Develop an ‘I Will Show You’ Mindset: ‘Becoming’, by Michelle Obama
April 9, 2019
As part of the LDL Learning Review, we are encouraging all of our team members to get involved in discussing the latest ideas and insights in the worlds of sales, management, leadership, negotiation and presentation skills training.
This month, LDL’s Office Manager Catherine Hibbert has nominated herself to make a contribution. A great believer in women in the workplace, Catherine decided to review Michelle Obama’s recent autobiography Becoming, and on this blog identifies some important lessons that we can all learn from the book.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama – Catherine’s review
Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, has consistently topped the bestseller lists since its publication in November 2018 – so the chances are high that you have read it already! If not then it comes highly recommended, charting as it does with a unique warmth and candour the journey of this remarkable woman from humble beginnings in the South Side of Chicago, to First Lady and the modern-day icon that she has herself become.
For most of us Michelle Obama first appeared on our front pages by the side of her husband on the Democratic campaign trail and subsequently on the White House lawn with her two girls at the newly elected president’s inauguration. Tall and statuesque with a warm smile, little was widely known about her apart from the fact that she was Barack Obama’s wife.
From this book we learn about her childhood growing up on Euclid Avenue with older brother Craig and their parents, her academic success at both Princeton and Harvard Law School and back to Chicago to work as a lawyer with the firm Sidley & Austin which is where she is assigned to mentor a summer associate called Barack Obama.
Although eventually switching out of a career in law to pursue more community-focused roles, she became very accustomed to frequently being the only female in the room, let alone the sole African American woman. A woman of great strength and intelligence there is much for us in the business community to learn from her experiences.
‘I will show you’: Michelle’s persistent self-belief
Obama describes how at school, and at various other points in her life, she has been dogged by the question, “Am I good enough?”.
Assuming that we are not some kind of sociopath it is entirely normal to experience self doubt – whether we are in a sales, management or leadership role – the trouble comes when we allow such thoughts to impact negatively on our behaviour. But how do we stop ourselves from getting derailed by such feelings?
Michelle shows us how she managed to turn these doubts into a spur to prove herself. She developed an ‘I will show you’ mindset which subsequently helped her towards significant achievements both academically and professionally.
This mental toughness was put to the test when a college counsellor told Obama that when it came to university applications, in her opinion, Michelle was not ‘Princeton material’. Despite suffering a bruised ego Michelle was undeterred and finding an alternative sponsor pushed ahead anyway and was rewarded by an offer from Princeton as a result.
Having had the opportunity in her capacity as First Lady, to meet a whole host of accomplished and amazingly talented people, her conclusion is that in order to be successful it is essential to be able to tune out the critics and the doubters.
We all unfortunately encounter such naysayers as we strive towards our own particular goals and in order to be successful it is necessary to develop a strategy of defence and do it like Michelle – learn to combine an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude along with a network of supporters to help you on your journey.
‘You matter’: Everyone is capable of doing something special
Another particular point of interest from the book in terms of positive management comes from Obama’s passion for kids’ education which led to the establishment of the Reach Higher initiative designed to help and support kids towards college and on to better opportunities in the job market. Her personal message to disadvantaged students was always “you matter” and are good enough to do something special.
During her time in the UK she became particularly associated with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington – a diverse, inner city school which despite limited financial resources was deemed as academically outstanding. During one trip to London she accompanied a group of 37 students from the School to visit the University of Oxford with the sole purpose of allowing them to see the possibility of an academic future to which they could aspire.
Interestingly enough she deliberately requested the teachers to select the group not from the high achiever category but from those students whom teachers considered were not currently working to their potential. Appreciating that it is often among this cohort that the most considerable gains can be made as these individuals can often feel overlooked and undervalued.
The learning point here is, in Michelle’s words, that people will always “invest more when they’re being invested in”. In fact a subsequent study conducted by an economist at a British university showed that the overall scores of the students had jumped from the equivalent of a C grade to an A. Success indeed!
This is something for us all to keep in mind when it comes to not focusing all of our positive attention on the high flyers instead remembering to build up and encourage those in the team who are yet to reach their potential. It is often with these individuals that bigger gains can be made. Needless to say, this is worth thinking about for anyone considering the potential value of sales training or management training to the people within their organisation.
Are you inspired?
‘Becoming’ is a great read with lots of thought-provoking messages within its pages and all delivered with a voice full of warmth and humility. On the subject of our individual journeys and progress through life, she has this to say in the Epilogue to the book: “Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done”. Wise words indeed.
Catherine Hibbert has worked at LDL for twenty plus years in a variety of sales and management roles. She remains LDL’s most successful sales person, and although she no longer works in a sales role, continues to promote LDL values and standards of service as our Office Manager.