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Personal Excellence

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What does personal excellence mean to you? For me it means doing all I can to support working women in their quest to achieve success and sanity. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to submit an article to Personal Excellence - The Magazine of Life Leadership.

Double my excitement when I learned that my article had been accepted. Quadruple my excitement when I learned that my article would appear in the July issue alongside articles by Michelle Obama and Jim Collins (Best-selling author of Good to Great).

Michelle’s front page article called "I Believe in You" looks at exercising the power of hope. Jim’s article called "Start a Stop Doing List" challenges each of us to make life a creative work of art. My article called "Success and Sanity" proposes that success and sanity replace work/life balance as the realistic goal for professional women.

When the magazine sent me the edited proofs, my excitement dropped a little. My already short article had been shortened even further. But more problematic than that was the picture of a man that had been placed in the middle of the article. Why would a picture of a man appear in the middle of an article promoting women's success and sanity? I was sure that people would assume I had placed it there, and would look for implied meaning that did not exist.

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I ask them to make changes, or should I accept the article as is for fear that appearing high-maintenance might jeopardize my chances of having the article published?

I’m sure you’ve faced similar dilemmas in your career. When should you speak up against things you don’t agree with, and when should you bite your tongue?

My suggestion is that you choose your battles wisely. It’s a valuable phrase I learned from my day-care providers early in my children’s lives. It’s a phrase, and a philosophy, that works well in both parenting and business.

In reviewing the changes that the editor had made, I decided that I needed to choose a battle about the picture of the man, but not the other editorial changes they had made. I asked them politely if they would change the picture to a woman, and they graciously agreed.

When choosing a battle, it’s best to begin with the assumption that people will accept your suggestions. No need to go in with both guns blazing. Reserve the big guns until after they have said no, and after you have rationally decided that this issue is really worth fighting for.

There will undoubtedly be times in your career when you face issues that are really worth fighting for. However, remember that each of us has a limited number of free-spin cards. There are only so many times that we can go to the mat for an issue, call in our favors, and demand that people do things our way.

Part of working for a company means learning to accept decisions that are right for the business even if they are not right for you individually. In the end, I promise that you will discover greater personal excellence when you learn to choose your battles wisely.

Read articles from Michelle, Jim and me in Personal Excellence Magazine.