Ask Amy: When Confidence Can Seem Like Arrogance

Dear Amy,

The thing I have been struggling with the most has been the misinterpretation of my intentions.  I am not in a position of authority within my family business at this time, however, it is known and recognized that that is my father’s plan. Our family business is in its 102nd year of business with 3 current partners. I am a potential successor along with my eldest cousin who became a partner as of last year and his brother who will begin the buy-in process as of the first of the year.  We will make up the 4th generation of owning the family business/farm.  As the youngest member of the 4th generation and only girl born after 10 boys, I will be the youngest partner and first woman to ever have had a stake in the company.

My parents raised me in a way to never doubt my capabilities. They pushed me to be strong, physically and mentally and I was never granted an excuse because I was “just a girl.” This mentality helped develop my confident and assertive nature. My spirited attitude, to put it nicely, and small stature often surprises people when we meet.

While some find me amusing, I struggle with certain family members or long standing employees confusing my ambition and confidence for wanting authority or power over them. I also know that my talent lies in office operations.  New ways to improve accuracy, increase effectiveness, and solving complications are always racing through my thoughts.  I am sometimes unable to shut my mind off to it and find myself researching solutions late into the night.

I know that my confidence can seem like arrogance, and that is what I’m trying to work on.  I am not always able to put into words the “racing” thoughts I have. I’m hoping for a new communication method that will help me present myself and my ideas more effectively. I know that I have a lot to learn about our industry yet and am certainly not perfect.

I apologize for the lengthy response!  And I thank you in advance for your guidance – I am excited to get started on this journey!


Dear Chloe,

What a thoughtful and insightful description of the challenges and opportunities ahead of you! And how wonderful that your parents have instilled such confidence in you and your abilities.

You are truly a pioneer. It will take some time for your male partners to appreciate your skills and to treat you as the competent and thoughtful leader you are prepared to be. The risk, as you know, is that you will be seen as “cute” or, to use your word, “amusing”.

I’ve written before about the importance of “executive presence”, and that will be something for you to work on, as it is for so many daughters.  But developing it requires a unique solution for each woman. Since you’ve mentioned your “racing thoughts” and your eagerness to “research solutions-in the middle of the night! -I’d start there.

Perhaps the best thing I can suggest to you right now is to slow down, way down.  Sometimes in their eagerness to prove their worth, daughters feel that they have to move quickly to demonstrate their value to the business.  As a result, they can come across as “always correcting” everything and/or as “out of touch” with the systems and processes that have helped the business achieve success over time.  So take the time to learn, to ask questions of long-term employees, and to show your respect for their work.

Another thing I’d suggest is to carefully and clearly let your partners know that you would like to focus on operations.  It’s great that you know where your interests are.  That will help you define your role, at least for awhile.  And in a partnership, that role definition is crucial.

So…slow down.  I find that sometimes even when I’m excited about something, my excitement can become a source of stress to me and to others.  You may find that

Amy Katz

meditation or deep breathing exercises a helpful way for you to slow down, take your time, and develop a bit more “gravitas”.  That will be an asset as you learn to convey your authority, calmly and confidently.

The good news is that you’re already aware of the impact of your behavior and your “presence”.  Now all you have to do is make that awareness work for you.  You’ll have lots of time to make a difference…”go slow to go fast”.



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