Recently, after a meeting, my phone rang and my stomach sank. I had made a couple valid, but potentially hard to take, comments during a board meeting and I was sure the board chair was calling to fuss at me. I thought about letting the call go to voicemail, but courage prevailed and I answered: “Yes, sir?”
My abs tightened as I braced myself for the onslaught, knowing I had made yet another gaff, blunder, oversight. I remembered being reprimanded for this and that in my youth and phrases like “young ladies don’t…” or “good girls are seen and not heard” bubbled up from my subconscious. I told myself that it had been good while it lasted (this board service) and hoped that my Executive Team wouldn’t be the next to realize they had an imposter in their midst.
The board chair was very high energy – all two thumbs-up and impressed – telling me I was just what the board needed: honest, compassionate, purveyor of hard truths. He asked how I did it and told me he was envious of whatever upbringing I had that made me this way and would I please keep it up? Thanking him for the compliment, I promised I would and asked if he had any suggestions for me in terms of things I could do better. He laughed and said, “You know I’m kidding, but stop making everyone else look so bad,” then added “I’m your #1 fan.”
After I hung up the phone, I took a few minutes to think about what had just happened. From where were these self-doubts coming? What was causing me to question the appropriateness of my role, one I’d occupied for years and for which I had been vetted and approved? Why did I feel so uncomfortable with his compliments? I will give my parents credit for the latter – they raised us with respect for humility, encouraging us to give others the limelight. On the self-doubt side, I’ve decided that it’s the trade-off for owning that something is important, of value to you. I want that board to be exceptional and they were making some mistakes. I could not ignore them and feel honest.
As I continued my drive home, I wondered how many of my co-workers have experienced self-doubt, wondered if they were good enough. If they have, I think it’s because the job they do means something to them. They want to do great work and I want them to know they are. I’m working with the Executive Team on ways we can show them this in real-time so that they can avoid the temptation not to answer that metaphorical ‘after-the-meeting’ phone call.
– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO