Got you a seat at the table? Now...Lean In.
I recently heard an anecdote about Picasso and the napkin art, it stirred me to write this post. This may seem like a tenuous link with the blog post title, but stick with me, it does have a connection. So here's the anecdote (...I've paraphrased):
A lady approaches Picasso in a cafe and asks him to do a drawing for her on a napkin. He does so and hands it back to her asking for £20,000. Astonished the lady replies, 'it only took you a minute to draw.' to which Picasso responds, ' No, it took me 40 years'
At an event I spoke at earlier this year, I touched on the importance of having 'a seat at the table', borrowed from the title of Solange's third studio album. I didn't speak in much depth about it because of my audience, who were all university students, thinking about finding work they love after uni. But, if I had more time, I would have shared what you do when you get that job and it has afforded you a seat at the table. How to feel confident enough to make a valuable contribution.
In the book Lean In, by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. There is a chapter called 'Sit at the table' where she tells the story of being at a meeting and the women who were present all took positions around the table that made them appear like spectators, rather than contributors.
So it is extremely possible to have a seat at the table and still appear to be a spectator, usually because of imposter syndrome. not feeling like you qualify to make a contribution.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
So here comes the link between the blog post title and the Picasso anecdote. From which I have drawn up a reason for why you deserve to be at the table and why you should lean in.
Thinking that you're an imposter or somehow aren't accomplished enough is the equivalent of internalising the woman's response to the value Picasso put on his drawing. She had equated the value of the piece to the time Picasso spent on it and as a junior member of staff, it is easy to think of yourself in these terms, "I've only been here a minute, what can I possibly add". This is especially true when you get pulled into big meetings.
This is how I felt when I landed my first charity job and I was invited to attend board meetings with very impressive and accomplished trustees. Despite the fact that I was from a similar community to the young people we were working with, I didn't believe I had anything to bring to the table, so I didn't lean in.
When you show up in the place of work, even as a junior member of staff , you are bringing "the 40 years' with you.
Picasso recognised that the piece he was creating on the napkin was a culmination of every experience, every art class, every hour spent perfecting his craft, every unsold work, every bit of money he spent on canvases, paints and brushes.
That is the same with you, When you show up to that job and are invited to sit around the decision making table, you qualify because of all the work you've done to develop you; every book you've read, every event you've attended, every podcast you've listened to etc..
In the words of Dr Brene Brown,
"Show up and let yourself be seen.