How to Succeed in Business Without Really Following the Rules

Part of Abby’s Epic Adventure has recently included trying to show up more as my authentic self. That sounds like it should be really easy, but it turns out that my authentic self (my real, eat-all-the-cupcakes-when-no-one-is-looking-self, my true Love Ninja self) has gotten buried by decades of shoulds. Things like, “I should wear a dress today, because it’s more professional,” or “I should pass on dessert because my tummy roll is getting aggressive” or “I shouldn’t tell her that women who claim to LOVE cardio exercise are not getting into heaven because no one can stand them, because then she won’t like me anymore.”

I’ve been seriously shoulding all over myself.

Dropping that mess and uncovering the real me has been a process. I mean, I don’t expect to wake up and discover that I like camping or anything crazy like that. But I am learning that I can let the real me out to play more. . .slowly. . .and it can be a really fun thing.

And, you know, sometimes it gets in the way.

I’m sorry, but your authentic self is showing

This morning, an important committee I lead made a presentation to some really important people in our organization—the regional CEOs of our hospitals, their boss (our company’s COO) and one or two corporate Senior Vice Presidents. I work for a Catholic, non-profit health system, so we’re pretty conservative. And some of those people are SUPER conservative.

I was up in front of them with my pretty slides, trying to prey on their comparison flaw by telling them that the for-profit hospital systems were all doing what we were asking them to do, so they should do it, too.

I said, “They’re making a BUTTLOAD of money at it.” [Slight pause, silence in the room.]

“I mean. . .a BUCKETload.” [Explosion of laughter.]

I got a bit flustered, then recovered by talkingreallyfast and passing the Clicker of Great Power over to one of my co-presenters.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—in your organization, this would not be a big deal.  Probably no one would notice.  Your boss has definitely said worse things to you in front of other people.

But you have to remember that my company is basically run by Nuns, and these gals have some pretty clear rules. For instance, we only recently dropped the mandatory pantyhose clause from our dresscode.

In my company, we don’t really use vaguely inappropriate language in front of groups. We absolutely don’t curse, we don’t wear heels over 4 inches high, and we don’t say butt. I was pretty embarrassed—after all, it’s my job to coach executives on how to give speeches—but I figured everyone had forgotten about it, and we’d all move on. (Ahem, did you just read, “I teach people how to give presentations, so I should be perfect at them” here? Because I totally did.)

However, on the way out of the meeting, one of the SVPs stopped me to tease me about it, and we shared a few good laughs.

When I got back to my office, I had an email from the COO. The subject line was, “I think we should change our strategy,” and the body of the message said, “To ‘We want to make a buttload of money.’ “

I laughed out loud, then wrote him back and agreed that he had just shared a freakin’ great idea.

So, perhaps, it’s okay to show my authentic self (even when I don’t necessarily try to). My Inbox certainly gets more interesting when I do.

You know, assuming I can get through the buttload of stupid emails first.

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