Take a look at these five game-changing ways female business leaders can cultivate true confidence in the corporate world.

1. Your schedule is a philosophical document.

Take a look at the next week on your calendar. What do you see occurring the most? When you start to become overwhelmed and burned out, you can look to your calendar for insight. Recently I noticed that my calendar was chock-full of meetings with people I don’t know very well. I often get requests — sometimes from people I’ve never met — wanting to take me to coffee, or to pick my brain over lunch. I normally love to accommodate these requests as often as possible, but when I notice my calendar becomes a bit too full of these meetings, it’s an indication that my efforts are more about showing up for others, and not enough about showing up for myself.

2. Stop chasing perfection; your excellence is your average.

What I’ve learned during more than a decade of public speaking, writing, and teaching is this: success is not a single match you win; it’s a game you continually play. And it’s not determined by your highest level of performance. Or your lowest. Your excellence is your average. What you can achieve and sustain. I can’t pin all my ego on one performance, one piece of writing, one class period, one public talk. And if I could pin my ego on my best performance in any of those, then what? Then get the hell out there and do it again! And keep it up! Your best is now the minimum. Why are you crying? Get back here and perform, dammit! In the end, your performance is actually about preparation, commitment, and your investment (and reinvestment) in yourself.

3. Where you sit matters.

Don’t hedge about where to sit when you walk into a meeting. I constantly see women come into a meeting, look around hesitantly, and then opt for a seat along the wall — not even at the table! I’m guilty of this, too. Even while serving as the president of a board of directors, I would get all squirmy about sitting at the head of the table and often choose a chair along the side. Look, meetings aren’t a wedding — there’s no seating chart. So confidently pull up a chair. If you’re in the room, you’ve earned a seat at the table.  

4. People will take everything you give, but they rarely ask for what you don’t offer.

People will take every inch of what you give them. But rare is the case that people ask of you what you don’t offer. Don’t assume other people will regulate their demands of you. I once volunteered for an organization I was deeply passionate about, so I went to every meeting they asked me to. I assumed they would pull back any day on all the asks. Finally, I sat down with the director and said, “Look, it’s too much. I can’t be at all these meetings.” Her response? “I had no idea! We just assumed you were excited to be there because you never said no.” Say yes only when you can and want to. Say no every other time.

5. Likability is a consolation prize.

Women don’t negotiate for higher salaries, ask for promotions, or even speak up in meetings because they are worried about how they will be perceived. We’ve been conditioned to be pleasing, accommodating, and likable. But know this: likability is a consolation prize. It’s the thing we are quickest to give and quickest to take away. Ever overhear someone bad-mouthing a colleague at work? You’ll also often here this pity line thrown in: “Hey, I like Janet a lot. But she’s just so bad at her job.” People give and take away their likes with every change of socks, so don’t chase it. Instead, focus on your role, your work, and being yourself. And those at the water cooler can deal with it.  

Dr. Meg Myers Morgan

Dr. Meg Myers Morgan is an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma and the director of graduate programs in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management on the OU-Tulsa campus and author of “Everything is Negotiable: The 5 Tactics to Get What You Want in Life, Love & Work.”

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