My wife is deep into the Sheryl Sandberg book (movement?), “Lean In,” in which women are encouraged to make their presence known when seated “at the table.” Anyone working in Human Resources as a career can empathize with the challenge faced by women in their quest to be heard, to be treated equally, to be respected, and to be equals in the workplace.
I won’t risk trivializing the plight of women by making a comparison any deeper than that, let’s just say “getting a seat at the table” is an argument with which we (HR) are familiar. It’s also only half the battle – you can get a seat, but what do you do once you’re there? One memorable piece of advice from Mrs. Sandberg is to “fake it” if you have to, meaning to act the part even when you may not necessarily feel up to the task at hand.
This is identical advice to that given to me as a young man by more than one (male) role model – “walk in like you own the place…” Most of my (male) friends have received the same nugget of wisdom in one shape or form, either from Dad, Uncle Bob, or a mentor early in their career. The central theme to the message can be minimized into one word – “confidence.”
It seems like simplistic and even silly advice, but it’s the same direction we (the wife does NOT lack for confidence) give our own children. If you want to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving, act like you belong, not like an uninvited guest. Be polite, be cordial, and have something to say ~ don’t be scared of the moment. When doubting if you belong, ask yourself this question – “Why NOT me?”
If you can’t convince yourself after that…maybe you need another year at the kid’s table.
John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ movement. Straight talk and honest responses…