"Don't take this the wrong way, but you're way better at this than I thought you'd be."
As one of my Board members tried to convey a well-intentioned compliment, I realized he was giving me a valuable tool- insight into my own secret weapon. When I became CEO of our organization, I not only became responsible for the results delivered by our staff, I inherited 20 new bosses in the dedicated and diverse volunteers who serve on our Board of Directors.
The Board member who made this comment during my first annual review is someone I respect a great deal, so his approval has always carried extra weight with me. Not only was I grateful to hear he was pleased with my performance, I was surprised to consider how many people probably underestimated me. I never spent much time overthinking on how I was perceived, I just went after challenges, did my best, and solved problems without dwelling on the fact that I was a young woman in a new leadership position.
I recognized that by embracing the fact that others may underestimate me, I had a powerful advantage on my side! I had an opportunity to surprise people, to change their expectations, and open them up to new ways of thinking. If I could take full advantage of the opening that I'm subconsciously given, there's fewer limits to what I can accomplish.
When someone looks at you from the surface, what might they underestimate about you? How could you use this perception to your advantage?
Like this topic? Here are some great articles that dive into the issue on a deeper level:
The Art of Being Underestimated
When You Benefit from Being Underestimated & When You Pay for It