“I’m going to prove to him that I can,” shared a friend who was struggling with a decision. She’d been in finance since we left college. She was really interested in statistics and the insights it could provide. She was thinking about going back to school for an advanced certificate in stats. She’d sought the advice of a professor who was involved in the program. He wasn’t encouraging when they met. But, his negativity fueled her. ‘I’ll show him’ she seemed to be saying. I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy was a barrier or a catalyst for her?
She was telling me all this over lunch. I had to reach deeply as I listened to her story unfold. How dare he not encourage her? Her choice, not his.
My feminist bent was swaying every which way as I listened. “Why does he matter?” I asked. She had a response, albeit a shallow one.
I failed to sway her. She left lunch still stewing over his needless – thinly veiled – criticism. She’d register. She’d show him.
That day I was in one of my Zen-like transition states. Have you picked up on these? They’re best characterized with, “it only matters if YOU think it’s important because it’s something you love and believe in.”
We both left the lunch with unresolved issues, vastly different ones.
My discomfort over my friend’s path reminded me of a situation in which I’d reached a similar conclusion to hers. I’d had an on-going battle with a male peer in my last traditional role. He ran a large business unit. I had been brought in as a former colleague of the CEO. He had it out for me.
One tactic he used often really got under my skin. He had this penchant for bringing up issues he had with my organization during the CEO’s monthly staff meeting.
Entertaining, right? Hardly…..
Most executives would never use this path. Instead they’d outreach to a colleague to resolve issues amongst themselves prior to ever involving the CEO.
Not this guy. He never had the time to bring anything to my attention or to that of my team. He couldn’t bother himself with such monotony.
It took a while for me to see that he wasn’t after resolution. He was after something else entirely.
This went on for months. At its worst the CEO questioned my integrity. I remember a rhetorical thought I had when exiting a session on this topic with my CEO colleague. ‘I’ll show him,’ I said.
To my friend’s defense I had difficulty during that period sharing with anyone the details of what was happening. Was I embarrassed? Angry? Shocked? I retreated. Hunkered down to wait out the storm.
Sounds like author Sandy Anderson of Summer Book Review #12 Women in Career & Life Transitions who observed, “Women tend to swallow up into ourselves in challenging times – missing opportunities to leverage friends, family, networks, etc. (Women in Career & Life Transitions pg 95)
Ever been there?
In hindsight I should have mobilized my network to support me through that trying time. The challenge – although it didn’t occur to me at the time – was that the network I needed differed from my long-established one.
Fast forward to the last sixty days. I was pushed – again – almost as hard as I was when sparring with my executive colleague. This time instead of swallowing up into myself I outreached to a newly minted network of colleagues and associates. This time they provided me with context and honestly and renewed will. Thank you transition.
External stressors like professors or bellicose peers can create focus and urgency for us. They can also create havoc in visible and invisible ways. Do yourself a favor…even if transition isn’t underway in your sphere invest in your networks.
Networks will give back to you in unimaginable ways. And for the record…. don’t bother showing him, do this one for yourself.
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