We’ve all worked with that guy – you know, that guy who is so confident he has the answer for every situation and problem. I’ve worked with lots of these guys over the years. However, it was the first guy like this that I helped me figure out how to deal with them. His name was Terry.
Terry and I were in the Air Force as 2nd Lt’s together. He was “a big boy” who liked to project his body mass in an attempt to intimidate. Every morning he spent the first half hour walking around the office, coffee cup in hand announcing what time he got to work. We were supposed to believe that he was so important he had to get to work before anyone else.
As brand new 2nd Lt’s we were given a lot of “special assignments” – things no one else wanted to do so they dumped them on us. On our first group assignment, all the 2nd Lt’s gathered in a small conference room. Terry automatically assumed he was in charge. I was surprised none of the other men challenged him because according to the stereotype they should all be fighting to be in charge. Curious as to how this would unfold, I settled back to watch the Terry Show.
Terry obviously read the playbook that described how to distinguish yourself and get ahead. He followed it word for word. I remember wondering who taught it to him and if he had an overbearing father who had high expectations.
Taking charge, he decided what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.
Listening, I had questions. I didn’t think his plan was well thought out and would work. So I raised my questions to Terry and he blew me off. (I got mandozed) He was confident he knew better.
If Terry expected me to now fall in line (because the playbook says I should be intimidated) he was mistaken.
I didn’t allow his confidence to override my confidence in my doubts.
After the meeting I raised my concerns with some of the other guys but in the end we went along with Terry’s plan.
As it turned out I was right. We wound up in turmoil. Fortunately because I never gave up on my doubts, we were able to quickly put together a recovery plan. It was not fun but we pulled it out in the end.
On our next group project Terry assumed he was in charge again. He came up with the plan and again I had questions. He mandozed me again. I looked to my male colleagues for support but they didn’t want to challenge him.
After the meeting I grabbed a couple of the guys I had become good friends with and told them we couldn’t repeat the mess from last time. We held our own meeting and I told them where I thought Terry’s plan would fail. We developed a recovery plan in case I was right.
I was right – Terry’s plan failed where I expected. My colleagues and I put our recovery plan into action without even consulting Terry. We saved the project. And even though this experience wasn’t as bad as the first, it still wasn’t enjoyable. I was done working this way.
When we gathered to plan our third project, Terry stood at the head of the table assuming he was our de facto leader. As I sat along the conference room wall, I observed how he stood at the front of the table exuding the confidence of a man in charge.
However, he wasn’t the only highly confident person in the room. I was also confident. I was confident that:
- Terry was primarily interested in making a name for himself and promoting his career.
- Terry’s plan wouldn’t work and we would have to jump through hoops again to save the project.
- If we continued to go forward with poorly planned projects all of our careers would suffer.
- I didn’t have the perfect plan either.
- If we all worked together we could come up with a good plan.
So, as Terry began talking, my frustration got the better of me and I suddenly blurted out “We’ve done it your way twice. Both times were a mess. We’re not doing it your way anymore.”
I got up and stood at the side of the table daring him to challenge me. (My girldozer dared him to try to mandoze me again.)
He didn’t challenge me.
Initially I took the lead. As a team we figured out how to do our project. As we worked on the project, one of my male colleagues transitioned into the project leader. Terry occasionally challenged him but the project team pushed back. Working as a team, our project was more successful than we expected.
We learned teamwork and allowing different people to lead as their skills are needed was the key to success.
For our fourth project we had to hold a fundraiser and were expected to raise at least $2,000. Our team decided to put on a carnival. As the scope of the carnival grew, we all took a leadership role. We hoped to beat expectations and raise $8,000-$10,000.
Unfortunately the week of the carnival a blizzard hit and we had to postpone. We held our carnival two weekends later and it was a hug hit! We raised over $32,000.
But our biggest surprise was how Terry stopped working to promote himself and became a team player. Over the next two years we remained a tight team. No one threw anyone else under the bus in order to order to advance themselves.
Our projects taught us a lot about leadership and teamwork, however I also learned a lot about confidence.
I learned to be confident in my questions – in what I don’t know and what I don’t understand.
Too often men want to charge off without proper planning or understanding the consequences of their actions. Women are told this is being bold and confident. But after lots and lots of experience in dealing with this, I learned it’s a red flag that they really don’t know what they are doing.
I’ve learned to counter men’s need to act by firing up the girldozer and blocking them. I voice my questions and concerns. If men can’t answer my questions then they can’t proceed until they can.
As a manager and leader, this has been critical to my success. It has saved us from wasting countless dollars and man-hours and from making mistakes that make us look professionally incompetent.
Many women don’t explore the power of their girldozer because we are taught that the mandozer is more aggressive and powerful and can run right over us. Believe me, it can’t. We have an incredible power to hold our ground, to not give in and to say “No.”
By being confident in our doubts and questions, we drive better planning and avoid catastrophes. I can’t even count how many times the guys have come back to me, hat in hand, grateful I stopped them from making a mistake. It’s in these moments my confidence gets bolstered and I get to hold up that infamous girl-sign that says “I told you so.”
Empowered Women Are Confident In The Value of Their Doubts and Questions
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