A Shift In Attitude: Releasing The Need To Please Your Network
By always being a “Yes Person” or a “People Pleaser”, there’s one person who often gets left out in the cold: YOU! Have you ever stopped to examine the ways that saying “Yes” to your boss or colleagues for every single request might be holding you back in your career? In my recent article Missing Boundaries: When Pleasing Others Threatens Your Career Advancement, I laid out two case studies where clients of mine learned to set realistic boundaries in their workplaces, and I demonstrated how our co-created solutions actually worked!
There’s another way the need to please can hold you back: When it’s baked into the definition of what you do as a service provider and a “good networker”. If you struggle while trying to be of service to others, you’re not alone! I’d like to be transparent, and share how I’ve been managing similar struggles. It may be beneficial to learn what’s been working (or not working) in my business experiences. After all, we shouldn’t both have to suffer frustration and setbacks. I invite you to learn from my mistakes!
From Service Provider to Thought Partner
In my days as a restaurateur, I’d adopted the attitude of author T. Scott Gross: Give them “Positively Outrageous Service” (POS). My mission was to provide each guest with an experience that surpassed their dining expectations. But that approach is not always without glitches.
For example, most of my restaurant guests treated the staff kindly— as people of their beloved community. But on the rare occasion my staff was treated inappropriately, I’d become protective, communicating that they are “servers, not servants”. The need for this attitude was brought into focus when, short-staffed, I found myself in a server’s uniform one Saturday evening. A first-time guest was giving me a hard time on this busy shift regardless of my attempts to accommodate. When he demanded to see the manager, I broke the news that I was the owner. That’s when he instantly acquiesced. It was a stunning example of how despite the message being the same, the perception of the messenger is what it often takes to affect the outcome of a conversation or dispute.
Today, as a coach and consultant, my heart still beats as a service provider and a servant leader. And recently I’ve reframed my professional posture from service provider to strategic thought partner. This in no way implies that I won’t be there for my clients, providing the tools, techniques and insights to support them in reaching beyond their comfort zones to achieve their aspirations. Instead, it means shifting the power dynamic. And it’s fascinating that all these years after exiting the restaurant business, it was that one service incident that motivated me toward my current shift.
How It Translates
My imperceptible shift in attitude is important because as a service provider, I’ve been groomed to believe that “The customer is always right”. This somehow slides into the thought territory that “you can’t say NO to the client” and that their lack of planning constitutes as an emergency for me. The old me would acquiesce to a client or prospect’s request, attempting herculean efforts which were not fully recognized or appreciated by the client. But now, we take the time to frame out expectations and accountabilities for this partnering relationship in order to have a mutually beneficial experience. The discussion is simple: I ask the client what their needs are regarding communications, accountability and deliverables and in turn, I share mine. Since we live in a world of unspoken assumptions, this proactive conversation uncovers many potential landmines in the relationship. The result is a better overall experience.
Strategically Adding Value
While being a “value add” provider to your network colleagues, prospects and clients, a great service to yourself is to become intentional about making introductions. I used to go above and beyond to help my contacts find employment or employees until I realized I was aiming for a target I couldn’t clearly see. For example, because I didn’t take the time to ask questions, I connected a colleague with four potential, highly qualified candidates for a position he was looking to fill. The next time we spoke, I asked him for guidance about what exactly he was looking for and what worked with the candidates I sent him. At first, he looked confused. But then he recognized my efforts and gave me some greater insight about which skill sets and cultural fits the job required.
Can I Pick Your Brain?
As a thought leader/expert in your business, I bet others have said, “Oh, I’d really like to pick your brain.” I consider this an icky ask! Do you really want to take chopsticks to my cranium? Or do you want me to share some experiences, knowledge and wisdom? My way of managing these requests has turned from blindly accepting a coffee date to perhaps offering a 30-minute phone call. I might add that I don’t even offer a quick phone call to those who have benefited from my time and energy in the past and have not kept me posted about their progress!
Speaking of progress, when you score because of an introduction someone made for you, a thank-you is in order. No wine or chocolate necessary; just a quick acknowledgement of your win will be an oxytocin reward for them. Sadly, I need both hands and feet to count how many times I found out about someone’s win through the grapevine weeks or months after they benefited from an introduction I’d made on their behalf.
A Few Words on Favors
It’s a tricky balance, as networking is a two-way street. It may go in one direction for a while before traffic circles around to you. As you develop your network, become aware of the “takers” who don’t seem to look at the relationship from both directions.
Additionally, when asked for a favor, assess not only who’s asking, their relationship to you and how important the ask is, but also how you’ll feel delivering it. If you say “yes” and then execute passive aggressively, this negates the favor. Energy around the favor needs to be positive.
In my follow-up article, you’ll find a treasure trove of related resource links on the topic of People Pleasing.
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