Bossy Girl or Born to Lead?

Do you ever wonder how you ended up where you are, personally and professionally? I think about this every now and then. And lately, working on the rebranding of my business, I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Definitely Bossy

I can say with confidence that when I was asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I did not say "an executive coach and org change expert." In fact, I said "a ballerina" -- and I studied dance from age 5 through my college years (yes, really.)

So how did I get here? Looking backward, I can see the breadcrumbs, but along the way, things weren’t so clear. Read on, and I’ll share some of my defining moments with you. And I hope in return, you’ll share a few of your own defining moments with me. After all, I can’t imagine you said "I want to be the Head of Engineering" or "a CEO" (but maybe you said "President").

  • When I was in nursery school (3 years old) I told my classmates that I saw our neighbor dress up as Santa Claus and that Santa Claus wasn’t a real person. This "truth-telling" led to quite a few unhappy teachers, and parents. I was often told I was "bossy."
  • The first businesswoman I knew was a friend of my mother’s. I had such a girl crush on her -- she was strong, independent, and beautiful. She owned a gorgeous retail business (now exclusively online) that sold beautiful art, jewelry, and artifacts.
  • In 9th grade, my favorite weekend activity was spending hours reading psychology case studies in the Duke University library stacks. My dad (on the faculty) had to let me in.
  • My favorite class at Duke was called Seminar in Child Observation, where I learned how to observe without judgment (it was for Developmental Psych, not a creepy pastime).
  • I studied at the American Dance Festival summer intensive -- and decided I wasn’t cut out to dance professionally.
  • In my first job after college, I managed 120 part-time college students, and I learned to give the hardest feedback I’ve ever given: "You have body odor, and need to shower before coming to work".
  • I knew I would be a consultant before I knew what one was, and wrote as much in my Stanford Business School application, as a short story (really)
  • At B-school, the OB classes were easy H’s (GSB grading is weird), and my favorite class was Advanced Cost Accounting, where I learned the language of business.
  • I live by the motto of my B-School (Stanford): "Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World" (if you want to read an inspiring story by another alum).

Hard Truths Are the Best

The toughest lesson I’ve had to learn (as a 30-year-old consultant) was proffered by one of my mentors. She told me, "You need to embrace your inner Lucy." It was one of the most important lessons of my professional career. Of course, the reference is to the bossy, advice-giving character in the Peanuts comic strip, written by Charles Schulz. And her advice was to stop trying to hide who I am and own myself fully. It was hard to hear (who wants to be called bossy?), but deeply important for my growth and development. Hard truths are like that.

So That's My Story

Throughout my life, I’ve been a truth-teller and business lover, fascinated by how people develop and grow, and hungry to lead and learn, and make a meaningful difference in the world. So perhaps I’ve always been on my way to being an advisor and coach to senior executives.

Why am I sharing this with you? First, I have grown to really love my inner Lucy. And knowing myself has helped me choose how to manage myself. I want you to gift yourself the same opportunity to grow. Second, some of you don’t know me so well, as my audience has been growing (thanks, everyone!). I’d like you to know me better, so you can trust that I can help the leaders you refer me to. And third, I wanted an excuse to share one of my favorite pictures of myself -- taken at the (excellent) Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA.

Bossy Girl Advice

In closing, I thought I’d take advantage of owning my "bossy" side, and give you some tips that have really resonated with me this past week:

  • Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience. Stop doing that and make time to recharge, or it will just get worse.
  • Knowing your purpose really does matter. If you haven’t reflected on this lately, you should. It may have shifted.
  • Multitasking is usually an excuse for not paying attention to what you’re doing. Tell the truth. When you’re writing an email while on a Zoom call, you can’t actually process what you’re hearing.
  • Don’t micromanage the smart people you hired. They aren’t less smart just because they now work for you.

Thanks for reading, for engaging with me, for learning together!

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