“Maybe You Shouldn’t Be So Ambitious” and Other Really Bad Advice

January 19, 2018


I have worked with many wonderful bosses and intelligent, caring colleagues over the years. They’ve offered advice I continue to incorporate into my daily life.

But I’ve also had a handful of bad bosses and a few clueless colleagues along the way. They’ve had advice too, most of it cringe-worthy, some of it downright laughable.

For as hard as it was to hear (and it’s even harder to forget), I’m thankful to have received it so that I could know what it felt like and vow to never repeat it.

Here’s my Top Ten list of REALLY BAD ADVICE I’ve received:

  1. “Stop wasting so much time on the little people.”
  2. “Just keep your head down and your mouth shut, and you’ll be OK.”
  3. “Tell them you’ll think about it even though we know it’s never going to happen.”
  4. “You should be happy with what you have.”
  5. “Your job is to make me look good.”
  6. “No one will notice if you take your foot off the gas and just mail it in.”
  7. “Make sure he/she knows who’s boss.”
  8. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
  9. “Maybe you shouldn’t be so ambitious.”
  10. “Just act like you care.”

That’s a bummer of a list, isn’t it?

So to combat that really BAD ADVICE, I’d like to offer some of the really GOOD ADVICE that has stuck with me over the years.

  1. “Not everyone has to like you. Leading is not a popularity contest.”
  2. “Stay the course – one foot in front of the other repeatedly will get you where you’re going.”
  3. “Say yes first but know that it’s OK to say no.”
  4. “Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care.”
  5. “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”
  6. “Find your tribe.  They’ll always have your back.”
  7. “Be a power surge, not a power drain.”
  8. “Make sure the people you care about know you care about them.”
  9. “Don’t assume the loudest voice in the room is right. Sometimes it’s the quiet person in the back row who has the answer. You have to listen carefully to get past the noise.”
  10. “Never forget the impact you can make for one person.”

That list feels a bit better, a bit more worthy of being recycled and reverberated.

Be thankful for advice both good and bad, for showing you what to say – and how to say it – and when it’s better to just stay silent.

What about you?  What bad or good advice have you received that still sticks with you?  What advice do you give others?

Valerie Gordon is the founder of Commander-in-She, a career and communications strategy firm.  She helps women with the skill and conversations they’ll need to advance their careers and create successful and satisfying next chapters.

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