Do you find yourself endlessly waiting to have your say in a meeting? Do you hesitate when the time comes for you to ask for help or ask for the sale? In business, good things rarely come to those who wait. Yet for many of us, waiting is the default behaviour. This article explores why.
I was listening to a commercial radio station that was running a competition. A female caller rang in, hoping to win a large cash prize. When the announcer asked what she’d do if she won, the woman said she’d just become engaged and wanted the money for a house deposit. She then went on to say that she was particularly excited about her engagement because she’d been waiting for seven years for her partner to ask her to marry him.
Seven years! Seven years waiting for someone else to do something that clearly impacted this woman's life - a lot. At first, I was amazed. Why would anyone do that? Why didn't she just ask him to marry her? Then, as I thought about it, it started to make more sense.
Many of us, particularly women, are conditioned to wait.
It starts early in life. Waiting for someone to finish, waiting on others, waiting for someone to ask for our opinion. Then we go to school, and we wait for the teacher to call our name, wait in line and wait for someone to invite us to the prom or on a date. It’s easy to see how waiting becomes the default.
By the time we start work, many of us have become professional waiters.
We’ve mastered the art of waiting for our turn to speak in a meeting, waiting for someone to notice we're doing a good job, waiting for others to find time in their schedules to talk to us. Then, over time, we become repeatedly surprised when no one makes space for us to have our say and frustrated when someone is given an opportunity that we wanted or felt we deserved more.
But why do we wait? What stops us from diving in over the top over everyone and saying ‘Listen. I have something important to say’?
When I’m talking about this with clients, several common themes emerge.
“I didn’t want to appear arrogant”
“I wanted to be liked”
“I didn’t want people to think I was being pushy”
"I didn't want them to say no"
There is something else however, that keeps us in the role of a professional waiter. Namely, the belief that the alternative to waiting is taking. That is, if we don’t wait, we’re taking something that doesn’t really belong to us. Taking up someone's time, their energy, their attention or even their money. But why does not waiting for feel like such a selfish, one-way transaction? Perhaps it's because we believe that the value we're creating is not equal to that created by others. It can mean we feel the need to give much more (of our time, attention energy) while expecting much less in return. So...we wait..........and wait........and wait.
Whatever the reason, time spent waiting for others to act when what we really want to do, is take action ourselves, is not time well spent.
So, what are you waiting for? And, what would be possible if you chose to act instead?
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you’ve found it useful and you think others in your network would too, please remember to share it. If you want help creating a strategy that has your leaders fired up and ready to deliver, you can find out more here.