Influence: You can be indispensable or likable

Last week I posted a statement on Facebook critical of elected officials. It was pretty mild: A simple request for them to show up and serve the community boards on which they serve.

The officials had just voted to increase their pay in the coming years and my reaction was: “Great! But if you want the pay, do the work.”

I received a couple of private messages afterward from people looking out for me saying: “Don’t say that … you’ll need their support in the future” or “Careful … they might take offense to that.”

Here’s the thing: I know I’m not going to be liked all the time or by everyone -- and that’s OK. Additionally, I believe it’s perfectly fine to disagree on issues and still like one another and work well together.

I don’t want to play the “chick card” here, but I do think as women we’re conditioned against rocking the boat. I’ve watched board chairs consider every idiotic idea presented by men, but tell women who raise relevant issues that they’re “confused.”

Critical thinking is important no matter who you are and I believe women should be respected as much as men for being critical.

The way I see it, you can be likable or you can be indispensable. This is especially true in board meetings and community development work. Each time you show up at a meeting your job is to move the ball as far down the field as you can in as short a time as possible. Otherwise, you’ve wasted an hour just networking and patting each another on the back.

We've all read the magazine articles suggesting a good leader waits to speak last at a meeting so she can gauge the room and collect the data around the table before opening her mouth.

That's not me.

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

I choose to be indispensable. I choose progress. I'm as straightforward as they come and I do not have a lot of time.

But straightforward doesn’t mean negative. People who know me understand that I’m really pretty positive. I’m the first one to get behind a great idea or suggestion – as long as you can prove it’s worth investigating further.

Choosing to be indispensable means working to create a culture that causes momentum. In meetings, I’ll often say the most against-the-grain-comment right off the bat in order to push the discussion threshold to a nearly uncomfortable level. Does that clear the deck for a more honest discussion and lead others to dial back to a stable middle ground? Probably. Will someone say I'm out of line? Maybe yes and maybe no.  

But I'm not concerned about being right. And I'm not there to be liked. I'm there to maximize my time in an honest discussion and arrive at a resolution. I definitely don’t want anyone telling me after a meeting they’re still unsure about something that was voted on. Then I’m stuck holding the information or doing something about it. My goal is to discuss all the issues at the meeting so there’s no need to continue that discussion after we adjourn.

There’s not always a need for this approach. It’s great when meetings move along and make headway, where participants can relax and build social capital with one another. But dynamic meetings are a lot more energizing because participants leave feeling accomplished.

Motion to adjourn.