Recently, my assistant, Naomi, shared a TED lecture with me. The speaker told an incredible story of a childhood riddled with extreme poverty, homelessness that was saved by love and encouragement. He spoke of taking bold moves to create an adult life of true abundance, contribution, and intellectual stimulation and financial reward. The word he constantly used was “bold.”

When I was growing up one of the worst things you could be called was bold. It implied brazen, outspoken, bucking the system, and not a team player. It was alien to my culture, gender, and family messages.

Fast-forward more than a few decades and I seem to have taken a 180 degree turn. I pressure myself to push the envelope, speak up, do the less expected, and ask or give myself what I want and need.

It also made me think that bold might just be the element missing for some of my executive coaching clients. I made it a theme I brought to many coaching sessions. I’d ask, “What would happen if you were bolder?” Here are some of the results.

A senior executive in a large, rather conservative, industry was not getting the recognition she felt she deserved. She was being seen more as the “doer” than a thought leader even though the later was just as true as the former. I’m a firm believer that you have to tweak the outside as well as the inside. I asked the executive what the very acceptable, attractive business clothes she wore said about her. Also inquired if in fact she was using “all of her assets” — tall, fit, with great hair and complexion. She thought “yes” and I challenged her to be bold.

Before some of you get on me, I appreciate we all should be judged for our brains and performance but let’s get real here people. Remember, we tend to give more credence to attractive people than average looking people; research backs this up for both genders.

The executive walks into the next coaching session and my jaw drops. She has re-styled her hair and purchased some new clothes. She looks (my words) “stunning.” That said, what was most noteworthy was the impact. Her language became bolder. Her actions and attitude were bolder. Never offensive (something she could probably never be), but more her own women. The wardrobe change was a jolt and the energy impacted every part of her work approach. Others noticed in a complimentary way. Does a Saturday shopping for some new clothes and getting your hair trimmed make you a different person? — of course not. What a simple bold move did do was free the real person.

Another high level executive wanted, and deserved, an elevation in title. Working even harder, being resentful and contemplating leaving was not getting him any closer. He needed to be bolder Complaining in our coaching sessions, talking with headhunters, and going on a few interviews was his plan to achieve what he wanted. It wasn’t bold enough. The bold move had to be to let decision makers know what he wanted. How does one do that?

First my client did his homework. He researched other jobs in the same or similar industries and found his true value (considerably higher than he was currently making as were the titles). Talking with search people provided him with some current data. Second, he clarified his brand — what did he really do for the company and how would that be described in terms worthy of a more senior title. Next, he took a check of the climate of his workplace. What was going on, who might be leaving, and who has been promoted; what were the stressors on the decision makers at this time?

We role played the conversation with his boss and determined the best time to approach. We set a goal — air thoughts and make them realize this needed to be addressed. No threats, no pleading, no whining, strictly a new and targeted conversation between two professionals about career development and continuing to fulfill the needs of the organization. It worked. His boss was somewhat surprised to see the client taking charge and by his logical and persuasive points; he may have become a bit nervous because even though there was no discussion of leaving, the thought of flight risk was now on the table.

The request for title change went up the ladder. People balked and then relented. My client was asked what he thought the title should be and he was ready with two options. The end result, by being bold and doing something he had never tried before, he was awarded what he asked for.

Being bold is not being brutal. It is taking the calculated risk in a determined and focused manner and doing it. It can be as simple as asking for the vacated space over there in the corner, requesting your performance evaluation take place on time, deciding to speak up at meetings, putting your brand on everything you do even when your boss takes the credit or, like my first example, changing your appearance. The challenge is the first step. It’s mostly mindset. Hearing and then dismissing those negative thoughts that tell you “They’ll never give it to me” or “Who do you think you are?” Some bold moves are actually incremental steps with a big finish. Others are a change in attitude or perspective that no one is aware of but you feel in your gut.

Ask yourself:

Where and why am I holding back?
What needs to be said?
Whose agenda am I living?
What is the risk of doing nothing?

The response just might be, “Be BOLD!”

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.