Resist the impulse to keep asking for permission and just do.
Stop saying sorry for things that aren't your fault. Stop using too many pleasantries when you correspond, “please and Thank you" is nice, but in five different places in an email, there is a problem.
“Sorry, please, excuse me...”
Remove the adjectives, and go straight to the point. I understand that this can be difficult for some, because I still struggle with this. When writing an email, l still have to read over and edit after I am done to remove the extra "pleases and thank yous" that are unnecessary.
Stop asking for permission - Send that email, have that meeting, do that thing and apologize later.
I’ve come to realize that this isn’t just a women thing, it is only a part of it. Although Nigerian women are conditioned to be more submissive, there is also a power culture dynamic generally in Africa that encourages subservience. However, we can train ourselves to be different by learning to take calculated risks. It worked for me.
Doubt is the root of it all
How many times have you spotted something wrong and chosen not to speak about it, and then someone else points it out later? Of course the probability of being right will not happen 100% of the time. There will be days you'll be off and you will think to yourself, boy am i glad i waited that one out and saved myself the embarrassment.
However that is not the point,
The point is to be able to speak out constructively, cohesively and assertively on a topic,while asking intelligent questions along the way.
What I've found helps me, is asking a question first to clarify the hypothesis in my mind, then following with my point or if I don't have one, saying “thanks for that clarification”.
Start with Small Risks and Work Your Way Up
There are several articles and studies about women generally being more risk averse than men and while i'm still on the fence on that one, i have found personally, that starting with smaller risks and them paying off, boosts my confidence with tackling larger ones.
For instance, if you have noticed that you ask for a lot of permission at work (not a quality of a good leader), you can note this, and change this behavior by taking charge of a small project, doing it, and iterating. Yes, it is harder in practice, but it is doable, focus on tackling small tasks and working your way up.
Get yourself a Wing Woman, mine is called Winifred.
I have a wing-woman in my head, i call her Winifred. Call me crazy but when i need a good pep talk Winifred does the job.
“Maria you’re amazing, Maria you can do this, Maria you have the experience to make this happen, you are qualified for this, you’ve done this, you’re the best person i know suited for this ..."
Find your Winifred and make sure she is in your head when you need it the most, and replace Doubting Delilah who always tells you all the things you’re not good at, exactly at the moment you least need to hear it.
It takes a LOT of practice, and i am learning everyday.
Learn to be comfortable with having difficult conversations
I used to be very bad at having difficult conversations, I would avoid confrontation at all costs. Growing up we never talked about uncomfortable things in my family. I quickly realized that the impact of not having difficult conversations is that you slowly keep moving the line on what is acceptable to you, until one day everything is acceptable to you and that day is when you snap.
In my usual linear fashion I then decided I would always have difficult conversations, and quickly fell into the habit of having too many difficult conversations at once, which became... exhausting.
So i developed my own personal method to knowing if I should engage in a difficult conversation or let it go. I call it picking your battles.
My 3 personal checks are:
1. Is this a trend and not a one off?
2. Is this something that is absolutely important to me?
3. Is this something that is likely the symptom of a deeper problematic issue?
Once it’s a yes from me on at least 2 out of the 3 categories, the conversation has to be had. No exceptions. I’ve learnt to start small and grow into it over the years and since I started applying these rules to my life, it has been pretty interesting to see my personality gradually change.
Words by Maria Rotilu
Maria is young leader who loves to build sustainable businesses. She also loves to help other young women thrive in their personal and professional lives. Her website, GlossyWhitePumps, is a way for her to share her experiences with her audience and learn from them too.