With palms sweating and my heart thumping I read it through one more time. All my notes seemed to blur together as I thought about stating my case for something I was passionate about – but doubted I had the courage for. We’ve all been there haven’t we? “If only I could but then I’d have to put myself out there” – that feeling.
So, in I went. Shoulders back, boobs out, high heels clicking.
My boss was sitting at his desk absorbed in something and, as he often did, was breathing a bit like a bull, ready to charge. I kept walking in.
“So, what is it you want to talk about Kay?” – and, in faltering French, with an accent which clearly needed some polish, I told him that I wanted to go to work and live in France, to work out of our Paris office and to be able to negotiate in French. I told him all this in French. And, I told him, I wanted him to sponsor most of it.
He stopped me just as I’d got going .
“Ah, no Kay, you don’t use the formal ‘Vous’ with me, we know each other, use Tu/Toi with me”. What? I hadn’t practiced that version! My French teacher, Roxanne had assumed I’d be formal with my boss.
So, I started again.
“Alors, je voudrais presenter quelque chose a toi” etc. Good grief, as if it wasn’t hard enough already. Anyway, I stuttered through it with my brain doing somersaults trying to catch up.
Looking back I suppose I could have just asked him in English. I could have explained all the reasons why it would be great, how I’d be able to contribute, how it would boost relationships with our Paris office etc. But that wasn’t a s-t-r-e-tc-h and, as I’d learned from working with him, he admired ‘Chutzpah’ – so to make a case for this dream of mine, I needed to show how I’d already committed to it.
What was so interesting about this approach was how it elevated me in his eyes, and in my own. He told me “Kay that was a brave thing to do” and “what are you prepared to contribute if we can make this happen?”. I switched to English here just in case….
As a result of this request which was an ‘ask’ ‘which had so many ramifications, I did go to live in Paris for 6 months, paid for by the company. I had private tuition, lived in a cute studio in a great part of Paris and worked for the company, negotiating and contributing and representing London – and making many people laugh with my errors along the way. C’est la vie…
But here’s the other thing . The initial ‘ask’ was just the start. The stretching and learning continued throughout the whole experience but the initial ‘ask’ taught me 3 key lessons. Lessons to help you stand out at work – and get the ‘Yes’ you’re hoping for.
- Be Memorable. Rather than the off the cuff approach, think and plan our approach and make it interesting.
- Be Audacious. If you want X, Y & Z – ask for them all. You may be thrilled with just X & Y but if you ask for everything, you can always negotiate. Give a little and still get what you want.
- Be Brave. I could have sent a note, asked one of my French colleagues to suggest it but that wouldn’t have worked in the same way. I wasn’t showing my commitment in the same way.
Working with ambitious, and often frustrated career women as I do now, these lessons guide my work. I often ‘dare’ and support my clients to do the thing they think they can’t.
Taking calculated risks, saying “Yes” before you’re ready, taking action and working it out as you go – it’s a surefire way to accelerate your progress – and boost your income and enjoyment – at work
Oh, and are you on Clubhouse yet? The new social media platform which is taking off BIG time.
If you join, you can find me as @kayjwhite and I’m hosting THREE Club Room events with colleagues of mine from the US…
1. Conversations with My Younger Self
Lessons Learned I Wish I’d Known Back Then
(TOMORROW Saturday 27th February at 3.30pm UK/10.30am EST)
2. Recovering Perfectionists!
10 Ways To Get Out (and Stay Out) Of Your Own Way At Work
(Monday 1st March at 8pm UK and 3pm EST)
3. Hiding In Plain Sight
How to Step Out of The Shadows in Your Life…and Into the Light
(Wednesday 3rd March at 5.00pm UK / 11.00am CST)