I was once asked by a recruiter in an interview how I could expect to stand up to senior leaders because I was too soft spoken.
I’m reminded of this after a black jack dealer in Vegas said that ‘I couldn’t comprehend how to play black jack and there was no point him helping me learn how to play’.
I didn’t realise he was having a go at me until one of the American’s at our table starting ripping into him for calling me stupid and that that wasn’t very nice.
As with the recruiter, it only felt like the wrong thing after I’d left the room and thought about it.
At the time my mind was firmly in thinking the best about what was happening.
I don’t do confrontation, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, I’m not forceful and I’m not prone to talking just for the sake of it.
It doesn’t make me weak or stupid. But it constantly makes me question what people think of me when I don’t conform to the norm of loud and in your face. Particularly when those people get more attention and respect.
The situations with recruiter and the dealer upset me. Partly due to my own self-doubt but also their ignorance. I absorb, I think things through, I practice and then execute. Sometimes I have to walk away and think about it before trying again. I ask people a lot of questions and have facilitated sessions with senior leaders where I haven’t told them anything but led them to the answers they didn’t know they had. It wasn’t in their face and was so much more powerful. It reminds me of a similar story Susan Cain in ‘Quiet’ tells about the power of introverts – well worth a read if you’re interested.
My point is that people have a tendency to judge by perception. Richard just blogged about the young and blonde and the tendency to hire someone who can be pushed around based on these characteristics. Is it an apt judgement? Potentially.
Richard and Angela, both speak of productivity deficits. What skills are we missing out on by focusing attention on people who comply to social norms: young = inexperienced; blonde = dumb; quiet = stupid; soft-spoken = pushover.
I challenge you. If we really want to improve productivity we need to start thinking beyond the social norms of what great and mediocre people look like and start examining the innovation and creativity that different people can bring.
Oh yeah, I lost $120 at black jack, won $110 back and then left the table. I didn’t think $10 was a bad price to pay for nearly an hour of entertainment.