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Week 40: Candid Conversations

Earlier this week a friend sent me an article written by Francoise Brougher, the former COO at Pinterest. The article, entitled "Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity," really resonated with me because many of the scenarios cited therein I've seen or experienced over the course of my career. One point in particular that really struck a chord with me was her message surrounding the concept of transparency and how when thoughts, feelings, and ideas are out in the open, it makes workplaces fairer, happier, and more effective.

I've frequently said to colleagues that I wouldn't make a good poker player because I'm just too transparent. For better or worse, I'm one of those people who cannot say anything other than what I truly feel. I don't believe there's any merit to be found in white lies, sugar-coating, beating around the bush, or any other form of communication that attempts to distort or disguise what I'm actually trying to say.

In the workplace, I love to tackle problems head on and present my recommendations candidly, but the problem with this is that not everyone feels the same way. On occasion, colleagues have gotten defensive, even combative, when faced with feedback or a contrary opinion. As a young female business professional trying to "play ball" at the senior levels, my life would certainly be easier if I just went with the flow, but the fact of the matter is, it's just not me; I love to help, I love to get my hands dirty, and above all, I strive to deliver value. I strongly believe that if communicated with respect and received with an open mind, the power of constructive feedback and alternative opinion can drive real transformation, which in my case will help create a true "data first culture."

So, after 100 days of listening, learning, asking questions, and reading everything I could get my hands on, it was finally time to share my thoughts and findings. I obviously made sure to highlight the areas I thought could be refined, but also explicitly identified the things I thought were working well; everything got pulled together in a presentation entitled, "My 90 Day Assessment." I sent my presentation to everyone I could think of and made myself available to anyone who wanted to learn more or discuss. I also proactively booked individual meetings to review in greater detail and garner feedback. In an ideal world, this will hopefully provide the catalyst for many positive conversations and brainstorming opportunities.

I'm not going to lie, hitting the send button was scary; it’s always scary to challenge the status quo, especially as a newbie joining a well-oiled machine. However, raising my hand, putting myself out there, and seeing the increased levels of engagement that have inspired truly insightful conversations has been so rewarding! Did everyone agree with everything I said? No. Was there a possibility I may have offended someone, or trod on someone's toes? Maybe. Is everything I described the only way to do things? Absolutely not. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter because everything was done with the company's best interests at heart and was simply a reflection of my thoughts based on what I've seen, what I've experienced, and what I've understood up to this point.

At the end of the day, the butterflies in my stomach will soon ease and hopefully one or two people will help champion some of the ideas I've outlined. No matter what, I can look at myself in the mirror and say, "at least I tried." I took the leap of faith, I spoke up, and I shared my observations in a professional and engaging manner.

If you're in a similar situation and you have ideas that you haven’t shared because you worry about the consequences or the perception of others, I implore you to push past the fear and speak up. What do you have to lose? The worst thing that can happen is no one listens. So what? You won’t be any worse off and at least you will know you tried your best and you weren’t afraid to speak up. Best case, you will have helped show others that it's ok to speak up and it’s ok to have an opinion, even if it differs from the status quo. The faster we can create pathways for candid communication, the faster we can truly benefit from the power of diversity of thought and true inclusivity.

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