Have you ever felt like you’re trapped in other people’s assumptions and expectations of you? Do you want to throw out the labels and show everyone your true potential, power, and who you really are? Are you ready to create your own story and own “who you really are”?
Oftentimes, career advice ends up sounding too ideal, too cliche, or too overwhelming and it can be really hard to stick with it. It either makes or breaks your growth, progress, potential, and opportunity. And because of these, we usually end up hindering ourselves from our full potential and just stick with what people expect from us. You don’t want to end up being a plain Jane, especially in front of your colleagues or your boss. So, how can you create your own special kind of branding that will help you become the best “you,” and what career advice is really worth it?
May Busch is a leading authority on how to accelerate success with more than 24 years of corporate experience during which she worked her way up from junior analyst to COO of Morgan Stanley Europe. Currently, May is a Senior Advisor and Executive in Residence in the Office of the President at Arizona State University (ASU) and Professor of Practice at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. She is also the author of “Accelerate: 9 Capabilities to Achieve Success at Any Career Stage”, and shares her career insights through keynotes, workshops, executive coaching and consulting, and online through her blog, webinars, and online courses.
In this episode, May talks about what really does hinder women business leaders from sharing the world who they really are and what they really are made of. She also shares why it’s important to take care of yourself to achieve growth, as well as, her tips on how to overcome people’s assumptions and expectations through creating your own brand, narrative, and storyline.
What you will learn from this episode:
Learn why you shouldn’t be doing everything yourself and how it can cause you to fail
Discover how you can create your own brand and identity and make yourself stand out in your workplace
Understand why assumptions and expectations should never be followed
“Be a person and not a label.”
– May Busch
Valuable Free Resource:
How to take the leap, overcome other’s assumptions and expectations and own yourself and your power to become the best version of you you can give to yourself and your workplace: https://maybusch.com/
02:00 – Challenge is the assumptions and expectations made by others and trying to fit in which makes us both drained and stagnant in terms of their growth and potential
03:50 – Trying to do it alone, making assumptions, way of communication, and not making time for themselves: the common mistake business women leaders make when trying to own who they personally are in their workplace
06:31 – One free and actionable tip you can do to own who you are and be seen more just an assumption or label: Be a person and not a label. And what I mean by that, by being a person, not a label, is to create your own narrative, your own brand, your own storyline
12:56 – One valuable resource to overcome the imposter syndrome and make a greater impact: https://maybusch.com/
13:47 – Q: What is the worst career advice that women should not follow? A: Number one is to keep doing what you’re doing. So keep doing what you’re doing, to me, is a real cop-out on the part of the giver of that information, unless it’s really, really short term
“Some of those things like taking care of yourself and building your important relationships, especially at home, those things cannot be crammed.” – May Busch
“Create your own narrative, your own brand, your own storyline.” – May Busch
“Do what you need to do to be seen as you, as a person and not a label.” – May Busch
“It’s about disarming them and getting them to see you for who you are. And the steps for that are to start by being aware of how people initially are likely to perceive you.” – May Busch
“Really find your authentic way to be and then allow people to experience you as who you really are.” – May Busch
Ways to Connect with May Busch
Ways to Connect with Sarah E. Brown
Full Episode Transcript:
May Busch 0:00
Find your authentic way to be and then allow people to experience you as you really are– right down to how you greet somebody, how you walk into the room, how you answer your phone. Every time you touch another human.
Sarah E. Brown 0:21
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women, where we talk about challenges senior female leaders face in being happy and successful at work. I’m your host, Dr. Sarah E. Brown.
Sarah E. Brown 0:40
My guest today is May Busch. She is a leading authority on how to accelerate career success. She has more than 24 years of corporate experience, during which she has worked her way up from junior analysts to COO of Morgan Stanley Europe. Currently, May is a Senior Advisor and Executive in Residence in the Office of the President at Arizona State University and Professor of Practice at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. She is also an author. Her book is Accelerate: 9 Capabilities to Achieve Success at Any Career Stage. And she shares her career insights through keynotes, workshops, executive coaching and consulting, and online through her blog, webinars, and online courses. May graduated with a BA in Economics from Harvard University. And she also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. May, thank you for joining me today.
May Busch 1:49
It’s my pleasure, Sarah. Really excited to be here with you!
Sarah E. Brown 1:53
So what is the biggest challenge you help female leaders face in business today and what might be the symptoms of that challenge?
May Busch 2:00
Yeah, so the biggest challenge that I see is for women to have the clarity, confidence, and courage to go after what they want, whether that might be being respected, getting the top role, making a greater impact, fulfilling the potential, and doing any and all of this in a way that’s authentic to them. And the symptoms I see are really threefold. The first is what I would categorize under the category of “minority group effect”. This is where people make stereotypes or make assumptions about us — it’s normal and human. It is also being in the “minority group” affects our ability to be in the inside flow of information, having that context on the lay of the land. It also means that we spend a lot of mental energy trying to fit in vs belong, and that causes low-grade stress that’s really draining. This then leads to the second symptom which is degrading our confidence and it can even become imposter syndrome. And that means that women can tend to not speak up as much, not take up our space, not put ourselves forward, and have fewer opportunities to make mistakes and therefore learn. This then also leads to this third symptom, which I think of as “the leadership double bind” which academics, Alice Eagly and Linda Carli wrote about, in their book, Through the Labyrinth. And the double bind is that there are different expectations of leaders vs women. And leaders are expected to be direct and assertive. Be confident and exert influence. Well, women are expected to be helpful, warm, supportive, nice. And so those two things don’t always go together, and that can be a struggle too.
