Tonight I’m headed to Chicago to see Beyonce perform. I’m pretty much the only big Beyonce fan out of my entire group of friends, so finding someone to go with me was exceptionally hard. It just so happened her ticket sale was a few days before my birthday and a very good friend didn’t want to disappoint me on an exciting week, so agreed to join! Great friend, I owe him big.
I’m a fan of her music, but my admiration for her goes far beyond her lyrics. She’s a feminist who believes that women can be as strong as men. Women can provide for themselves and their families, they can be the bread winner of their household, they don’t need a husband to define who they are, they’re powerful, independent, confident and they never give up. Being a woman is awesome and I will always support powerful women who push the envelope.
I can’t wait to see what she has in store tonight. I mean, lets get real, I have a “What Would Beyonce Do?” picture framed in my kitchen.
THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW CAB
This post actually derived from a few personal experiences I’ve had over the past couple of months. I’ve found it more and more apparent, particularly since becoming a homeowner, that determining which battles you fight and which you don’t become part of your daily mantra. For example, we did a kitchen re-model late last year and one of our appliances stopped working after 6 months of being installed. However, since we bought it over a year ago, the manufacturer’s warranty expired. So, do I call customer service to be on the phone for two hours or do I just go buy the new appliance? The next situation happened to be a car accident that wasn’t my fault. Negotiating with the insurance company was a feat in itself, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over these two experiences, it’s that you need to persevere.
Whether in your personal or professional life, you’ll need to choose which battles you fight and which you just let go. I chose to fight for both of the above –the appliance situation took about 3 months and my car insurance claim took 6 months of negotiating–but in the end, my point came through and my requests were honored. I knew the customer service and insurance companies were trying to wear me down. How long would it take for her to give up? I was out to prove a point, but most importantly get what was right.
There will be times in your professional life when you’re left with a decision to respond to that email, because you know you’re right, or to just let it go. If you fight every single battle or issue that comes your way, you’ll be exhausted and your co-workers will think you’re difficult to work with. Being difficult to work with will hurt your professional growth, that I can promise. Just like your personal relationships, your job is also give and take. While this may seem obvious, the important part is determining when to pick your battles. Here’s what I follow:
- Responsibilities: If there’s a conversation around your core job responsibilities and anything that could effect this, it’s my internal trigger that I need to part of this discussion. This is where I’ll want to be vocal and bring to light any concerns.
- Process Alignment: Typically, processes are a huge push for companies. When developing new processes, it’s important to provide your input and be involved as this will most likely have a direct effect on your workload.
- Negotiation: A major portion of my job responsibility is to improve garment costs each season and insure we hit our target IMU’s. However, as I’m analyzing each cost I have to pick and choose my battles. I’m going to push back where I can receive the most cost savings and not worry about the extra $.05 they charged on a trim.
What I don’t get involved in:
- Petty details: Dates and times emails are sent to prove a point are typically not worth your time. I’m not going to argue with a supplier or internal colleague over something so petty. It’s not worth the email. Even if they’re wrong, accept it and move forward with the point and purpose of the email.
- Playing the trump card: Sometimes in meetings you will have that individual that thinks because they’re the highest level in the room, their voice needs to be the loudest and assigns themselves the role as the final decision maker. You’re typically not going to change their mind in this meeting, so if my input isn’t being heard, I will let it go. This doesn’t mean roll over and give them what they so childishly want, but it means follow-up after the meeting with your boss to further discuss. In my experience, my boss has always sent a follow-up email reinforcing my input. Your boss is either at the same level or higher than this person, so the email communication will force them to accept direction from authority.
- Arguments via email: Email is fabulous, except when it’s not. You can’t understand someone’s tone from an email and many times, the tone can be misconstrued. You will definitely realize this when you see the response. Instead of writing back in a fury or typing something you’ll regret–and your boss will see–pick up the phone or walk over to their desk. It will always diffuse the situation.
THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW CAB
If you’re like me and 75% of the population, presenting at a meeting can be intimidating. You’re standing up in front of your colleagues and superiors to present data, a new idea or proposal. The morning of you’re a bit jittery and may even have anxiety about standing up in front of a group of people. I totally get it. And I hate to say it, but the only way to become more comfortable is to present often. Practice makes perfect and eventually, your fears will disperse.
Try to hone in on the main reason you’re feeling uneasy about getting in front of your co-workers. For me, it’s the fear of not having an answer to every question. What if they ask something I don’t know? Think about that. Isn’t that the point? You’re presenting an idea or proposal to get feedback. Multiple heads are better than one and that’s the beauty about individuals- no two think alike. As you present more frequently, you’ll start to see a pattern in the questions you’re being asked and be able to prep for them beforehand.
