asking for permission - send that email, have that meeting, do that thing and apologize later.
I’ve come to realize that this isn’t a solely women thing though it’s a part of it. There is the submissive culture women are nurtured in here in Nigeria but there is also high power distance culture generally in Africa that makes this even harder for most, for women especially. But we can train ourselves to be different by learning to take calculated risks. It's worked for me.
Doubt is the root of it all
How many times have you spotted something wrong and refuse to speak about it then someone else points it out later? Although, i must confess this likely won't happen 100% of the time. There will be days you'll be off and you will think to yourself, am i glad i waited that one out and saved myself the embarrassment. Hey, that's not best way to approach that and that's not the point!
The point is not to be right the entire time, The point is to be able to speak out constructively, cohesively and assertively about a matter, asking intelligent questions along the way.
What i’ve found helps me is to ask a question first to clarify the hypothesis in my mind, then lead to my point if necessary or say “thanks for that clarification” if not.
Oh and you should read this book "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" by Mark Manson. I review the book on this website here
Start with Small Risks and Work Your Way Up
There are several articles and studies about women generally being more risk averse than men and while i'm still on the fence on that one, i have found personally, that starting with small risks and them paying off boosts my confidence with larger ones.
Say you realize that you ask for a lot of permission for things at work and clearly this isn’t very good for a leader, so you spot this. You can easily start with something not too big and just do it, then iterate. These things are hard in practice, i know, i know but find one small thing and work your way up
Get yourself a Wing Woman Wilfred
I have a wing-woman in my head, i call her Wilfred. Call me crazy but when i need a good pep talk Wilfred does the job
“Maria you’re amazing, Maria you can do this, Maria you have the experience to make this happen, you are qualified for this, you’ve done this, you’re the best person i know suited for this ..."
Find your Wilfred and make sure she is in your head when you need it the most and replace Doubting Delilah who always tells you all the things you’re not good at exactly the moment you least need to hear it.
It takes a LOT of practice, and i learn this everyday.
Learn to be comfortable with having difficult conversations
I used to be very very bad at having difficult conversations, avoiding confrontation at all costs. I think this was nurture - growing up we never talked about uncomfortable things.
But i quickly realized that the impact of not having difficult conversations is that you slowly keep moving the line on what is acceptable to you, till everything is acceptable to you and then one day you snap.
In the usual linear fashion i then decided i’ll have all difficult conversations and fell into the unique situation of having too many difficult conversations and then that was just exhausting.
There's an art to picking difficult conversations. Picking your battles. So i started being very deliberate about my difficult conversations.
My 3 personal checks are:
1. Is this a trend and not a one off?
2. Is this something that is absolutely important to me?
3. Is this something that is likely the symptom of a deeper problematic issue?
Once it’s a yes from me on at least 2 out of the 3 the conversation has to be had. No exceptions. I’ve learnt to start small and grow into it over the years and it’s been pretty interesting to see my personality almost change.
So, what do you think? Any experiences to share? Tell me, i want to learn from you too!
Click here for post on How to Have Difficult Conversations.
And here for a post on why being too nice is a problem.