Sarah E. Brown 3:45
So what are the biggest mistakes your clients make before working with you?
May Busch 3:50
I’ll list four mistakes. The first one is trying to go it alone. And this happens a lot for high achievers, you know, “I’ll do it myself. It’s a failure if I have to go get help”. And so we don’t reach out to others for support and information. It could be mentoring, coaching, whatever it might be. The second mistake is making assumptions. That could be making assumptions about what it means to be a good employee, a good mother, a good partner. And that leads to trying so hard to be 110% on all fronts, which can lead to burnout, or making assumptions about what’s possible. And that can lead to holding yourself back because you’re waiting your turn. Because you assume it’s not possible to jump the queue as it were. Or it could be making assumptions about what top management knows about your aspirations. And therefore you assume your bosses know, so you don’t tell them what you’re aspiring for or what you’re going for, and you end up waiting to be asked and they don’t often know. They are not mind readers. The third mistake is in how we communicate. From what we talk about, the stories about being in the back of a taxi, going to a meeting, the woman prototypically is talking about the preparation for the meeting they’re about to go to with their big boss. Whereas they could also be talking about broader issues, whether it’s their career, something strategic, or getting to know and be known by their senior managers. And there’s also something about how you talk about what you talk about. Do you sound powerful or tentative? Are you owning your accomplishments or giving away power by only talking about “we”? And are you, maybe, not matching your communication style with your audience? Some people need to be talked to very directly vs being subtle or being explicit vs kind of beating around the bush. And the worst thing about communicating is to not have the conversation at all and talk yourself out of the conversation. And that is a mistake. And then the fourth mistake I see is not making time for yourself. Not making time for yourself to think strategically. Not making time for yourself to take care of yourself– the self-care. And not making time to invest in relationships. And that’s especially important because some of those things like taking care of yourself and building your important relationships, especially at home, those things cannot be crammed.
Sarah E. Brown 6:15
Well, you’re singing my tune here. What great four things to pay attention to! So what is the number one free and actionable tip you can give our audience today to address this challenge now?
May Busch 6:31
So my favorite actionable tip is this. It is, to be a person and not a label. And what I mean by that, by being a person, not a label, is to create your own narrative, your own brand, your own storyline. And I’ll tell you a story from my own career that illustrates what it meant for me to know that I was finally successful in being seen for myself and not as a stereotype or label of some kind. I had just retired from my first career to now be the entrepreneur that I am today. And I bumped into a former colleague who’s a very Senior Managing Director. And he asked what I was doing. And I said, “Well, you know, I’m about to write a book to help women succeed in their careers.” And he said, “Wow! May, that’s such a great idea. I never thought that you would be the one to write a book like that because I never thought of you as a woman. I just thought of you as May Busch. But of course, you are a woman. And of course, you’d be perfect to write a book like that!” And you know, so he just thought of me in the way that he got to know me. You know, somebody tenacious, lots of positive energy, great with his clients, good on my feet, able to get the most difficult people to buy into something. So that said to me that I had really succeeded in being seen, for me, as an individual and how I added value and contributed, and not as that label of, “Oh, she’s Chinese”, or “She’s a Chinese woman”, or “She’s a short person”, whatever those assumptions that might come along with that. And so, the tip is really to do what you need to do to be seen as you, as a person, and not a label. And you want to find a way to challenge people’s assumptions about you. Challenge their stereotypes which they are making no matter how wonderful- personally, I mean, you and I, and all of us are doing it, too. It’s just human. We make assumptions. So it’s about disarming them and getting them to see you for who you are. And the steps for that are to start by being aware of how people initially are likely to perceive you. And in my case, it was, “Oh, yeah. She’s a nice Chinese girl.” She’ll probably be kind of quiet and humble and neat and won’t make waves. Well, she will be really hard working and probably smart and good at math. So, then, you look at that whole list for you, of how people might make assumptions or stereotype you or label you, and then you identify which of those assumptions are helpful vs the ones that aren’t. And you want to lean into the helpful ones and find a way to instantly shift the unhelpful. So in my case, unhelpful was a big long list. Helpful was that- well, I suppose being humble is good. I’m not sure in investment banking how good that was, but I think in real life, it’s a good thing. But being good at math and being smart– those were good things. Now, I’m not actually that great at math, but I decided that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to say, “You know, that assumptions you’re probably making about me about being good at math. I’m not that good at math.” So I wasn’t going to go around saying that. I just made sure I never took a job where being really really great at math was a prerequisite to success. And then I took a look at the things that were very unhelpful. Like “She’s probably kind of meek, will sit in the corner.” And you know what some of those things were actually true for me in the very beginning, so I had to overcome them, and then get people to see me in a different way. Because those were not helpful to me as I got more senior because it didn’t make me look leader-like. So I’ll tell you a story about when I was already quite senior. I was a Managing Director, and I had a team covering Europe. So I was the head of Europe and European coverage. And I had this very tall guy who was covering France for me. So he wanted to bring me to his meeting to waive the senior flag. And as we walked in, I understand enough French to understand what was being said. So my team member walked in. And then the client shook his hand and then peeked behind my team member and saw me in the back and said, “Oh, who is that? Is that your new analyst?” And my team member was just mortified. He said, “No, no, no, no, that’s my boss!” So it was just so embarrassing. And they didn’t realize I spoke enough French to know that, but it was really awkward. So I then realized that I needed to have a way to instantly establish my authority. So I worked on a way to walk into the room. And so after that, I always made sure I walked into the room first. I made sure that I knew what the senior person on the client side looked like. I did some research so that I’d have some sentence to say, in a positive way, to him or her. And I would stride into the room first, identify the person, look, usually it was a “him”, right in the eye, smile, because being warm is useful in business, and put up my hand, shake his hand and say, you know, in fancy, go, “Missing the call! I was so impressed by blah, blah, blah.” Right? Of course, his name wasn’t listed on that phone but. And so that was just something that I learned how to do. So that it was established who I was in a way that would be comfortable for my team member, for the client, for myself. So my tip is to really find your authentic way to be and then allow people to experience you as who you really are– right down to how you greet somebody, how you walk into the room, how you answer your phone. Every time you touch another human.
