HOW TO CREATE AN AMAZING CULTURE BY BEING A BITCH
She called me a bitch…
And so did he.
I couldn't believe it.
It was a sweltering day in Miami.
I was co-producing a 400-person event at the FountainBleu with a female colleague. Let’s call her “Jenny.”
I was in charge of the schedule and ensuring everything ran on time.
She was in charge of the 400-guests.
Who were running an hour late.
In a frazzled, face-to-face moment of urgency, I pressed Jenny to move faster. It wasn’t personal. It was simply business.
After all the guests finally boarded the buses, Jenny and I waved them off and separately went about the rest of our respective work days in the Miami heat.
Flash forward to a week later at our corporate offices. My direct boss, a male, called me into his office and asked me to shut the door behind me.
Let’s call him Dale.
“So Jessica,” Dale started, “I heard what happened between you and Jenny in Miami.”
I looked at him blankly, racking my brain trying to recall what exactly “happened” between Jenny and I.
Dale then began to share a long email Jenny email had written him, (copying HR to boot), reporting on my bad, “bitchy” behavior.
Dale went on. “You need to be careful of how you speak to people, Jessica. You can come across like you’re better than people here and there’s a lot of talk around here that you’re a bitch.”
I was speechless.
In some ways, I still am as I recall this story.
To be completely honest, this wasn’t the first time that I had been criticized for my bold behavior in business. I refuse to go down the rabbit hole of the double standard here, and start blowing that cliche whistle. You know, the one that exclaims what an indignant injustice it is that male assertiveness is a demonstration of great leadership, and when women do it, they’re bitches? Yeah, that one.
In that very moment, I simply chose to unsubscribe from the narrative entirely.
Could I have spoken to Jenny with more thoughtfulness? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Somewhat. Did that feedback hurt? Completely.
The minute that meeting was over, my passion for that job started to wane. My day-to-day joy was sucked dry. My hyper self-consciousness in every interaction with both men and women unnerved me. And as a result, my work began to suffer.
It got me thinking about negative reinforcement vs. positive reinforcement in the workplace. If another woman (or man for that matter) found my boldness and confidence threatening, I needed to do something about that.
So, I left to go start my own business.
IMPORTANT: This incident was not the singular catalyst. (I had been cooking up plans to relaunch SimplyBe long before this.) But it did provide me with a laser focused clarity into what kind of culture I was going to create.
Over the last year, in my process of building a team comprised entirely of women, I have made it my mission to lead them with positive reinforcement. To encourage confidence, self-assertiveness, worthiness, and acts of boldness. To ensure that their big personalities are celebrated, not shunned.
My first step was crafting the company’s core values:
- SimplyBe Bold (think and act outside your comfort zone)
- SimplyBe Relevant (educate yourself on the industry to stay fresh, inspired, and ahead of the curve)
- SimplyBe True (be your authentic self, always)
- SimplyBe Kind (no assholes allowed)
My second step: implementing a Monday meeting to kick off the week with the whole team, where we prioritize tasks, address issues, report on progress, and finally, acknowledge each other for specific acts and moments where we displayed the company’s core values from the week prior.
Or, as a recent colleague retorted: “So basically you just go around the table and compliment each other?”
In a study by The American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, positive reinforcement in the workplace is seen to be the most effective way of motivating staff to perform better in organizations.
Is my core value exercise cheesy? Maybe. Do I care? Absolutely not. Each Monday, I can see how much it lights my girls up. It's the best part of my week, and from what I can see, the best part of theirs.
Women leaders are often called bitches. Whatever. Be called a bitch. Be called the biggest bitch. And then create a really positive, empowering culture for other women that don't follow the rules of a typical business culture.
Pay attention to how you show up.
For my team, I have been transparent, complimentary, honest, open, and real with every woman I hire. As a result, my team feels appreciated, motivated, and in love with what they do. This has led to success beyond my wildest expectations.
So while I am the boss, I’m not the queen bee. We are a collective of incredibly talented women who allow each other to shine. Make it a practice to be genuinely happy when success happens to other people.
Because there really is enough to go around.
Positive reinforcement isn't a gimmick. It's essential to ensure that the future is, indeed, female. It’s critical to embedding a new feminine consciousness that runs deeper than our day jobs. It has the potential to leave a legacy for all the women, girls, daughters, and dreamers who will rise up after us.
So let's get the heck out of our own way and start now. I am.