Asked for advice and didn't get the right answer?
The leader, a highly successful international business woman with companies in Europe, UK, and Australia, had gathered a small group of people together as a favor to her cousin, for a woman that she didn't know.
Always ready to help out, THE LEADER, gathered seven or so women that all run successful businesses together to meet for dinner. As they all arrived, they introduced themselves and talked about what they did and where their businesses were going. All normal stuff in a meeting of like-minded individuals there for the sole purpose of sharing ideas and experiences regarding business.
Then, the woman that everyone was there to meet, began to talk. She is a highly acclaimed academic in Silicon Valley who is now a one-man-band entrepreneur. She talked on how hard it is to find people as bright as herself to work for her and in particular when she did find a marketing person to work for her business, they "weren't very smart, didn't do anything, and I paid them a lot of money."
Alarm bells probably rang in the ears of each of the other women, as it would have myself. You see, as an entrepreneur, if you think that you are too smart for everyone, then that's your first mistake. If you still think that and after years slogging it out as a business owner and not progessing further than a one-man-band - then that should give you a message loud and clear.
Instead of being as opinionated as I may have been if I had been there, the level-headed, but strong women gave some valuable feedback based on having been there and done that previously and found solutions that were low cost and that worked for them.
A very intuitive woman at the table decided to approach the situation from a place of kindness. "It struck me that what had been illustrated by the situation, was that her violently negative reaction to people passing on their experiences deserved my pity. Not my judgment. I didn't have resentment that she had maybe wasted our time, but instead a compassion born from the realization that like all of us, this person is flawed. Her flaw is having a narrow emotional bandwidth which prevented her from seeing the opportunity that lay before her to have so many women at the table supporting her who had had similar experiences as herself, so were pretty well qualified to give advice."
"And why? She is desperately afraid. She is operating from a place of a deep, deep fear, daily. Must be very tiring."
I don't know about you but I have seen this a few times myself where highly educated, trained and accomplished people feel like they are being attacked when others offer advice or solutions to problems that they throw out at the table.
Instead of listening and going away and thinking about it, they act defensively, are brittle and build a barrier around themselves with the fact that they are highly educated so feel entitled to dictate the terms of how people around them conduct themselves.
Often people like that surround themselves with "Yes" people too, or those who fear saying anything in case they are ridiculed for doing so.
The biggest issue with fear, is that sometimes these people believe that it is impossible to fail. Or rather, they cannot accept that failure could be a reality for THEM.
"I have made it because all of these letters after my name or I worked for a big name company. For me, failure is not a word I will allow in my vocabulary."
That’s a lot of pressure ! This mindset is maybe more prevalent in certain cultures or demographic groups where women feel they have a lot to prove, but it is endemic in a certain type of woman who feels that these kind of credentials entitle them to success and respect. There is nothing that anyone can say to divert them from their cozy cushion of bullet-proof power.
The more important picture here is that the individual shut down and was unable to absorb the advice that she had reached out and actually asked for. In the spirit of “sisterhood” this advice was given unconditionally from other women who respect who she is and what she is trying to do, without even knowing her.
They tried to offer valuable tools to help her get to the next level. Not only by giving her advice, but by handling her a golden key to the door of a community of shared experiences - a safe place to vent anxieties and air challenges irrespective of where each individual has come from, where judgment would not be present and where everyone would round off the evening having enjoyed dinner and a cocktail and gained an invaluable network to call on as and when required. Maybe even made some new friends. But she simply could not break through the thick, protective shield she had built around herself to embrace this.
"That made us all very sad. This kind of person is struggling and she obviously was reaching out. Hurrah for her – that takes guts, especially if she is somewhat introverted and not in her comfort zone, but at least she took that first step. The call for help was answered, but instead of being able to come to the table with an open mind - she reacted with resentment.
"Inadvertently and unintentionally, we crushed her ego. As an entrepreneur if you cannot hear that you don't have all the answers, you are bound to fail. Your ego will trip you up every single time - and that's unfortunate. She couldn't reach out and grab the opportunity and immense take-home value that presented itself to her."
In my 15 years in business, I have seen this all too often with both men and women. Fortunately for women, the weight is not so much on their shoulders like their male counterparts. Whether we like it or not, expectations for our own successes are often not as debilitating as those for men are who are still expected to be providers and need to be successful to care for their families.
Unless people like this have a light bulb moment, their road to success is almost impossible. You cannot buy success or learn how to be successful in a class.
The issue with women - and men for that matter - in business is that they often don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable and project strong egos as a form of “protection.” The latter gives them the permission to feel successful even when perhaps they are not. While many business people ask for advice, I would be most interested in hearing about how many people actually listen to it.