Halley Bock | Crain's Seattle

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Halley Bock


Life, Incorporated is an organization dedicated to forging mindful connection in all areas of life as the means to experience a wholehearted, fulfilling, and joyful life.

The Mistake:

Saying yes when I should have said no, because I placed pleasing others ahead of my better judgment for fear of losing approval.

For women, there’s a higher occurrence of this because we are more relationship-focused overall. There’s a desire to cultivate and nourish a tribe, to have people with you, not behind you, but with you. And when we say no over and over, the “B” word starts to surface.

This played out in a catastrophic way when, at one organization, my management team and I were digging ourselves out of a very difficult year. We didn’t make our targets and profits were slim. The owner of the organization came to me and wanted to do a particular financial maneuver that would squeeze the margins even more. I was against it, but the owner was really passionate about wanting to move forward. and I acquiesced for the sake of maintaining the owner’s approval.

It created exactly the snowball of events that I knew in the back of my mind it would. There I was back with my management team trying to dig us out of an even deeper hole. It involved a lot of stress for everyone. I also felt the need to protect the owner and not divulge what was causing this new panic.

In the end, I ended up really damaging those relationships; I lost their approval and the company really paid a price.

Having people like you is nice, but it’s not a necessity.

The Lesson:

Never default on your better judgment. If you’re a leader of an organization, your responsibility is to the organization, not necessarily to the relationships inside it. And that may sound callous, but when it comes to whether the organization is going to be able to perform and deliver paychecks to these people that you do care about, you have to stick to your guns and go with your judgment. Having people like you is nice, but it’s not a necessity. Being profitable, making smart decisions, obeying your instincts is.

I am the more casual, laid-back leader, and I really do enjoy developing friendships wherever I’m working. But I’ve learned that there’s a time for creating and cultivating relationships and having a more relaxed leadership style, and then there’s a time for focusing solely on the business and what it needs, and perhaps risking some relationships in the process.

Follow Halley Bock on Twitter at: @HalleyBock

Pictured: Halley Bock. | Photo by Nikki Closser. 


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