Where to start?
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to have a really good conversation with one of my colleagues. It was during a work trip over too many lemon drop martinis. Alcohol can loosen in the lips in both good and bad ways. This was a good example. I asked my colleague what she thought about attending a recent leadership meeting. She said it was frustrating. This was not the response I had anticipated. Of course I asked her why. She told me that there was a big detail the leaders were missing and that she wanted to speak up but didn't feel like she could. She thought it was obvious and that surely I was going to speak up about it. I didn't because I was in the detail of the meeting and not sitting outside what was happening and therefore not in a space to challenge.
What was the detail and why couldn't she speak up? The detail was something the rest of the group had missed (and needed to be said) but more concerning to me was that she felt like she couldn't speak up. How often have you felt this way? How often have you known the answer or had a good suggestion? How often have you silenced the voice in your head to the detriment of your job or career?
I was flabbergasted with my colleague (but shouldn't have been). I have invited her because she is strong and confident and I want to continue to develop her by exposing her to different situations. I hadn't expected the lack of confidence, the lack of faith in her own ability. From where I was sitting she was and is, amazing.
I shared with her my view of why I have been successful and while of course I have worked hard, I think it's because I'm willing to speak up. Sometimes too much. Sometimes not enough. It's definitely a learnt skill, working out the right balance and I don't always get it right. I have had to show confidence when inside I didn't feel that way. It's important to me though, that what I say will move the conversation in a different direction. If it doesn't the world doesn't end. At least I have tried and learnt something. I don't always feel confident doing it, but.
When I started reflecting on "confidence" I think for the most part it's an issue for women. I have become friends with an amazing woman in Singapore and found myself telling her that recently, when she was struggling with the confidence for a bigger more senior role. Another friend (who is seriously incredible at her job and a thought leader in her space) was starting a new role also shared her feelings about being scared and feeling like she had no idea what she was doing. Another colleague and friend who I have spent time with over the past few weeks is so clever and so hard-working and it rubs off on me every time I'm with her, is putting up with a completely rubbish situation. Confidence, or lack of, seems to be a universal feeling.
The nice thing about female friends is that we generally feel safe to share this stuff. I don't think men feel this way very often and even if they do I don't think they share. Sharing is great and helps us work through issues but man we gotta lean in!
We gotta be confident on the outside even if we are shaking on the inside. We have to support each other and point out to other women why they are doing a great job and why they are so amazing. We have to reflect on our successes and use them to build our confidence. We have to point out the value of the skills and experience we all have. We have to mentor and coach each other and we have to be confident and sexy.
That is all.