Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

Waiting for Joe to Speak…

Many years ago I worked for a small company at the director level.  I had met Joe, the company president, but had not had any extensive conversations with him.  Once, I walked past him while he was waiting to go into a meeting.  He caught my eye and I waited for him to speak first, since he was the big boss.  He never did; I felt awkward and walked away with a nod. I have always wondered whether my career at that company would have been different if I had started a conversation. Why do I remember this event from 25 years ago?  It symbolizes missed opportunities to me.

Taking Initiative

Recently I was talking with a new friend and she mentioned having walked over to a man in a parking garage, commenting on his nice suit and engaging him in conversation.  It led to him asking for her number.  Now I have given compliments to many strangers and moved on.  Jane taught me a lesson about the value of engagement.

These two stories have the same theme.  There could be positive outcomes to taking the first step in conversation.  But, I often hold back.  I tended to wait for the more senior person to speak first.  I am not sure if it is shyness, a sense of propriety, fear of rejection or my general feeling of social ineptitude.  I do know that there are consequences to not acting and not engaging.

Speak Up – Be Proactive

I was recently coaching someone fairly new to the working world on speaking up.  Working with your boss may require new skills.  You have to determine how much communicating is needed so that he/she understands your accomplishments and where you need help.  And, you need to be clear on your career goals and your project likes and dislikes.  Do not be pushy, overbearing or generally obnoxious – but do not miss opportunities.  Plant the seeds of your future with the boss.

Do not assume that the more senior person is more assertive, more clairvoyant or will take the first step.  Try it.  What is the worst that can happen?

Christine Jacobs is an experienced corporate executive and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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