Continuing the month of leadership, you are going to LOVE this matter of fact post from guest expert, Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, president of BBR Marketing. Bonnie pulls back the curtain, and shares her personal experience with regard to the difference between holding back in business, and the benefits of stepping into the spotlight. This push for us to all step up, and step out is invigorating. Thanks, Bonnie!
A few months ago, I was interviewed for an article entitled, “Making Money as an Industry Expert” for the national Chamber of Commerce site. This was really quite an honor, and I was thrilled to contribute. During that interview, and in the weeks after it, I spent a bit of time thinking about where I was just a few years ago, and how far I’ve come to get where I am today.
You see, I spent two and a half years working in an environment where egos were fragile, and everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells nearly every day. Not all, but many of the partners at this accounting firm needed regular “stroking,” and those that brought up differing opinions were quickly quieted or eventually left. I was an outsider in this environment, hired because I came to the table with a different set of skills. I jumped in with both feet. There were those who supported me in my efforts, but more who were bothered that they were no longer “in charge” of what was going on.
I got my first, “Be careful, don’t do too much too fast,” talk in the first month of my tenure. I slowed down and started seeking more approval. This was still not enough for some, so I slowed even further to be sure everyone could buy in to any change before it was implemented. I felt frustrated and underutilized, since I was spending so much time defending my ideas and very little time doing what I saw as my real job. I was afraid to point out areas where mistakes were being made, or even make suggestions for improvements, because someone would always disagree, or get their feelings hurt, and we’d be right back at the drawing board. The end result was, predictably, that very little got done. I continued to suppress my opinions and shelve my expertise. Needless to say, I was not in a good spot.
But here’s the flip side. I’m obviously no longer in that environment and couldn’t be happier. Not only am I using the knowledge and skills I’ve accumulated in the last 20 years, I’m appreciated (and paid) for my efforts. Sometimes those old feelings of “don’t rock the boat,” and “try to fit in,” start rising to the surface. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so maybe I’ll temper what I say and it won’t be so bad, right?
Wrong. I’ve recently been told by more than one client that they appreciate the fact that I’m honest and even a bit blunt with my marketing advice and expertise. I even had one client decide to work with BBR Marketing solely because I took a chance and sent a note saying that they had missed the boat on a particular window of opportunity. “We want to work with you because you were the only one with the balls to tell us that what we were doing sucked,” was their exact quote. I can’t tell you the confidence boost that comes along with appreciation for being direct and giving honest input. It feels great to have others point out that I really do know what I’m doing in many cases!
I share this as encouragement for you to do the same. I’m not suggesting that you go out and start being brash for the sake of being brash, but if you have expertise in a particular area, don’t be afraid to share it. Typically, that’s why you were hired in the first place. Stop including phrases like “I think that…” and “I feel that…” in your speech or writing. We as women do this all the time, and it makes us look weak and unsure of ourselves. If you know something, simply state the fact, no need to add the softening phrases at all!
If you work in a situation where those around you get their feathers ruffled when hearing differing opinions, especially about things that aren’t their area of expertise, start looking for a new place to work. I promised myself that I’d never again work for people who have such fragile egos that I can’t do my job for making them feel important, and I encourage you to find an environment where you are appreciated and valued, if and when you can.
Ultimately, it’s all about confidence, and something tells me that most of you are very good at what you do. Don’t be afraid to show it! If you can’t call a spade a spade when you are hired as the spade-identifying-expert, it’s time to move on. Come on friends, let’s go big or go home!
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of BBR Marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, services and tactical implementation for professional services providers. Marketing services is vastly different than marketing products, and the experts at BBR Marketing understand how to help accountants, attorneys, engineers and other consultants reach their audiences and differentiate – and grow – their firms. Learn more at www.bbrmarketing.com.