Girl Bosses Have Tough Conversations
“Hey. I’ve actually had a bit of a change of heart. Sorry to have wasted your time. Take Care.”
I sent that text a few hours ago. I met a guy on an online dating app as I’m trying to be more intentional about my dating life. I quickly realized I wasn’t interested (which is why I have a love/hate relationship with online dating). Now I could have “ghosted” him. A younger Charlene would have. She would have ignored his texts and calls hoping he’d eventually get the message. The Charlene that is committed to growing and improving says what needs to be said even when it’s uncomfortable for her. Not all the time. I pick my battles so to speak. But I speak up more now than in the past, particularly when it matters. (Hey, I’m still growing.)
Being a #girlboss and a #queen is talked about all the time these days. Yet, it’s not just about the fun, glamorous stuff. It’s not just being a pseudo-model on Instagram or being an entrepreneur. Being a girl boss or a queen is also about your courage and your character. Sometimes it’s the ugly, hard stuff.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
Several years ago, my job was being eliminated. In fact my entire department was being eliminated. In the time between when we were notified and our end date we were told to help out around the company. It was an opportunity to find a new role by adding value. So I did. I picked up a project by a “girl boss” director who headed up a similar function as the one I was leaving, but in a different division.
Imagine my surprise when I see a job posted on the internal job board. I sent her an email with my qualifications and resume attached. Crickets. Shortly after I sent her the final deliverable for the project I was helping her with. “Thanks so much!” She was no longer too busy to send a simple reply.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” – Laurence Sterne
Now I’m not crazy. I figured she already had someone in mind (hence why I emailed her and didn’t simply apply), but why would I not at least inquire? She knew my job was being eliminated and she was hiring yet she didn’t mention it to me. The job was never posted externally. Additionally, the team she was building existed previously but was disbanded. So I assumed she would want to bring together the people who were on the team originally. It wouldn’t have been surprising for her to say, “Hey Charlene. Thanks for your interest. I do have someone in mind, but if something else opens up I’ll let you know.”
Her ignoring me – totally surprising. I’m always surprised to see girl bosses who have advanced to a high level in their career or business who lack either the courage or the character to give people the respect of honest feedback.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Recently, a popular author did a call for podcast sponsors on her Instagram. I shot her an email to express interest and she replied almost immediately. She had a questionnaire to see if I was a good fit. I answered the questions. Crickets. This time I followed up, “Hey just checking to see if you’ve made a decision.” Once again, crickets. I realize she probably doesn’t care, but it’s not the best impression. I no longer follow her or support her business. She’ll never get my money. Not because she wasn’t interested. Heck I don’t even know if I was interested. She never gave the cost of the investment. It is because she was rude. If you invite people to apply for something you should have the courage and the character to convey your decision.
Girl bosses, you can’t avoid tough conversations. Whether you lack the courage or you have an attitude that you’re too good to get back to someone, it’s bad for you in the long run. If you can’t have tough conversations in one area of your life I’d bet it creeps up in other areas as well. If the girl boss director couldn’t send a simple reply (and had no shame replying to a second email) what other conversations do you think she avoids? If a business owner has no quarrels about ignoring her followers (who she invited to email her) what else is too beneath her when it comes to her followers, the lifeline of her business?
“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein
Don’t shy away from telling people the real deal. I’m not advocating for walking around telling everybody what you think all the time. There are some difficult conversations I could have had, but didn’t. I simply stopped dealing with that person. But if they asked me “What’s up?” I would tell them.
A part of growing yourself is building up the confidence and the mindset to do the things that scare you or make you uncomfortable but are what’s best for you (and those around you). Giving negative or constructive feedback is something that I see women (and some men) shy away from. But it’s powerful and freeing.
I don’t have to wait weeks or months for a guy I’m not interested in to get the picture and stop calling. I can express my needs in relationships. I can let someone know when they aren’t meeting my expectations. I can give someone the respect of an answer and maybe even some pointers for how to improve. I don’t have to burn bridges or leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
You can’t be a girl boss and be afraid to speak up. You can’t be a girl boss and have little to no regard for other people whether they be coworkers, fans, friends, etc. When you say what should be said you honor yourself, your needs, your expectations, and your goals. You also honor the other person. You give them closure. You show them respect. You give them the ability to move forward with their dignity and self-worth in tact.
“No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.” – Unknown
Girl bosses, be courageous and of good character. It will take you far. If you struggle in this area start small. Exercise small bouts of courage. Do a small thing in the best interest of another person even if it’s not really your thing. Practice thinking of the other person involved. Put yourself in their shoes. Treat them how you’d want to be treated in the exact same scenario.
A part of the reason I let my online dating friend know my feelings is because I didn’t want him calling and texting me. I don’t want to be bothered by someone I’d prefer not to talk to. The other reason is because I didn’t want him confused or wondering what’s going on and having to draw his own conclusions. I hate when I don’t know where I stand. Are they just busy? Should I give up? Is she thinking about it? It’s why these two scenarios left a bad impression on me. I treated him how I’d want to be treated. That’s character.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” – Anne Frank
Every time you push yourself to do something that is scary or uncomfortable acknowledge yourself. Every time you address what could be ignored celebrate yourself. Lisa Nichols says, “What gets celebrated gets repeated.” This is how you develop and grow yourself into a girl boss who can handle the ugly parts of leadership and business in addition to the glitz and glamorous parts.
Life is messy. Business is messy. Corporate America is messy. Relationships are messy. Leadership is messy. If you avoid the messy parts you’re not doing your best. You’re doing a partial job. You’re probably even creating bigger messes along the way. Girl bosses handle it all – the good, the bad, and the messy. Girl bosses have tough conversations even when they’d rather not.
Be a true girl boss. Do the tough thing that stretches and grows you. Do the thing that empowers you and respects other. Position yourself to go higher in life and be equipped to handle those new, perhaps even messier parts as well.