I was deplaning (I didn’t think it was a word, but it really is) and it was my turn to unload my carry-on from the overhead bin. A man next to me hoisted it down. I smiled and said, “Thank you.” I really meant it. Ten years ago, I would have been irritated that anyone had assumed that I, someone who had the strength to do multiple chaturangas in an hour was not capable of taking down her own luggage. Two important experiences helped me realize the importance of graciously accepting the help of those who offer it.
Couples dancing 101.
One is the lead, the other is the follower. The first couples dancing lesson I experienced was annoying. The teacher kept telling me I wasn’t following my partner’s lead. I knew the moves. I could hear the music. Why couldn’t I decide where we went?
Next lesson, I decided to try it their way. Is it fair to say you hate anchovies without tasting them? I can’t declare that they suck without trying them first. (note: I actually like anchovies, so sue me)
Ginger had it going on. Not having to be the lead frees you up to do other things. I’m reminded of that scene in Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie and Mr. Darcy are dancing and she is throwing barbs at him. He is distracted by having to remember the next dance moves while defending her attack. The follower has a greater opportunity to introduce a topic of conversation, decide how flirtatiously she wants to spin, or how closely she’ll dance with her partner.
Societal conventions can be leveraged to enhance your experience and empower you to twirl and show your stuff. Sometimes, by nixing conventions originated in a world where men were overtly dominant over women, you might miss out on opportunities to get what you want. Knowing the rules, showing that you understand them, and abiding by them without losing your identity and spark is an important part of being a successful leader in the business world. See Jujitsu.
Be the first in the door.
She told us about when she first met Trump. She and some other leaders were presenting about their golf course. When they finally received the go-ahead to enter his office (hearts pounding, palms sweating), the men in the group followed etiquette and stood aside so Carolyn could enter the room first. Rather than cringe or roll her eyes at this show of what some would call old-fashioned decorum, Carolyn took advantage of being the first person in the room and sat in the chair across from Trump and had the best opportunity to connect with him. He hired her as Director of Sales and Marketing in 1994.
The new attitude.
Don’t ignore or devalue the rules of engagement established between men and women, of the leaders and the followers in your business pursuits. There are rules to every game – policies, procedures, etiquette, conventions, norms, rules of the road. If you can master them, know how to use them to your advantage and to the advantage of your organization, you will open doors to opportunities to make an enormous difference to yourself, your work, and your life.