One of the Onlys


FountainBlue’s September 10 When She Speaks online program was on the topic of ‘One of the Onlys’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at ASML and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists represented a wide range of roles, backgrounds and organizations, yet they all experienced being one of the onlys.

But each found a way to be heard, to be influential, to be productive, despite the fact that they were originally less than well received. Below is advice they shared on how they navigated the challenge.

Manage Yourself

  • You are not alone, even when you feel very lonely, like you’re the only one. There are many ‘onlys’ out there, and many of them are willing to help you, and many others who are willing to be supporters, cheerleaders, and allies to you.
  • Be confident in what you do well, and consistently solve real problems well, building a brand for yourself even if it’s beyond others’ expectations of you.

Build Relationships

  • Develop relationships of trust with influential others across the ecosystem. 
  • Leverage those relationships to better understand the motivations and challenges faced by others, so that you can help address their needs.
  • Look for the common connections, the common motivations between yourself and others around you. 
  • Recruit advocates and cheerleaders, and make sure that you advocate and cheer for others as well.
  • Conduct the meetings before the meeting to best position yourself, the team and the project for success.

Seize the Opportunities

  • Always take a seat at the table when you’re invited, even when you’re not sure you belong there. 
  • When appropriate, make a seat at the table, but do this selectively – only when the topic/problem/project/challenge really needs your support and input.
  • Be bold and confident enough to share your opinion, even if you’re not sure it would be well received. But also make sure that your opinion is based on your experience, on data you’ve collected.

Be Other-Centric

  • Listen well to others as they describe their needs and their challenges. Then commit to following through and delivering solutions for them.
  • Know your audience and their challenges and motivations so that you can better serve all.

Manage Your Emotions

  • Choose to be a more vulnerable, a better version of yourself when you are faced with people who are less than respectful of your abilities.
  • Be curious about why someone else responds the way they do to something you’ve said or done.
  • Manage your own emotions well, so that you can focus on building relationships with people who may trigger something in you.
  • Accept that others might not accept you as one-of-them, and try not to let it get to you.  


  • Respect that sometimes you have to use the back door to get things done, when certain parties are less than receptive to the support. 
  • Lean into leadership. Find the leadership gap where you can step in, solve critical problems, and connect with people.

The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet to being respected and heard when you don’t quite fit in with others in the room. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact and make a difference.


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