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Play BIG, not accept second best

Like many people I have been reading Tara Mohr’s excellent book “Playing Big”. In the book she identifies that many women (this is a book written for women) undermine themselves, their experience, and accept second best when they could fight for a better deal – or walk away from an ‘opportunity’. They do this through their expectations; how they present themselves vocally and the vocabulary they use. Of course there are also men who do this.

I have worked with many hugely talented men and women who ‘self sabotage’ their excellence or accept less money or status than they deserve. Whether they don’t have the confidence to ask for more; accept what they are given so as not to ‘rock the boat’ or use language that indicates they aren’t confident. Once these characteristics are pointed out to clients we successfully work to eliminate them, with great success. However, it is something we should continuously be aware of.

Recently I experienced a situation where my own expertise and experience were devalued and had I not been aware of what was happening, would have accepted a lesser role, at the expense of my own ‘prestige’ and making the person involved look very good! Fortunately I realised what was going on and walked away: something that feels scary but right.

I applied to be a Trustee of a charity. I have been a trustee before and so have 4 years experience. The charity also had a number of areas where I am an expert and have very relevant experience. It was an excellent fit. However, I wasn’t even shortlisted to be one of the trustees. Fine; you don’t know what they are looking for, and possibly my experiences and expertise might already be covered by other trustees and board members.

However, it was what happened next that was unacceptable if you are playing big; they wanted to keep in touch with me to be involved in their volunteer work and fundraising. As I have a lot of experience in both, including managing volunteers, this must have been a fabulous opportunity to use my expertise with no personal credit.

Of course I could have said “Oh that will be great; I’d love to do that”. However, I had applied to be a Trustee, which is a prestigious role within any organisation and an important role to add to a CV, particularly if you are an entrepreneur like me. Other people: the trustees and board, would have benefitted from my expertise and be able to take credit for this, and for me, a ‘volunteer role’ however good would not raise my profile adequately at this stage of my career.

So, I declined the offer. In fact I said “I applied for a Trustee role, not as a volunteer or fundraiser. I have extensive experience in both of these roles, and if you would like me to be involved in the charity, interview me as a Trustee”. I walked away from a situation where they wanted to benefit from my expertise without rewarding me for it.

Of course, there is a little voice saying “You were stroppy”, but here is the rub; I already volunteer and I am more than ready to Play Big as a Trustee. I spoke to a client about this today and she said that there are people who will accept second best and the person asking them to do this is benefitting because they have a superb member of the team, and they are getting the credit.

So my message is:

Don’t accept Second Best; if you can’t get the role you want there, apply elsewhere.

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