Here are the top four things you need to do to have a successful meeting:
- Prep. Make sure you know the information you’re presenting. If you have a question about it, someone listening to your presentation is going to have the same one. Ask ahead of time so you’re prepared. Print anything you may need the night before so you’re not stressing at the printer the morning of.
- Rehearse. Yes, you need to practice giving your presentation. Block off time in a conference room to practice by yourself giving the presentation out loud. You’ll be surprised the points you come across that need some fine tuning.
- Sit at the most appropriate position at the table. If you’re the last into the conference room, you’re most likely going to get the chair at the end of the table. You need to conduct yourself in a space to get everyone’s full attention. The best way to do that is at the head of the table.
- The night before routine. Set your alarm and get up when it goes off. Pick out what you’re going to wear. Make sure it’s something that makes you feel confident and on-top of your game. You’ll thank yourself in the morning when you would have typically pulled out everything from your closet, left half of it on the floor, and walked out of the house hating what you have on.
Keep in mind the more you present, the more likely other opportunities will arise to present to new audience members. People will begin to know who you are and that’s always important.
THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW CAB
And you thought you left your high school days behind you. Turns out, burn books also exist in the working world. Ok, I’m being a bit dramatic. Your employer doesn’t have a file with mean slurs written in gel pen all around your picture. However, I think you’d be surprised what they do have.
The three companies I’ve worked at all handled this process differently. Basically, it’s a meeting with senior level leadership to discuss their current talent. The first company I worked for didn’t speak about it. It was a meeting that happened behind closed doors with the leadership team. I actually never knew these existed my second corporate position.
This company was a little less discreet about the process. Your boss would be ever-so diligent to make sure your company profile was updated in the system about a week before the “secret meeting.” The group gets together to discuss each individual’s responsibilities, interests, and future opportunities.
Unfortunately, word travels fast under poor management and these meetings weren’t always kept professional. They were a bitch session for a few leaders whose intentions weren’t always the best. Each employee’s picture was up on a power point cast across the room and perceptions of you could definitely change after a meeting like this.
The company I’m currently at handles this on a much more elevated scale. It’s actually something that all employees are aware of–The meetings are put on each employee’s calendar. HR attends the meetings to ensure they’re kept professional and stay on topic. All conversations are an echo of the conversations your boss has had with you. You would be aware of what you’re doing well and any areas that need improvement. The whole burn book idea sounds a lot less intimidating at company #3, right?
It’s so fascinating the scope of management levels in my industry alone. If you’re reading this and you have no idea if this is something your company exercises, ask! You should definitely be aware of conversations that involve your career and development. Tip: these meetings and presentations are typically organized by the executive assistant to the VP. They will know all of the good and all of the dirt; make sure they like you.
THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW CAB
We’re all human. We’re not robots that can constantly perform at 110%. And sometimes, you’re just like f*ck, definitely messed that one up. It happens, don’t beat yourself up over it. What matters is how you recover and put trust back into whomever you let down.
I’ll give you my personal example.
I drive a good hour into work (on a good day). It’s 34 miles to be exact and traffic is always a moving target. Some days, I fly through the city. Some days, everyone decides it’s a good time to crawl at 25mph. No matter how early I leave, traffic is there. We had an important meeting and all agreed to be in at 7:30am to prep before our VP came in at 8am. I made the annoying text to my boss that I was stuck in traffic and going to be late. I hated saying that. It looked like I didn’t leave on time, like I didn’t make this meeting a priority. And that wasn’t the case. I planned for traffic, but not 40 minutes of it!
I only ended up being 10 minutes late, but that isn’t the point. The rest of the team made it on time and I felt like I was bringing them down.
Like I said, what matters is how you recover. Own up to it. At the end of the day or at a time you feel is best to talk to your boss, pull them aside. Something as simple as, “hey, I know I was late for an important meeting. I want to apologize, it won’t happen again.” Leave out the excuses, the dog ate my homework, my child was running around with his pants on his head – whatever really truly happened with life. The simple acknowledgement that you know what happened, and it won’t happen again shows your boss two things: you own up to your mistakes and you’re going to make damn sure it wont happen again. Done and done.
Secondly, be observant and learn from others f*ck ups so you don’t have to. You never know who is in the bathroom stall or can overhear your conversation in the hallway. Keep your email and office messenger appropriate. Be pleasant to work with. Prepare for your meetings and print anything you may need the night before – paper jams only happen when you’re running late.
THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW CAB