03 Aug

Five Words

My first job was with P&G. I felt very excited, nervous, and most of all, under qualified.

P&G has always been a marketing company. Wikipedia may say that it is a manufacturing company – but it really is a marketing company. Which simply meant that communication was one the most important skills for an employee to survive and thrive in the company.

And I was unfortunately bad at communication.

I was often silent in meetings because:

  • I had a hard time summarizing my thoughts into words.
  • I would overthink how to say something – until the moment to say it has already passed.
  • I had a hard time finding air space. When everyone is talking fast and consecutively, it was hard to butt in.
  • I felt like what I wanted to say was obvious.
  • I was afraid I might be wrong.
  • Somebody kept saying what I wanted to say. Or worse, somebody kept repeating what I already said…but in a clearer way.

So, understanding my limitations, I reached out to my boss and asked her for help. She told me that even though I knew how to express myself in written form, my problem was in getting comfortable speaking in meetings.

So she came up with a plan.

Every time we would be in a large meeting together, she would make it a point to say the five words, “Ivan, what do you think?”.

It was very simple, but it gave me a chance to get used to speaking in meetings. It was awkward at first, but we just did it anyway. And eventually, I got used to it.

Now, I can’t join a meeting without speaking my mind. Sometimes I think I speak too much.

Most people just need opportunities. And the great bosses give those opportunities.

There’s a lot of bad bosses out there. But occasionally, we get lucky and get not just a boss, but a mentor. A person who would invest time and effort to grow us and help us become better.

They say, when the student is ready, the master appears.

And in this case, I was lucky. Because when I became ready, there was my first boss, Irene.

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