Are you afraid to grow?

May 18, 2020

You ask why asking for help can be so hard? There are many barriers but I want to focus on this one: you may be afraid to grow.

Take Linda’s story.

Linda was a VP of Digital Product at a large media company. Last fall, her boss praised her skills and good work and started talking about promoting her to Chief Product Officer (CPO), but Linda was mostly convinced she couldn’t do it. She thought she was an impostor. Her boss, however, insisted that she was fully capable. 

Linda didn’t know what to do.

I suggested a Peer Coaching Call (PCC) with some other heads of Product.

She was hesitant. 

I explained to her: 

The good news is that these four CPOs are trusted council members outside your company and industry. Their role and relative objectivity might help you see yourself and this opportunity in a new way.

She agreed and so we set up the PCC.

At the beginning of the call, I asked Linda to explain her background, her fears, and her boss’ faith in her ability to be an effective CPO. 

Midway through the conversation, one of the CPOs said to Linda: “if your boss is asking you to do this, they must feel you are capable – *and* you should have faith in their ability to judge your potential.”

That broke through. In fact, she realized that by rejecting her boss’ praise she was also rejecting her boss’ judgment. 

Over many years of working together with her boss, she had come to trust her judgment.

So why reject that judgment now?

That was last November. 

Over the weekend, Linda emailed me with good news. She had officially been promoted and, yes, she did, in fact, gracefully accept.

After congratulating her, I did two things: 1) I, of course, suggested a new Peer Coaching Call (PCC) focused on helping her be effective in her first 90 days – because the need for help to embrace a growth mindset never ends; and 2) I asked her to reflect back on the process. 

I’m happy to say that she immediately said yes to the next Peer Coaching Call, and she wrote this about what had changed for her:

I had a lot of advice while considering taking this role, but the tipping point for me was the Peer Coaching Call where the most poignant piece of advice was ‘if your boss is asking you to do this, they must feel you are capable.’

Sometimes we need the help of our peers to hear praise and embrace our growth potential.

When I was considering business school in the 90s, I was sure I would NOT get into Harvard so I did not want to apply. My GMAT coach, however, kept insisting. He said my unusual background combined with my strong academics might really appeal to Harvard.

I kept saying no.

Finally, a group of community organizer friends said to me:

We don’t know about MBA programs. You don’t know about MBA programs. Your coach is the only one we know who does and he’s saying to apply to Harvard. Why don’t you have faith in his judgment about you and your potential? Why are you rejecting his advice?

And as with Linda, that opened my eyes to what was obvious to everyone else: I was weighting my fears more than my growth potential.  So, I decided instead to ignore my insecurities and apply.

Here’s the punchline: Harvard was the ONLY MBA program I got into. 



P.S. We have lots of great talks coming up and archives worth watching. See below. Email Britany if you’d like an invite.

  • Diversity, Inclusion, and the Museum Experience – Tue, May 19 @2pm ET
    Jack Becker, Ph.D., Executive Director & CEO, Joslyn Art Museum
    Over the last several years Jack Becker and his team at the Joslyn Art Museum have prioritized a diversity initiative – ranging from special exhibitions to diversifying the permanent collection (including acquiring works of art from Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, and Maria van Oosterwyck). Jack will take members on a behind the scenes Zoom tour of the Museum’s ‘evolution of access.’ (Note: this was originally scheduled as an in-person “adventure” for Council members meeting in Omaha). Email Britany if you’d like an invite.
  • The Future Path of the Pandemic – Fri, May 22 @2pm ET
    Kirk Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Global Environmental Health at University of California, Berkeley
    UC Berkeley’ s Professor Kirk Smith is a leading epidemiologist and public health scientist and will be joining Phil for a live QnA. Smith is currently a Professor of Global Environmental Health, the founder and co-Director of the university’s Global Health and Environment Program, and Associate Director for International Programs at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. Special thanks to member George Eberstadt who invited Professor Smith to speak to us. Email Britany if you’d like an invite.
  • The Gender Gap in Film – two-part session on Thu, May 28 @8pm ET for the Watch Party, and Fri, May 29 @12pm ET for QnA and Discussion
    Diana Martinez, Ph.D., Film Streams’ Artistic DirectorFirst, we’ll host a watch party on Thu, May 28 at 8pm ET and watch the documentary ‘Half the Picture’ individually on Amazon Prime, while chatting about it live on a special Slack channel. Then, on Fri, May 29 @12pm ET, Diana will join us for a QnA based on what you’ve seen. (Note: this was originally scheduled as an in-person “adventure” for Council members meeting in Omaha). Email Britany if you’d like an invite.
  • The Art of Transformation: Beyond Control – Fri, June 5 @12pm ET
    Pete Anderson, VP, Agile Experience Owner, Transformation Office, US Bank
    We recently learned that longtime CG member, Pete Anderson, has been preparing to give a TEDx talk on his professional learnings from two Fortune 125 Transformation efforts.  To get some practice under his belt, Pete will be doing a dry-run of his talk for the CG community.

    Email Britany if you’d like an invite.

