Ban bossy! Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, the Girls Scouts of USA, and even Beyoncé want the b-word gone from our vocabulary. And although I see the noble cause of this campaign, I for one do not want to ban bossy. Instead, I think women should own the word. I am bossy and I am proud of it.
My reign of bossy-ness started young:
From a young age I knew I wanted to be a conduit of information. I wanted to be the spokesperson, the only one allowed to talk, always controlling the message. Hey, maybe I should have become a politician instead.
What does bossy mean?
Bossy has been a word used to described women who don’t take no for an answer, who speak their mind and get things done. You know what I call it? Being a leader.
The women I look up to, Sherrilynne Starkie, Gini Dietrich, and my mom, are bossy. And they own the word. They know they are bossy, but they are respected for it. Look at where they are today, Sherrilynne is vice-president of Thornley Fallis, Gini is an author of two books and CEO of Arment Dietrich, my mom just turned 50, raised two amazing kids and has run two marathons.
I learned that if I want to be as successful as these women, I have to be bossy. I have to ask questions, put up my hand, speak up and share my ideas. Sitting quietly in a corner won’t help you advance your career.
Speaking up and sharing your opinion might make you the “bossy” or the “loud” one, but in my opinion the alternative can damage a company. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all need to bounce our ideas of someone else. When we get excited about our ideas, we may overlook potential problems. If you notice something wrong, not sharing your opinion can lead your team, boss, or company down the wrong path.
When not to be bossy?
There are some times when we should tone down the bossy – and this doesn’t just apply to women, but to men as well.
I am not bossy with my boss.
I believe that in most cases experience trumps my bright ideas. Please don’t take this as a reason to stifle creativity. I love coming up with new ideas and presenting them to my boss. However, maybe one out of every ten ideas will actually get through. Why? My boss has the experience and corporate knowledge to tell me why my idea works or doesn’t work. Doesn’t mean my ideas are bad, they just won’t work for this particular scenario at this particular time.
When I present ideas to my boss, I am confident but not arrogant. I explain to him why I think it would work and then we have an open conversation about the pros and cons. For every no I get, I learn countless new lessons about my company and the world of communications. You don’t have to be a young professional to follow this type of idea creation. My boss occasionally comes to me and asks me what I think of an idea, and sometimes I even teach him something new.
I am not bossy just to prove a point.
Being bossy should be used for good. Use your strong personality and go-get-’em attitude to bring about positive change to your life, company and community. But don’t use it to prove you were right, or to rub a mistake in someone’s face. It is easy to say “I told you so” when someone doesn’t follow your advice. But remember – especially as communicators – we offer our advice based on our best judgement, it is up to our company, client, friend, family, or whoever, to take the advice. If they don’t take it, that is their decision, and often they are making the best decision based on their own best judgement.
Instead of drawing attention to an error or lack of judgement, present a solution. Companies have overcome crises not by dwelling on mistakes, but by coming up with a solution and fixing their errors.
I am not bossy to get my way.
Being bossy doesn’t mean walking over everyone around you, never taking direction and always believing your way is the only way. Be assertive but respectful; give your opinion, not demands; and empower your team to buy in to your idea, don’t order them. You can be bossy without being the other b-word.
I would love to hear from you? Are you bossy and proud of it? Or do you think bossy should be banned?