Ditching the rules to claim your value (part 2)

February 5, 2015

"Women need to learn not just to risk, but to risk reputation, to barrel through - as most are petrified to do." - Broad Experience listener

In part one of this post I told you about a listener of mine and how she'd found out to her delight that she could pull off a well paying project for a client - a client who didn't know she was relatively inexperienced.

There's a twist. You know her husband, the man who urged her on? My friend was undoubtedly under-confident. But here's a story about her spouse's over-confidence and the aftermath.

My listener says her husband, "like many men, is willing to risk big for the possibility of winning big." He took on a huge project last year, one he knew was outside his scope. "He thought he could pull it off by hiring a small team and charging the client a very large sum," she says. But it turns out he couldn't. He wasn't competent enough to do the job, even with the team, and the project "unraveled...totally exposing his lack of knowledge in the area."

Just reading that part of her email made me squirm. This is my worst nightmare: taking on something I'm not good enough to do and having it all end in guilt and recriminations. This is why so many women say no to projects they consider too risky and why we end up working for free to 'prove ourselves' - we're afraid to price ourselves too high in case we screw up. But although this sounded like a hideous situation - a duped, angry client, a stressed project lead having to spend a few thousand dollars of his own money to try to clean things up - things did not end in tears. 

The client didn't pull the project, perhaps because doing so at that late stage wouldn't have made sense. But meanwhile my listener's husband came clean, admitting he'd bitten off more than he could chew. He hired, at his own expense, outside experts who could take care of all the stuff his team couldn't, and the project will soon be finished. 

"The end result is that my husband quadrupled his skills overnight and actually could complete this project perfectly next time around for the same very high sum, precisely because of all the potholes he went through on this project. The risk in the end, even after falling on his face, is totally worth it. His reputation takes a small hit, but he keeps on moving and most future clients aren't fazed by this snafu." 

She adds that she believes these are traits women need to learn. "Not just to risk, but to risk reputation, to barrel through, as most are petrified to do. I suspect that successful female CEOs have done exactly this on their way up. Battled through gritty moments, pushed through and developed that incredible confidence in capabilities and accurate judgement of scenarios that most men are capable of, seemingly almost naturally."

To me, what her husband did was a huge risk that I'd never have taken, and the aftermath would have been excruciating for me. Yet he seems to have come out on the other side OK, as far as we know (the project after all is not quite finished).

What do you think? Should more women force themselves to take more risks for the chance of increasing their skills and reaping a great reward?