    And, email Britany if you’d like to schedule a dry-run of a talk you are preparing (members only).
  • ‘Animals Included’ at the Zoomaha Zoo – Wed, June 10 @4pm ET
    Tina Cherica, President & CEO of the Omaha Zoo Foundation, and Cheryl Morris, Ph.D., Vice President of Conservation, Omaha ZooMost don’t know that Omaha is home to one of the top 3 zoos in the world. Further, it holds this position largely because of its intense focus on conservation and user experience – including that of its 4-legged, winged, aquatic, and amphibious customers.  Tina Cherica and Cheryl Morris will talk about how the Zoo has built a vigorous program of scientific investigation in the fields of molecular genetics, reproductive physiology, nutrition, and conservation medicine. And then they will take us behind-the-scenes with some of the zoo’s residents. (Spoiler: one of them is from the Indian subcontinent, the other from sub-Saharan Africa. One more hint: one has a prehensile lip and the other teams up with her cousins and sisters to hunt. Can you guess which animals you’ll be meeting?) Email Britany if you’d like an invite.
  • Getting Started with Visual Methods – Thu, June 18 @12pm ET
    Summer Koide, Senior Director of New Ventures, TargetIf you’ve ever seen Graphic Recording live at a conference, or been the benefactor of a visual facilitator for an offsite or workshop, you may have seen the power that visuals can bring to any group setting. Join this adventure to get started with the basics of visuals. Council member Summer Koide from Target will talk about why visuals work, how visuals can appear in your work, and instruct you through some hands-on practice. This session is designed for beginners and those interested in clearing the first hurdle in your visual journey. All you need is paper and a pen – bonus points if you scrounge up drawing utensils in multiple colors. Email Britany if you’d like an invite.

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • Dan Ariely: How COVID-19 Changes Consumer Behavior (YouTube)
    Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University
    Dan Ariely, the best-selling author of Predictably Irrational and other books, is an Israeli-American professor and global authority on behavioral economics. He advises governments and a range of corporations on behavioral economics and policy including now during this global pandemic, and on this webinar he shared how COVID-19 may affect consumer behavior now and in the long-term. Special thanks to member Doug Claffey for inviting the wonderful Dan Ariely to speak to us.
  • How Buffett Built a Pandemic-Proof Company (YouTube)
    Phil Terry, Founder & CEO, Collaborative Gain

    I teach a number of key concepts and values including what Buffett calls Noah’s principle: “Predicting rain doesn’t count; building arks does.” And what an ark Berkshire has become. I walk listeners through a brief history of the company, its culture and values, and show how Buffett has designed a pandemic-proof company.
  • Fireside Chat with Don Graham (No Recording)
    Don Graham, Chairman, Graham Holdings
    Don Graham was the longtime CEO and Chairman of the Washington Post Company (now he is the Chairman of Graham Holdings). Graham and Buffett have been friends for almost 50 years and both joined the board of the Washington Post Company at the same time in the early 1970s. Buffett became a longtime mentor to Graham and has publicly said Graham is one of the smartest people he’s ever met. Phil adds that Graham is also one of the most humble and genuine. We spent 90 minutes in a fireside conversation with Don. Terrific.
  • Leading the NBA during Coronavirus (YouTube)
    Mark Tatum, Deputy Commissioner and COO, NBA
    Mark Tatum is second in command of what is now a ~$9 billion multi-media, content-streaming global juggernaut with a 215 country footprint. Tatum has been instrumental in many historic initiatives including the first NBA game in Africa, the launch of seven NBA Academies around the world for youth and elite development, and the debut of the Jr. NBA World Championship, a first-of-its-kind global youth basketball tournament. His portfolio includes the league’s accelerating new-technology push, which has gained momentum since the crisis. Mark joined us to talk about what he’s learned in real-time about leading during this massive upheaval, including thoughts on how technology may change the game and when the league might re-open.
  • 2008 vs. 2020 – Financial Crisis vs. Pandemic (YouTube)
    Dean Cecilia Rouse, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton

    Professor Cecilia Rouse is the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and one of the top economists in the world, as well as one of very few African American women in the upper levels of the profession. A member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2009-2011, she spoke with us about the difference between the crisis we face today and the financial crisis of 2008.
  • Virtual Wine Tasting (YouTube)
    Anthony Giglio, New York-based sommelier, journalist, and author 
    A Virtual Wine Tasting with Anthony Giglio, one of the most entertaining wine and spirits authorities on the planet. He is a writer, educator, curator of the Amex Centurion lounge wine program and raconteur who motivates countless imbibers to trust their own tastes and relax the rules. Anthony led us through a tasting using what most of us have in our wine cabinet already – something sparkling.
  • Brainstorming on Zoom (YouTube)
    Elizabeth Peaslee, human-centered design practitioner, educator, facilitator, and coach, and CG Councils moderator
    While you have some of the basics of remote working down, you probably are finding it hard to brainstorm, ideate, and innovate with everyone on your team working remotely. If that’s true for you — and it’s for most of us — then watch to this session where CG Moderator Elizabeth Peaslee ran training on tools and frameworks you can use to brainstorm remotely.
  • Managing Pressure​ During the Covid-19 Crisis (YouTube)
    Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry, President and Co-Founder, IHHP
    Everyone is feeling the effects of these uncertain times. Tough decisions need to be made; difficult conversations need to take place. Emotional intelligence expert Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry explained how to use emotional intelligence to best manage your team and the tough decisions and conversations you face through this challenging time.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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