Sarah E. Brown 12:38
What a great story! And I bet the listening audience today will think about that every time they walk into a room for the next week. So that was a great story, May. Thank you! So what’s a valuable free resource you can share with women to help them understand this challenge better?
May Busch 12:56
Well, every week, I put out an article with actionable practical advice based on real-life experiences– my own experiences, my clients’ experiences. And these will be on a specific career issue that high achieving women have, and I publish that on my blog. For example, challenges like “The 5 Mistakes That Can Damage Your Career, Including Imposter Syndrome”, or “How to Manage People’s Perceptions of You, Including Storytelling for Your Own Brand Management”, or “How to Keep Going Strong Throughout the Year No Matter What Career Challenges You’ll Face”. And that has some applicability for what we need to do mid-year and throughout the year. And you can sign up to get those every week at maybusch.com.
Sarah E. Brown 13:37
Great, thank you very much. So, May, what’s one question that I should have asked you that will help our audience take action to address this challenge? And then would you please answer the question?
May Busch 13:47
So the one question would be, “What is the worst career advice that women should not follow?” And I got three of them. So number one, terrible career advice. If you receive this, immediately ask for additional input. So number one is to keep doing what you’re doing. So keep doing what you’re doing, to me, is a real cop-out on the part of the giver of that information, unless it’s really, really short term. For the next three weeks, keep doing what you’re doing. So this is a recipe for complete and utter, you know, plateauing in your career. So if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re just not going to progress. You’re always needing to learn, grow, improve, and do different things. The second piece of career advice that I put on that worst of the list is to follow your passion. Because if you don’t know what that is, it’s hugely stressful. I still don’t know what my passion is. You know, for people that know what it is, you don’t even need to tell them that, practically, because they’re following their passion. But for everybody else, it’s just putting undue stress to figure out what your passion is, It’s such a laden word. And so I find that to be unhelpful for most people. And then the third is to be indispensable. Again, being indispensable is something that could work for you in the next three months. It might even work for you for the next six months to a year, but being indispensable for what you currently do will get you pigeonholed for what you currently do. And I’ll tell you a story, we were I was already a senior manager at the time. We were sitting around the table talking about how we were going to backfill a role that another fellow Managing Director- they just promoted somebody and said, “How are we going to backfill this role?” And somebody piped up and said, “Oh, what about Steven? Wouldn’t be Steven be great for this job?” And Steven’s manager said, “Don’t touch Steven! I need him.” And the rest of us went, “Whoa, okay! Fine.” There are a lot of other fights that we’d rather fight. And so Steven was going to get stuck where he was because he was so darn indispensable. And it sounds counterintuitive, but you want to not be indispensable for what you currently do, and not become so much the go-to person for one thing for too long. You know, a lot of people say, “Oh, yeah, I want to become the go-to person.” And for a while, that’s good, but then you got to pass on the baton to somebody else if you want to be moving on too. So instead of being indispensable for what you currently do, you want to become indispensable for what you can become. So it’s always about that next possibility for you.
Sarah E. Brown 16:46
What great advice. May, thank you so much for being with us today!
May Busch 16:51
You’re welcome. It’s a joy, and I look forward to helping people to keep learning, keep growing and keep going.
Sarah E. Brown 17:01
So perfect. Thanks so much.
Sarah E. Brown 17:03
Thanks for listening to the KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women. If you like what you’re hearing, please go to iTunes to subscribe, rate us, and leave a review. And if you would like more information on how we can help women in your organization to thrive, then go to www.sarahebrown.com. You can sign up for our newsletter, read show notes and learn more about our podcast guests, read my blog, browse through the books or contact us for a chat. Goodbye for now.