Recently I was coaching an extraordinarily talented leader, we’ll call her Kathy. Kathy was 10 months into a new director-level position. Her boss had just resigned, and in the interim she was reporting to her boss’s boss – a VP who was overwhelmed and unfamiliar with the inner workings of her department.
Kathy was quite astute and had some thoughtful observations and suggestions for how to keep projects moving and clients satisfied during the leadership transition. When I asked if she had shared any of her suggestions with the VP, she replied, “Well, I don’t want to bother him.”
Now I’m not a violent person in any way – in fact, I go to great pains to relocate even the smallest of bugs that find their way into my home office – but it was all I could do not to jump out of my chair and grab Kathy by the shoulders, and scream, “For goodness sake, you have 10 months of in-the-trenches experience (not to mention 25 years of industry experience), a clear focus on customer satisfaction and retention, and powerful solutions to offer – by all means, bother him!”
But instead of crossing any ethical/physical boundaries, I swallowed hard and asked her to consider what she would want from a director in her department if she were in the VP’s shoes. Without hesitation she smiled and said, “I’d want her to step up and offer her suggestions. We need all the help we can get.” And then I challenged her again by asking what she thought a man would do. Would he hesitate to bother his VP in this situation? More likely than not, he’d be planning to take healthy advantage of this leadership vacuum and show the VP his stuff.
So simple. Yet so not simple.
Can you relate?
Just last week I was in my local co-op when I asked a store employee if a homemade soup I was interested in had dairy in it. He didn’t know and offered to go and ask the chef. Without hesitation I said, “Oh no, I don’t want to bother him.” And then, catching myself, retreated and said, “Well, actually, it would be very helpful if you could check. Thank you.”
We are all a work in progress.
And I wish I could wave a magic wand and erase what feels sometimes like a hardwired instinct to keep ourselves small. But I can’t.
What I can do is offer you these suggestions to consider:
- If it’s between risking being a bother and risking being ourselves, wanting what we want, knowing what we know…Be a bother.
- Remember what Byron Katie says, “What other people think of us is none of our business.” So in other words…Be a bother.
- Consider challenging or reframing the notion that you are a bother. In the case of my client, it was highly unlikely her VP would consider her suggestions bothersome and more likely he would consider them useful. When in doubt…Be a bother.
So dear ones, tell me:
How can you be a bother today?
Take care of your special self…