Senior Director of Digital Experience at Cisco, leading digital transformation in customer experience.
The importance of knowing your self-worth can’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to your career. In my experience, a failure to realize your value can unwittingly put brakes on your career trajectory and your life’s journey.
Unfortunately, many of us struggle with self-inflicted roadblocks. We lack the confidence to speak up and share our insights with others. Women and minorities perhaps experience this challenge even more so than others.
Note to self: your perspective is worthy of attention and consideration. Lean into it.
Stop Undercutting Yourself
Early in my career, as a young woman (and often the only woman) in rooms full of what I perceived to be more established business professionals, I would keep my ideas to myself. What did I know that they didn’t? How would I add value? When I summoned the courage to share my opinion, I would quickly add a self-deprecating quip along the lines of, “… but what do I know.”
Eventually, someone counseled me to stop couching my opinion in doubt and advised me that I wouldn’t have been invited to the meeting if I didn’t know what I was talking about.
This person was right. We all have expertise and strengths. We need to recognize this, lean into our value and know that our contributions matter.
Contribute To Innovation With Your Diverse Perspective
I believe part of our value comes from the diverse experiences that make us who we are. Whether they’re born from our gender, race, ethnicity, beliefs, education, socioeconomic background, military experience, sexual orientation, age, culture, disabilities or just our experiences in life, each of us brings a rich palette of experiences that can help teams succeed.
Many say that diverse teams are more creative and that varied experiences and perspectives can lead to greater levels of innovation.
Similarly, a lack of representation on teams can result in unintended and unconscious bias, in addition to what is sometimes called “tone-deaf deliverables.” For instance, the Google team that built a YouTube iOS app didn’t consider left-handed users when they were designing the mobile upload feature. As a result, videos recorded by lefties in landscape view often appeared upside-down in the app. And there was the Dove soap advertisement that many perceived to be racially insensitive. The ad led to swift backlash. My guess is that the team that created the ad wasn’t very diverse.
Impact The Bottom Line
Not only can diversity help drive innovation, but it’s also been shown to impact the bottom line. A Boston Consulting Group study covered in the Harvard Business Review (paywall) found that the most diverse companies were also the most innovative; innovation revenues were 19% higher in companies with above-average diversity than less-diverse companies. As another example, Wall Street Journal research (paywall) found that the 20 most-diverse companies on the S&P 500 had an average annual stock return of 10% over five years compared to 4.2% for the 20 least-diverse companies.
You can’t fully add to the diversity of your group if you’re not being yourself. At some point, I realized that I do my best work when I am being that full, authentic me. When I had this awakening, my career took off. It helped me get out of my own way, speak authentically about my viewpoint and become a leader, and now I advocate for others to do the same.
I’ve developed the following rules for people to be their authentic selves so that they can unleash their full potential:
1. Trust your instincts, not your fears.
2. Shift your mindset so that you’re no longer hiding your value. Speak up.
3. Unleash your potential by being you — completely.
When we all lean into our unique value, we can all win.