Friday, May 1, 2015

I will #banbossy!



A long time ago, I discovered quite by accident, that I was very bossy, at least that is how it was defined back then. This trait was not very apparent when I was growing up because I was so painfully shy that speaking to anyone other than immediate family was extremely difficult. It is not easy to be bossy if you can't speak.

Looking back, I am amazed that I actually attempted to correct this quality - for yes, had I been male it would have been admirable, but that was then.

We are moving into an era where it is fast becoming a quality in women also, thanks to people like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org and #BanBossy and I find myself having to work to reverse the damage done by a relatively expensive 3 day training course for Executive Secretaries.

I think the exercise that exposed my behavioral quirk was designed to foster team cooperation - at least that is the only plausible answer I can find for it. Back the, I was what was called an Executive Secretary - now referred to as an Administrative Assistant. There were about 20 of us on the course being held at the Irish Management Institute. For this particular exercise, we were divided into teams of 5. Each team was given a task to complete within 15 minutes and our efforts to accomplish this was captured on video. We were sent to a recording booth and the timer started.

I had come down with a very bad head cold just before the course started and that probably helped to reduce my patience and counterbalance my natural shyness. The task we had been set was "we were a group of staff members in large factory and we were responsible for arranging social activities. We had to plan an outing and get the word out to the entire staff immediately", we had to document the outing and how we planned to get the word out.

The minutes ticked away and we were sitting there self consciously doing pretty much nothing. I couldn't stand it any longer and the bossy came out. In other words, I took charge. We got down to planning and every time someone got side tracked I pulled them back to the task at hand - I forgot to mention I am also very competitive and I didn't want our team to fail.

We succeeded in our task within the allotted time. Then, when all the teams had finished our videos were played along with critiques invited from all the attendees and supplemented by the instructor. We were the only team who actually completed the exercise, but I was heavily criticized for being too bossy. Needless to say I was mortified, I had stepped outside my comfort zone and as a result all attention was on me - the bossiest trainee in the room.

Looking back on it, I am not very surprised that I didn't at least get some recognition for being successful, that was the early 1980's and it was still not very acceptable for women to 'take charge'. But to this day I fight to overcome that horror of being bossy but if you take a look at the definition of bossy - I was NOT bossy I was taking charge.. As Shery Sandberg says:  When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.”

I WILL #BANBOSSY!