take initiative, meetings, belonging

You Don’t Need Another Invitation

“If you’re at the table, there’s a reason why you’re there,” I told the audience at a school’s diversity career conference, “You have something to contribute.”

When I started working, I always deferred to my managers in meetings. I looked to them for answers and didn’t offer my thoughts until I was asked. A couple bosses told me to take more initiative. As a self-motivated individual involved in many things, that perplexed me. What could they possibly mean?

I first recognized my errors while reading an Asian American leadership book called “Invitation to Lead.” Respect for elders is a core value in many Asian cultures. We defer to our seniors and those with greater authority. I hadn’t considered its influence on how I approached the workplace. No wonder I looked to my superiors and waited to be addressed. I realized that these unconscious beliefs had held me back.

While my reason was cultural, people may not speak up or actively participate for various reasons. Perhaps they’re the youngest or the only woman or racial minority present. Or they’re in the minority based on some other characteristic: school pedigree, technical skill, English proficiency, and so on.

Some may feel self-conscious and doubt what they have to offer. Others may know their value but are unsure about social expectations. Still others may not be aware of what’s holding them back. These are all unique challenges that are beyond the scope of this article. A good coach could help unpack them.

I will leave you with this affirmation: If you’re at the table, you’ve already been invited. You don’t need a second invitation. You’re there because you have something to contribute—and others recognize it. In fact, they are waiting for you to speak up and be involved. They want you to dive in and take initiative.

So embrace the opportunity. Show up at your “tables” literal or figurative. Bring your full, authentic self. Ask thoughtful questions, share fresh perspectives, propose new solutions. Make your presence known.

This is the final post in our series: Challenging Your Self-Limiting Assumptions.