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At my first boardroom meeting, there wasn't a seat for me at the table. This is how I jokingly asked the CEO to make room for my chair.

At my first boardroom meeting, there wasn't a seat for me at the table. This is how I jokingly asked the CEO to make room for my chair.

corporate boardroom

Getty Images/Andreas Rentz

  • Jackie Glenn is the founder of Glenn Diversity and HR Solutions. She is the former Chief Diversity Officer for Dell EMC.
  • The following is an excerpt from her book, "Lift As I Climb: An Immigrant Girl's Journey Through Corporate America."
  • The book follows Glenn's journey from nanny to executive. As she climbed the corporate ladder, she made it a priority to continuously lift others, focusing on voices that weren't as strong as her own.
  • Glenn's narrative is interspersed with the stories of other immigrants discussing their roads to success.
  • In this excerpt, Glenn describes her first boardroom meeting as Chief Diversity Officer. Her and her manager were the only women in the room, and there weren't enough seats at the table for them. So Glenn asked the CEO to move over.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When one thinks of boldness, the word confidence immediately comes to mind. If both qualities are practiced correctly you can achieve great things. My definition of boldness/confidence is being sure of what you know while knowing who you are. The mindset of believing that you can achieve anything you put your mind to is a must. People who choose to be bold are inspiring not just because they get big things accomplished, but also because they instigate growth, progress, and movement for themselves and others around them. Sadly, far too many people wait for someone who is bold to lead the way, hoping somehow luck will bring success. Boldness is our willingness to venture out and do the right thing at the right time, regardless of the barriers or fears we may encounter. This enables us to speak the truth and perform a task without fear of the consequences or results, because it is the right thing to do.

Boldness should never be mistaken for being rude and abrasive; you always want to practice being bold but never rude. A bold spirit is kind, patient and collaborative. It allows others to express themselves and their opinions. A lack of boldness can be problematic as it will stifle or derail one's career or life goals. It will also hold you back from progress, affect relationships and prevent you from becoming all that you can be. At times you have to exercise your boldness muscle even if it means being vulnerable and results in criticism. Cowardice, fearfulness, cynicism, negativity, discouragement, and pessimism are all opposites of boldness. These traits create a negative attitude that is infectious to others and should be intentionally called out and avoided.

Jackie Glenn

Courtesy of Jackie Glenn

Jackie Glenn.

I must confess that it is not natural for me to always practice this gem; one way that I do so is by adding a bit of humor which lightens the situation and gives me a chance to get my point across. Whenever I employ this approach I am almost always asked to say more, and that is when I use this gem to make my position clear.

When I first became Chief Diversity Officer, I had an opportunity to present to the CEO and his direct reports. When my manager and I entered the boardroom, all the seats around the table were occupied and the occupants were all Caucasian males. My manager and I were both super nervous. We were the only women in the room. The only seats available to us were in the back or on the side as none of the men made an attempt to include us around the table.

Read more: At a Google team off-site, we were asked to play a personality game that clearly revealed why it's so hard for women to reach the top

Immediately my boldness and authenticity kicked in along with a bit of humor. I grabbed a chair and did something I would never think of doing for fear of how I would be perceived. I went right next to the CEO and said one of my favorite Jamaican expressions, "Small up yourself," which meant make room for my chair. At that moment, everyone busted out laughing and the CEO moved around the table to make room for my chair. In a very short period of time everyone followed the leader and I repositioned my chair next to the CEO. Internally, I applauded myself for being bold. I honestly could not foresee the outcome but I took the chance and was prepared for the consequences.

My manager was uncomfortable, so she went and sat at the back of the room. As the only black woman in the boardroom, I was determined to be around the table. After all, they had invited us to the table. So where was the seat? The fact that they did not make an effort to reposition themselves when we walked into the room made me realize that it was my job to be bold and confident. My intention was not to be abrasive. I did not have an attitude nor was I trying to be controversial. I just thought that it was the right thing to do at the right time. My act of boldness was a learning experience for everyone in the room. I used my immigrant colloquial expression which created humor and got the desired results - a seat at the table. This moment of humor also helped to break the tension in the boardroom. Now everyone was relaxed enough to hear what I had to say. They received it well and I was relaxed and able to give my presentation successfully.


Jackie Glenn

Lift As I Climb

Whenever you bring your boldness and self-confidence to the table you gain a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. When you operate in boldness you can actually produce more and do better for yourself and those around you. The energy created by your boldness evaporates the nervousness you experience when asking, "Am I saying the right thing?" Or, "Am I getting my point across?" Boldness calms you down and brings you poise and grace to do what you are tasked to do. You can actually slow your heart rate down and get your clear and succinct message across.

Assume positive intent when you are in the room or in any situation although there may be clear signs that say the opposite. Not everyone wants to hear what you have to say, but there may be a few who do. Focus on them and envision that there are many more of those who want to hear you. Do not allow your internal or self-talk to say: "Oh my gosh, this person is crossing their arms and giving me the side eye, I don't think they want to hear me." Assume that everyone in the room is your friend and move forward with conviction instead of being frozen by your thoughts regarding who is in the room and what they may be thinking or saying about you.

Success is impossible without the courage to act boldly and it can require taking creative risks, upsetting some people, gambling on your own self-esteem, or in a more literal sense, your self-worth. But you don't find many successful entrepreneurs, politicians, coaches, achievers of any stripe or people with disabilities who will describe themselves as risk-averse. This gem is especially important to people with disabilities or different abilities. Most people with a visible or invisible disability are often reluctant to disclose their status or discuss if it's visible for fear of being subjected to biases or treated differently.

Using the boldness gem will hold people accountable, shine a spotlight on the issue, and also make individuals and organizations be more open to looking at the whole person instead of their disability. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to step into your boldness and stand up for yourself and others to get a favorable response.

Taken from Lift As I Climb by Jackie Glenn. Copyright © 2019 by Jackie Glenn.


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