I remember the exact day I stopped being a yes chick.  It was completely by accident, but the decision to leave yes’ing my boss behind and actually provide insight, well thought out answers and information so he could make more of an informed decision about growing his business was completely on purpose!  Not only was it the best thing for the company, but being completely honest, I liked how it felt to be truly heard, to have my opinions considered, even if they weren’t ultimately agreed with and the feeling that I was a part of something bigger, something we were growing, something exciting.  It sure was more empowering and interesting than drinking coffee and watching the clock tick towards 5:00pm.

When I started at the firm, I was hired as a temporary receptionist through a staffing agency.  It was exactly one week after my 21st birthday and my first “office” job.  Let’s just say my sense of dress code and office etiquette was a little on the rough side.  However, my boss and his team saw through my inexperience and saw a smart, hard working girl – in need of a little direction.  They decided to hire me on and things were going well for about 7 months.  Let’s be honest, I had a job where I wasn’t flipping burgers and didn’t have to work nights or weekends, and everyone was fairly supportive of me… except the boss.  He was neither nice nor mean to me – he was just pretty much invisible.  He was the guy who passed me in the morning and went into his office where he met with people all day and said good bye at the end of the day, if he wasn’t still in a meeting when I left.  Then one day, it all changed.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me a few people had mentioned to my boss that it was maddening to be screened by the receptionist when calling for him.  While I was only doing as instructed, something about it was not working because people felt more like I was keeping them away from my boss than helping them solve the reason for their call.  All I knew was that my boss asked me to attend the team Monday Morning meeting so we could talk about the firm phone procedures.  I’d never attended a team meeting.  All I knew about team meetings was that everyone entered the conference room and closed the door while I took messages.  Now, back in those days, I used to love to go out on Sunday nights to a local hang out spot and celebrate the end of the weekend.  (Hey, remember I was 21!)  I remember distinctly that Sunday evening.  I remember thinking that I had to make sure I was on time the next morning for the team meeting and I didn’t want to be tired and sound silly when my boss asked me a question.  I decided to stay home instead and go to bed at a reasonable hour…not knowing this would literally change my life.

The next morning in the team meeting, I had the most unusual experience of being shown how something I was doing didn’t work in a way that empowered and excited me about how to do it differently, rather than making me feel defensive and like I was being scolded.  Rather than tell me what I was doing wrong, my boss explained how our firm helped people after the loss of a loved one or helped family members deal with an elderly or ill loved one.  He explained how I was the first person these grieving people or those suffering over a decision to put their parent in a nursing home had contact with. This was a scary, intimidating call for them to make and they were hiring us to alleviate their pain, even just a little.  Now at 21, I knew nothing about estate planning.  But I had a grandmother I loved dearly and I completely understood what it was like to have questions you needed answers in effort to help someone you love so much.  Now that I ‘got it’; together my boss and I created a tracking system for tracking the most common reasons people called and at the end of the week we would review it.  Together, we worked through each of those situations and came up with a plan of how I could respond so that the person felt heard and that they were being taking care of.  I learned how to do a basic intake, I learned about information packages I could mail a client and several things I could do to help someone start getting the information they needed while waiting for my boss to return the call. 

After that, I took my role so seriously of being the “first impression” of our firm that I looked at everything from the perspective of “how can I improve this for our clients’ expierence”?  I brought ideas weekly to the team meeting, which I asked if I could attend every week.  Some ideas were great.  Some didn’t make sense to my boss but even in his explaining why my suggestion didn’t make good business sense, I learned. I learned A LOT. And learned each week.
Deciding to get some sleep and show up to a meeting with my head in the game was pretty much accidental.  My decision was based on being a little intimidated by my boss and not wanting to look stupid.  Deciding to keep my head in the game, pay attention to the value I could create rather than paying attention to the clock, and speaking up with ideas and feedback my boss could use to make our firm better was absolutely intentional.  And what a difference it made in my life.  I stopped being the “good enough” receptionist and eventually grew to be the marketing director for our firm. 

Most importantly, I realized what a boss, partner or co-worker needs is someone who will take ownership of their role, the value they can create and can speak up and realize they are important enough to be included as part of the team.  They need people to stop “keeping their head down and giving the easiest answer possible”.  And what a powerful way to work and to live, for that matter, knowing we are heard, we are collaborating to build something great together and that by not being a Yes Chick you can create endless value for your boss, your team, your clients, and YOURSELF!

Are you not sure if you have slipped into Yes Chick mode?  Take the self-exam in Don’t Be a Yes Chick!  Now available at www.yeschick.com.

Stay tuned next week for Molly’s story of when she left yes’ing her boss behind and the difference it made!