5 workplace takeaways from ‘The Crown’

The new Netflix series about a young Queen Elizabeth II offers relatable lessons on how to take charge of your career and be more self-possessed, assertive and poised in your professional interactions.

When I was little, I loved to play dress-up. One of my favorite activities was to put on a movie, dress up as the heroine and act out the story as the movie played.

It has been 20+ years since I last dressed up as Mary Poppins and tried to fly by jumping off the staircase with an umbrella, but the memory came rushing back to me after recently watching “The Crown” on Netflix.

“The Crown” is about Queen Elizabeth II’s early days as monarch, and her journey from shy, timid newlywed to strong, confident queen. The series provides poignant lessons about projecting confidence, demonstrating authority and establishing yourself in the workplace.

Whether you’re just beginning your career or are a seasoned pro in need of a pep talk, here are some lessons from the series on how to be more confident at work. Get ready to feel empowered, motivated and inspired to don a crown.

1. Ask yourself, “Why not me?”

Do you ever feel like you’re one day away from being found out? That if you ask one silly question or make one simple mistake you’ll lose all credibility?

If so, I have news for you: Most people feel this way.

In episode 8 of “The Crown,” Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, are deciding whether to make a particular stop on a royal tour. Philip and her advisors don’t want the couple to make the stop for safety reasons, but Elizabeth insists.

“I am aware that I am surrounded by people who feel they could do the job better,” the monarch says. “Strong people with powerful characters, more natural leaders, perhaps better suited to leading from the front, making a mark. But for better or worse, the crown has landed on my head. And I say we go.”

Rather than give in to others’ (and her own) doubts, she embraces her position and takes charge.

You’ve worked hard to be where you are, and you deserve to be there. Ask yourself, “Why can’t I be the one to solve this problem?” or “Why wouldn’t someone come to me to discuss this issue?” When you frame situations in this way, you’ll probably find that you are the only person holding you back.

2. Define your personal brand.

After Elizabeth learns of her father’s death, one of the first orders of business she must address is what her regal name will be. She says, quite practically: “What’s wrong with my name? Let’s not overcomplicate matters unnecessarily. My name is Elizabeth.” She doesn’t think twice about her identity.

Do you have the same confidence in your personal brand? Identify what are you’re good at, what you enjoy and what you want to be known for. Know who you are and what you stand for, and strive every day to live that brand.

3. Know what you value.

Many of the queen’s most difficult decisions force her to choose between what Parliament wants and what her family and her own moral code encourage her to do.

When her sister, Princess Margaret, announces that she wants to marry a divorced man, Parliament and the Archbishop of Canterbury tell Elizabeth that, as queen, she cannot allow such a match. Elizabeth struggles between her love and loyalty for her sister, and what the role of queen demands. Much to the dismay of Princess Margaret, Elizabeth decides to act as monarch, not sister, and does not allow the match.

The decisions you make in the workplace probably do not pit you against your family, but some might still be difficult to make. Know what you value, and have opinions. When you know what you stand for, decision making becomes significantly easier.

4. Acknowledge what you don’t know, and find a way to learn it.

You can’t possibly know everything about your industry, and no one expects you to, but don’t let that hold you back from learning as much as you can. As they say, knowledge is power.

In episode 7, Elizabeth reveals her insecurity around politicians, because she thinks they are much smarter than she. To enable herself to keep up with them, she hires a tutor.

“I spend so much time with politicians and statesmen. You know, I live in dread of being left alone with them,” she says. “It’d be nice to think that one could, if not hold one’s own, then at least not have to steer the conversation away to dogs and horses every time.”

Acknowledge when you don’t know something, and strive to become as knowledgeable as you can. Even if you can’t participate in a conversation today, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about it and have a cogent opinion tomorrow.

5. Don’t trivialize your experience.

In episode 7, the queen discovers that Prime Minister Winston Churchill had suffered a minor stroke, which prevented him from meeting with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower—and that he lied to her about it.

She’s furious at Churchill for doing so, but she is too intimidated to tell him.

“I can’t just summon the brightest, most formidable men in the country and give them a dressing down like children,” she says to her tutor. “They’re far more intelligent than I am. In any confrontation, they’d out-debate me, out-think me and out-maneuver me.”

(Does this sounds like your own inner dialogue sometimes?)

Elizabeth’s tutor tells her that she should stand up for herself. Thanks to her childhood education, she knows the Constitution better than Churchill or any other politician, and that is “the only education that matters,” he says.

Elizabeth follows her tutor’s advice and gives Churchill a good dressing down—which earns her significant respect.

Maybe you’ve only been in the workforce for a few years. Or perhaps you’ve been working for a decade, but you just took a job in a new industry. It doesn’t matter how little experience you have—you bring a perspective that no one else has, and that counts for something.

What other advice do you have for becoming more confident at work?

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