In 2007, I moved from the U.S. to Asia for three years. I was asked to rebuild my company’s industry, line of business, and eventually, pre-sales teams.
Frankly, I had no experience with that part of the world—the culture, the language, the geography, how business was done—but I raised my hand and said I’d go. I had one interview with the president of the region and a few more with other senior executives, and six weeks later, my husband and I were living halfway around the world in a serviced apartment.
As I entered the office that first day, I immediately thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” I didn’t feel courageous or confident. I felt out of my depth. It was hard. I was dealing with new people, new names, new accents, new business models, new expectations—and that was just on the business side. My husband and I had uprooted our entire lives and the road ahead seemed very long and unfamiliar. Everything I touched was new and I was comfortable with none of it.
Those first six weeks were the toughest. Then I started to feel comfortable. First with where I was living. Then with the business and people I worked with. Eventually, I got into a cadence and started to understand which people on the team we could develop, who needed a new role, and how we could grow.
What helped me along the way was focus. I concentrated on three things I was going to do each week, and I made a commitment to myself not to get distracted by anything else. You might be surprised if you try this. Over a six-week period—when you focus on three things—you’ll likely actually accomplish at least 18 things, and you can say, “Wow! I really moved the needle.”
This was a time in my life when I stepped off the cliff, took a chance where I absolutely did not know how it would turn out, and did my best—hoping it would be good enough. To me, that is what being bold is about—being confident and courageous. Stepping out and taking risks. Pushing yourself to learn new things you didn’t know or fully comprehend before. Doing something you feel convicted about, even if others don’t agree. It’s about being your authentic self—strong, confident, and unflinching!
So what does “bold” mean in the real world? How can you be bold in business, in your community, and at home? And on International Women’s Day (March 8th, 2017) how do we embrace the theme: #BeBoldForChange?
I would love to hear your ideas. Here are some of mine:
Being bold and thinking differently isn’t easy. It takes a lot of energy to think outside the box. You can’t put your passion into 15 things at once; it’s not sustainable. Put your energy into one or two things you passionately believe in and/or want to see changed, and you’ll gain traction. Once you learn how to master the art of focus—and get a few wins under your belt—you can then be bold on other topics and in other areas.
Great things begin with curiosity. The telephone, electricity, the Internet, smartphones, Internet of Things, driverless cars—these all began with “what if we could…” Being curious is the first step in being bold. In business, you need to look around and see what’s available, what others are doing, and what’s not being done. Ask questions and think in terms of “what if…” Begin with curiosity and you’ll find ways to step in and let your boldness shine through.
Trust your intuition
Many women have great intuition, and in a world of logic and science where we often rely solely on facts and figures, this tends to be underutilized. Data is essential, of course, and it pays to do your homework, but if you want to put it in clinical terms, intuition is simply our subconscious mind recognizing patterns and details from lessons we learned in the past. It’s our brain’s way of telling us that something is in or out of sync with what we already know. Make the most of your intuition – the internal wisdom you receive is a gift. My intuition led me to go to Asia, and it was right!
Recognize that life gives you seasons
I’d like to pause for a moment and talk about life. Nobody can control everything, and when stuff happens, you must take a step back and sometimes decide not to be bold. And that’s okay. Whether you’re dealing with illness, a death in the family, or some other type of crisis, you need to be comfortable with the fact that you’re making the choice to lie low. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be bold again—it just means that for this time, you’re focused on other things.
Help each other
I believe that women in the workplace have gotten a bad rap, particularly as we’re portrayed by Hollywood. But that’s not necessarily who we are. I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of female leaders reach out to younger, up-and-coming female colleagues and help them be bold—in the workplace and in their communities. As leaders, we need to give people the opportunity to be bold. That means getting out of the way and seeing where and how individuals want to make their mark. It also means teaching people how to be bold in their own voice.
Being bold is about being confident, having an opinion, asking for what you want, and holding fast to your convictions. The world is diverse, and there are many reasons to be bold, whether it’s standing up for your children, advocating for your parents, driving a project at work, joining a protest within your community, or some other endeavor.
In today’s digital economy, we have more opportunities than ever to be bold, but we must step off the cliff with intention and forethought. Think about the changes you want to make, the brand you want to build, and how you want your boldness to be viewed. With opportunity comes responsibility. Being bold is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards can be tremendous.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s commit to following their theme: #BeBoldForChange! It’s time to move forward and be bold – in your way, your voice, and for your reasons.
#BeBoldAtSAP | #DiversityAtSAP
For more insight on effective leadership, see Simple Is Always Best: Get Going, And Move Quickly.