Where do you Draw the Line?
By Todd Dewett, Andersen
Alumnus, author and speaker
You can’t please everyone. You don’t want to please everyone!
When smart marketers build a brand, they know they are simultaneously trying to attract certain people while excluding others. Something quite similar should happen in your career. Too often, it doesn’t, typically because of our strong desire to please others.
We try to please in order to avoid conflict, to be kind, to affirm, etc. – all in the service of staying out of trouble and possibly advancing. This strategy inevitably leads to compromised values, difficult emotions, overly contrived relationships, and time spent doing work that doesn’t inspire.
A better strategy is to be like a savvy marketer and draw your lines. Stand for what you believe in. Dress, speak, and behave in a thoughtful (and respectful) manner that is authentically you.
Sure, this is not a risk-free approach. Not everyone will like your look, less-filtered opinions, etc. Great. That helps you know who tolerates and likes the real you. This is immensely valuable information that will help you with a host of future decisions. Besides, as noted above, you’re already carrying a big burden by trying to please everyone, so what are you afraid of?
I honestly try to live by this advice. Lots of people love how I look and what I do. Others don’t get me or don’t like me. As an educator, some users of my products have noted that my tattoos are not professional. As a professional speaker, I regularly lose gigs because a prospective client is afraid of how I look.
Fine! I’m not trying to speak to everyone, and neither should you. If you try to please everyone, you’re not fully pleasing anyone. If you try to avoid being offensive all the time, I promise you that you will never inspire anyone.
So, where should you get started drawing your lines? A low-risk approach to start is fine. Just begin with how you speak to one or two key people. Not how you look, that comes later. Focus on how you speak to them interpersonally, then slowly, in front of others (e.g., at meetings). Then tweak how you speak to others. Then tweak how you look. Take one small authentic step at a time.
Life is too short to be a full-time people pleaser. It’s too short to be constantly presenting a highly contrived version of yourself to everyone. You can do this. Draw your lines. When you do, most others will reciprocate with a bit more authenticity. With them you will build game-changing rapport. With the rest, well, that isn’t nearly as important, is it?
Dr. Todd Dewett is one of
the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an
authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn
Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He
has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many
other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst
& Young he completed his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M
University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor. Todd has
delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing,
General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. His educational
library at LinkedIn Learning has been enjoyed by over 30,000,000 professionals in
more than one hundred countries in eight languages. Visit his home online at