Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can get back to giving 200%. At a recent Global Leadership program, an African-American leader asked a question specifically to the other 6 (out of 42 participants) African-Americans in the room: How many of you feel that you need to give 200% just to compete?
After several heads nodded, my co-facilitator presented the question to all: How many of you feel that you need to give 200% just to compete? An attractive blonde woman said that as a woman working in a male-dominated industry, she had to give 200% just to be visible. A 30’s-something white male said that he always felt that he had to give 200% because he came from a disadvantaged socio-economic background. While the comments were helpful, what also loomed in my mind is: So does this mean someone who is Black, female, and poor equals 600%?
The Ginger Rogers Effect
Fred Astaire (née Frederick Austerlitz) is noted as the preeminent dancer of the 1930’s. Astaire could “dance on air.” His gift drew crowds to the cinema. He made 10 dance films with Ginger Rogers; six of them were the highest revenue generators for RKO Radio Pictures. While most people gave Fred well-deserved credit, he would probably not have achieved stardom without Ginger Rogers, because his most spectacular moves were made in his couples-dancing. And, as one person said long ago, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels.” Could we call that giving 200% just to compete?
Is it possible that, at some point in our lives, we all feel that we must give 200% just to compete?
What happens when you give 200%, and you get push back? A 40’s-something female, Brazilian financial advisor once asked me, “So the head of my office took me aside and told me not to be so enthusiastic in the morning. Does this mean I have to change who I am?” She would enter the office with high spirits and energy, wishing many a good morning. My question to her was: Tell me about your best clients…what is it about you that they appreciate? No brainer…it’s her enthusiasm.
When someone presents us with their feedback, it is information (data) that is representative of who they are. It is what works for them. This is important for us to understand as leaders so that we can adapt to their needs, until they recognize the value that being a mirror reflection opposite of what they represent is actually what strengthens the firm. We cannot take several steps ahead in our dance, as we move to a pace and rhythm that works and matches them. This is what makes us both powerful. So, we re-direct our enthusiasm in a different direction; for this executive, it was away from the Managing Director and towards the clients. Who she is is not a deficit; it is an often-overlooked asset.
As Susan Cain points out in her book on introverts living in a world of extroverts, Quiet, “…figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Gandhi–and Rosa Parks—achieved what they did not in spite of but because of their introversion.” Being different can set you apart when you stay true to your purpose.
My advice to the financial advisor: Keep being who you are, and know when to take a step forward and when to take a step back. In essence, be more of who you are; not less…just know when and where to move.
Stretch, adapt, and do the Cha-cha.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, with two left feet, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
Susan Cain. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. 2012. Pg 6.