by Mary Legakis Engel
Management Coach, Tech Startup Executive and Advocate of Your Happier Life
I have a confession to make.
I screw up a lot. I’ve been building my business for 6 years, and it’s been a series of lesson after lesson after lesson. I’ve embarrassed myself on sales calls, I’ve embarrassed myself on stage, I’ve messed up email marketing campaigns, and I’ve even created one or two enemies along the way.
All the enemies I’ve created were women. And the only reason that happened is because these two women didn’t tolerate imperfection the way every woman should. There was no leeway for failure. In essence, they got mad at me for being imperfect, and abandoned me when I was down.
I have another confession to make. I’ve done the same to other women. Men too. I did that right up until last year when I was faced with a crisis of conscience. I had a team member who was under-performing. This team member didn’t have the skills required for the job, and was experiencing one failure after another. It was impacting me financially and emotionally. I felt pulled to be brutal. I wanted to let this person have it! I wanted to fire this person and rid myself of the stress and hostility I was feeling!
But that was incongruent with my message to the world – to be kind to one another. To be compassionate. To empathize. I knew this person to be a good person. A loyal person. A trustworthy individual. This person was simply in the wrong job. And I wanted to rip the person apart?
Creating Some Leeway for Failure
Here’s what’s great about women… We are high achievers. We are perfectionists. We have high standards of ourselves and of one another.
We are also emotional, overwhelmed and conflicted between the stresses of being a great mom, a great wife, a great career women, provider, friend, sister, daughter… you name it. We’ve got a lot of pressure on us.
And because of all these things, we have a tendency to be hard on one another. We have a tendency to react, instead of respond. And when someone screws up, we have a tendency to get angry and abandon them, instead of becoming kind and supportive.
When you see someone else’s failure as a personal affront, you will naturally try to protect yourself. You will work hard to remove that person from your surroundings, diminish their importance in the world, and cut them down to size.
When you cut another woman (or man) down for not being good enough, perfect enough, or smart enough, you close off an opportunity to build a stronger woman (or man). You forego an opportunity to help a person thrive.
Calling On Women to Lead
Here’s what I did instead…
I put out some specific goals with my employee and asked this person to fulfill a plan for improvement. I met weekly with this person to review the plan.
Failures continued. I was kind. I sent reminders. I placed pressure to perform, but I was not mean.
I also had a conversation with this person about what they truly wanted to be doing in life. Their career aspiration. It turns out, this work I had them doing wasn’t it.
By the end of the 30-day plan this person (a millennial) sent me the warmest, most appreciative resignation letter I had ever read. And I quote: “Honestly, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have worked with you. It is a rare thing to be guided by someone who gives you nothing but respect, patience and the opportunity to learn and grow at their own pace. I cannot help but feel in debt to you as it is likely because of these opportunities that I come to this very crossroad in my life.”
This person is now pursuing their passion – they are on the path towards great things. All because I suppressed my conditioned reaction to attack, and replaced it with a controlled response to support.
Mary Legakis Engel is The Management Coach and a recognized speaker, coach, consultant and business executive. Mary has been advising, consulting and coaching leaders and managers on effective management and how to grow their businesses while continuously engaging their employees for over 15 years.
She has also developed a five week, online training program that can help get you started on your own career transition. tellent members get a 25% discount Transition Bootcamp.