Are you a people pleaser?
Say yes to the random projects your manager throws your way.
Accept requests from senior leaders, even when they ask for administrative help.
Immediately agree with everyone above you, avoiding any judgment.
You tell yourself it’s a small price to pay. Your sacrifice will be worth it. They’ll be happy. They will like you.
And if they like you, you’ll be their friend.
They’ll support you when you need them, right?
When it’s time to choose a new leader, your self-assured colleague, who isn’t as accommodating (or liked), gets the promotion.
And you are left wondering: what did I do wrong?
People Pleasing Is Not an Executive Trait
People pleasing is one of those silent career killers that can hold you back for years.
While being considerate and helpful is generally a positive trait, being a chronic people pleaser may keep you stuck in junior roles.
Every time you say YES when you should be saying "No thank you", you are sending the wrong message.
Instead of saying:
→ My time is valuable
→ My work is meaningful
→ I have strategic priorities
You are saying:
→ My boundaries are flexible, feel free to push them
→ My time is less important than your request
→ I'll prioritize your needs over mine
Instead of building your executive presence with your actions, you are demonstrating that you are not ready for leadership.
Executives can’t be people pleasers.
Their job description requires them to make tough decisions that won’t make everyone happy.
They need to strategically prioritize a never-ending list of projects, to drive impact. Which means they need to learn how to say no.
When you say yes to everything you are screaming ‘I’m not executive material’.
After all, if you can't set boundaries for yourself, push back, and prioritize your own time, how would you do it for your team or an entire organization?
We think executive presence is reserved for the board room, but it is, forged through simple daily actions.
And being a people pleaser is the wrong action if you want to keep leveling up.
3 Steps To Stop People Pleasing
Step 1: Let Go Of The Need To Be Liked
People-pleasing can rooted in a need for external validation and a fear of rejection.
Simply put: we want to be liked. If you want to break this pattern, you’ll need to realize this behavior is not serving you.
You don't need everyone to like you. You need the right people to respect you.
Instead of seeking constant approval, shift your focus to delivering high-quality results and showcasing your skills.
Your contributions will be based on the value you bring to the organization rather than your likability.
Step 2: Set and Communicate Clear Boundaries:
Clearly define your personal and professional boundaries. Identify what you're comfortable with and what you're not willing to compromise.
That means learning how to say no when necessary.
It's okay to push back or prioritize your own needs. Practice assertive communication without over-explaining or apologizing excessively.
Ensure you allocate time and energy for your own goals, and don't feel guilty about it.
Establishing boundaries helps you prioritize strategic work and focus on making a bigger impact.
It also communicates that you value your time and contributions.
Step 3: Prioritize Executive Behaviors
Shift your focus from seeking constant approval to prioritizing strategic leadership behaviors.
By placing yourself in the shoes of an executive even before you get to that level, you give yourself permission to do things that are outside of your comfort zone.
You may not feel comfortable saying no, but when acting as an executive, you know it’s part of your job.
Being intentional about how you show up will actively shape your professional reputation and demonstrate executive qualities.
You can use this guide on how to be perceived as an executive to get started.
Your next steps
Start your transformative journey from people-pleasing to people-leading.
You don’t need to stop being kind or considerate, you just need to be more selective with your time and effort.
Replace the need to be liked with the desire to be respected, and make sure the actions you take, position you as ‘executive material’.
I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.