Just as we have to restructure our time, our energy, and how we manage and relate to ourselves, we may also need to restructure our attitudes about what we expect to get. Terry and Carolyn are both accountants who were working for large firms before deciding to set up their own independence practices.
Earlier in the week, Terry had met with the chief financial officer of a medium-sized company. She was excited, because if she could get their business it would be her largest account and would cover her basic operating expenses for their first year. In relaying the experience to us, she revealed the thoughts that must have been racing through her mind as she drove to that meeting:
“You know, these big companies are a man’s world,” Terry pointed out to us nervously, her chest rigid from holding her breath. “It’s so hard for a woman to be taken seriously in this field. They always treat me like I’m a little crumb on their table. They’re probably already locked into using some large accounting firm. I sure hope I was able to crack their armor, but I doubt it.” We could still hear the anxiety in her voice and the underlying hostility she had undoubtedly been feeling during the meeting.
Carolyn, also, had an important meeting earlier that week with a prestigious potential client. But as we listened to her story, we were struck by how different her attitude toward the meeting was from Terry’s. “This was the chance I’d been waiting for!” she exclaimed, her exuberance spilling over into her words. “Everything I’ve done in the past five years has prepared me for that meeting. I know the industry figures. I know their position in the marketplace. There is so much I can do for them! They know they’ll be working with me personally, not some junior partner or intern. I think I’ll get their business.”
The contrast between these two professionals’ attitudes was especially dramatic because we heard these disparate views within a period of only a few minutes. Do these two women live on the same planet? How could a nearly identical situation be such a struggle for one person and such an opportunity for another? Their attitudes were showing, and most likely had influenced the outcomes of their meetings.