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Would you hire Cinderella?

When you think of a strong female team leader, you probably don't think, "Cinderella!" Joanna will show you how to see her (and others you work with) in a new light.

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Congratulations, you’re hired! You now have a leadership role in my company. We’re busy changing the world over here, and your brilliant mind is just what we need. I’m thrilled you’ve joined the team. Let’s get started!

Your first project is to hire another person for the team. I don’t have a job description or title; we’ll figure that out later. I’m looking for someone who can wear lots of different hats. Why? Because we’re a pretty small group at the moment, and it’s important that they can roll with all the crazy we have going on. Plus, I want this person to grow with us and lead a team.

Oh, and I’ve got a candidate coming in to meet you tomorrow. You may have heard of her before.

Her name is Cinderella.

Ok. I’m going to step out of my little story for a second. Seriously. What’s your opinion on Cinderella? Are you excited about this interview, or do you think I’ve lost my mind?

I’ve posed this question to many of the audiences I’ve spoken to recently. So I’m guessing your opinion leans towards the “Joanna’s lost it” camp. When I ask what Cinderella is known for, here’s what I get:

Good at cleaning. A bit pathetic. Needs to be rescued. Lovely personality.

Not exactly a stellar reference.

NOW I’D LIKE TO REFRAME CINDERELLA. LIKE A MODERN FAIRY GODMOTHER, I’M GOING TO PEEL AWAY YOUR INITIAL OBSERVATIONS AND HELP YOU SEE WHAT I SEE.

She can create things with extremely limited resources. At the beginning of the movie, the stepmother was selling everything. Poor Papa was dead, and they had no income. And yet, Cinderella figured out how to a) keep the house neat as a pin, and b) keep dinner on the table.

  • She can lead teams without title or guidance. As I recall, she enticed the mice and birds to do all sorts of things for her.
  • She’s really good with difficult customers. Hi, the stepsisters.
  • She can handle a tyrannical boss. Hi, the stepmother.And this is all before the Fairy Godmother shows up. She’s pretty awesome already, right? It gets better.
  • She trusts her team when she needs to and leans into dicey situations. When the Fairy Godmother tells her to get inside the pumpkin-turned-carriage, she does it. Now I don’t know about you. But I’d be hard-pressed to trust a ride that, until two minutes ago, was a squash vine lying on the ground. Would you?
  • She takes bold risks. Besides the pumpkin-coach situation, I can think of a million things that could go wrong with the whole “getting to the ball” plan. I’d be peppering the Fairy Godmother with questions before saying yes. Cinderella, she grasps the opportunity and goes for it.
  • She knows how to connect with her audience. Now we’re at the ball. Cinderella quickly figures out that when at a royal ball, one needs to put on a bit of a show. Connecting with your audience is critical.
  • She’s willing to leave her SHOE on the stairs for the project. As we know, Cinderella’s got a deadline. And Cinderella decides it’s more important for the project to win than to keep something that’s meaningful to her. So she leaves her SHOE on the stairs. And we’re not talking about leaving behind one-half of a $10 pair of flip flops you grabbed at CVS before a pedi. No, we’re talking about a glass Louboutin here. I doubt I would have left a shoe like that.
  • Bonus points – she understands that leaving something with a customer helps them remember you. Excellent customer skills going on here.

SHE DOES ALL OF THIS WITH A BRILLIANT ATTITUDE — NO WHINING ABOUT FAIRNESS FROM THIS GAL. CINDERELLA IS BLOODY MARVELOUS IF YOU ASK ME.

Why, yes, I’d hire her to work on my team in a hot second.

Have I changed your mind? Do you now have a different opinion about Cinderella?

Let me ask you this, too. Have you ever had a manager frame your value with this much detail and individuality? If you did, how much did you love working with that manager? If you didn’t, how much do you wish they had?

I get that Cinderella is a fictional character. But the magic of shifting someone’s perceived value is very real. And all that’s needed to make magic happen? Your brilliant mind spending a few minutes reframing that person’s narrative.

So back to my little story. You’ve got Cinderella coming in for an interview tomorrow. Good luck—I can’t wait to get a detailed report on what you think her unique values are.

PS. If you’re still thinking, “I wish my manager knew how to frame my value with so much detail and individuality!” I can help you with that. I’ll show you how to articulate your awesome.

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