When I was in elementary school, even into junior high, I took on any sales challenge that came my way. I wanted to win. It’s interesting because I don’t recall my mom or dad having this drive. They sure had a strong work ethic; that had to be it. Either way, I’m sure glad I got this trait. I was eleven or twelve when I did a judo fundraiser for my brother’s judo team. I crushed it. I asked everyone, unafraid. I would walk up and down each block in our neighborhood, knocking on doors asking for support. I still have a picture of the trophy I won. I didn’t even do judo, and I was getting an award. Then there were the girl scouts, you guessed it, girl scout cookies. I like to think I sold more girl scout cookies than anyone, but I vaguely remember one of the more popular girls outselling me, ever so slightly. Then there was the jump rope for heart challenge, such fun. Not only did we get to raise money for this awesome cause (American Heart Association), but we also got to show off our jump roping skills. I remember my mom and dad saying along the way, “if anyone can do it, Jenny, you can.” They let me run with things and never criticized my approach. They just let me do my thing.
And I was successful at every single step along the way. Or at least how I would define success at twelve years old.
When I was young, I don’t remember my parents ever saying, you're too… or you should do… and I am sure glad they didn’t. I went in unafraid of getting reprimanded or criticized for not doing things someone else’s way. I went into it unafraid because I knew whatever achievement I made would be recognized as a win.
Now let’s fast forward twenty-some years. As adults, much of who we are was en-grained in our childhood years. For me, selling, learning about people, and why they need whatever I had come quickly. I remember when I started in staffing. My boss used to sit behind her desk and play poker on the computer. She would go out on “sales” and come-back with all kinds of new shoes to show off. I remember thinking, what did I get myself into? A colleague who was there at the time said, “Jennifer, you can get this branch to growth” here is what you need to do, then she opened a phonebook pointed at one of the companies, and called. “That’s all you have to do,” she said, then she handed me the phone-book and said go to work. Cathie she was fantastic! I knew she was on her way out, she was far from happy, but she believed in me and my ability. Her belief made it easy to do the same thing I had done when I was younger. I remember all the comments along the way from my customers that I was professionally persistent at building trust and relationship, which is why they would ultimately give me a chance. I was not “too” anything; I was just me!
I listened because I genuinely cared about what they had/have to say!
Of course, as a young up and comer, I wanted to make a name for myself in a positive way. The branch was struggling; I wanted to be the person who made things happen. My name brand; my name is especially important to me. I knew I had a lot to learn but wasn’t afraid. I am a person with a high sense of urgency who is not afraid of taking risks. You know the one, yep, the one who will jump in the pool without checking the water first, that’s me. I knew I needed to refine and be aware of areas, but I also knew my drive and hustle would far outweigh the downside of learning how to think before I speak.
In the upcoming years, I built some amazing relationships in my market. I learned so much from all the people I met. I learned a lot about how to work and interact with a wide range of personality types. I was forward-facing with Sales development and our customers every day. They ranged from Manufacturing to Corporate business and everything in between. I learned fast how I needed to represent myself in any given situation. I also met some fantastic people who allowed me to just be me in all these situations along this journey. I would get so excited when I would come back to my office with a new business; how exciting. I had so many fantastic team members along the way. They worked so hard to meet our customer demands; I love the heart they put behind the work we did.
Then, there was the feedback, the comments from others that I was too...(fill in any number of words representing a strong sense of urgency, hustle, drive, or ambition), I’ve been named every single one of them and then some. See, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. For anyone who has worked with a very driven person (if you are not) or vice versa, you know the challenges that can arise. The thing is, it is often figureoutable. But when there are personality attacks, it makes it very hard to work through. The best way to work through this is common ground. Where can each person come in the middle, appreciate one another and agree to acknowledge each other for who they are and the strengths each person brings.
The past few years have been a real eye-opener for me about how frequently people judge or criticize others for not doing things the way “they think” it should have been done. Whether that be the type of manager a person is, others' performance, tone, speed, and so many more. Are there things people can change? Sure, of course, we can all be stronger. But there is a difference between a skill to learn, grow, harness, and a personality trait. When you challenge a person’s natural self, it can cause so many negative things. You are basically telling them their natural self is wrong. Let me repeat this when you criticize someone’s natural personality traits; you are telling them they are wrong for being who they are. Do you hear how wrong this sounds?
It’s interesting when you become aware of something how much more you see it. I’ve always paid close attention to people’s behaviors. It’s amplified when I reflect on something like this. We are all unique individuals with different personalities; shouldn’t we appreciate others for who they are? Work to understand one another and strengthen based on who each other is as opposed to criticizing? Of course, in business, jobs, etc., things need to be done, not referring to that, but the personalities of the people who carry these things through should be authentic. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about the jerks or A**holes who intentionally treat people poorly. I do not condone that behavior in any way. However, I am referring to people being the best self that they are and appreciating them for it!
I did not realize it until later thirties, early forties how much I let others' judgment impact my health and overall emotional well-being. I am incredibly grateful that I am a person who can recognize and course-correct quickly on my own, but others cannot. For those of you who have followed me for a while or know me best, you know it is my mission to bring awareness to anxiety, depression, and loneliness in America. It is no wonder why this is on the rise; it sucks! We are so quick to judge other people. Let’s start looking at one another instead of criticizing, saying how we can work more effectively together based on who each other is.
When you are faced with a situation that you are working or otherwise frequently needing to interact with someone who is much different, you are a colleague, boss, or someone else, try these simple steps.
If you catch yourself criticizing or judging, stop, and ask yourself, are you judging a person’s natural self? If so, be grateful for who they are and the impact they make in the world. It’s hard to criticize and be grateful at the same time.
Learn about each other? What are you trying to accomplish in your roles? For example, if you and your boss are vastly different in your approaches and tend to get on one another's nerves. Learn about each other’s visions. What are your goals with the company? What are your career goals? Getting to know one another can often give a great perspective.
Discuss what demotivates you about one another. While appreciating each other’s natural traits, what action steps can you take to minimize these triggers? If they are natural traits, is it something you can point out in a fun way when it comes up to lighten things up? As an example, when I am super focused, I am often told I am “too serious” my old team had a lot of fun with this one; it would totally lighten the mood with a quick, “Jen’s gotta go get us cookies from the deli” or “Jen’s buying coffee” to break things up. I knew I needed to take a break and loosen up in those moments, and my team knew and appreciated my drive because it kept everyone in the focus of the targets. When you take the time to learn about one another, you can discover ways to work best on everyone’s terms.
Learn what everyone likes/dislikes. If you are in a work environment, this can be a great way to break up functions, use your teams in the areas they like, and offset any demotivating parts (when possible).
Learn one another’s strengths. It's a great way to break up functions in a job setting to make things more enjoyable and perform better.
We are all people, uniquely who we are, learn about one another, appreciate one another, and have open conversations. It would solve so many things.
Friends, anxiety is at an all-time high and rising. We can lessen this for other people by the simple act of appreciating people for who they are; this includes respecting you! Be kind, always!