Our own light shines brightest when we reflect the accomplishments of those we have helped to succeed. – Roz Usheroff
When you look at people who are in the spotlight of accomplishment, do you automatically assume that they were born with inherent gifts? Do you believe they possess unique abilities that mere mortals do not possess? Do you think that explains why they command and attract attention?
Are you currently surrendering to a belief that you could never aspire to similar heights of achievement in your own right?
If you do, then you are not alone.
But here is the thing . . . many of the people whom you see as strong and confident were not always like that. In fact, many were initially inclined to shun the spotlight and retreat to the supposed comfort of anonymity in the shadows of self-doubt.
The Shadows Of My 4-Person Rule
Many years ago when I worked at Club Monaco, a Canadian retail fashion chain, I had a self-imposed rule that if there were more than four people in a meeting, I would remain silent.
My reasoning was that I had a greater chance of appearing stupid if I spoke in front of a larger audience. I was fearful of being exposed as someone who did not know what they were talking about. You can think of it as being the 4 Smart – 5 Stupid Rule.
As I look back, my thinking seems foolish, especially since I now address audiences of all sizes the world over. Naturally, over time, those fears eventually disappeared due in part to the fact that I allowed myself to accept the positive feedback from my diverse audiences. The real turning point however, was my realization that I had known more about what I was saying, than for what I was giving myself credit.
Overcoming The “Spotlight Effect”
Ultimately, I shied away from the spotlight in terms of speaking up and standing out because I believed that everyone was watching me and would therefore notice my every flaw or imperfection. This highly sensitized level of self-consciousness actually has a name…“The Spotlight Effect”.
If you are not familiar with the term, it is the belief that you are noticed by others more than you really are. What is even more interesting is that rarely, if ever, will you have an accurate perspective on how people view you.
In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with a new set of rules for stepping from the shadows of self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs to shine in your own right.
Rule #1 – Focus on your Strengths
If you want to change the fruit, you have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you have to change the invisible first. – T. Harv Eker
How many times have you been in a meeting where someone presents an idea in which you have said to yourself, “Hey! I thought of that!”
This has happened to everyone at one time or another, and not just once. So here is my question to you . . . why didn’t you speak up? Why did you hesitate to share your ideas or flashes of brilliance?
Until you get to the point of realizing and accepting the fact that you have a value all of your own, you will likely be in the shadows of your own 4-person rule.
Tips for discovering and boosting your confidence:
- Think back to your past successes – even the small ones. It could be acing a tough job interview, dealing with a difficult customer or completing a project under budget. How did you feel? The key point is that each success you have had should serve as a stepping-stone to building your confidence in the value of ‘you’.
- Seek input from trusted individuals with whom you work and live about your strengths. Remember, with the spotlight effect we rarely, if ever, have an accurate view of how others perceive us. You will most assuredly be surprised by the answers you receive.
- If you are not happy with something about yourself, don’t lament it – change it! If you feel that you need to be more visible, begin with tiny steps. Challenge yourself to speak up early in a meeting or ask to be first on the agenda of a virtual presentation.
Rule #2 – Knowledge IS Power
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. – Benjamin Franklin
Nothing fosters greater confidence than knowing your stuff!
Doing your homework and becoming a subject matter expert removes any element of surprise. It also means that your preparation time before attending a meeting or addressing an audience is as important as the event itself.
In other words, you can’t just show up and wing it. That would be like showing up at the starting line of a marathon race without actually training for it. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how athletic you look – you are not going to win the race.
Tips for setting the stage for speaking out:
- Know your audience! Find out who is going to be attending the meeting, and what they want to achieve. Why are they there? Why are you there?
- Get a copy of the agenda and highlight the areas with which you can offer meaningful insight – then carpe diem . . . seize the opportunity to speak.
- Prepare thought-provoking questions in advance. Address those in attendance who are the subject matter experts. Your enthusiastic participation will be duly noted.
- When presenting, don’t just talk at people. Engage them. Create a two-way dialogue which shifts the focus from you to others, and gives everyone the opportunity to shine in a collective spotlight. To make your audience part of the process, try the following:
- “What are your questions?” vs. “Do you have any questions?”
- “How does this resonate with you?”
- “I’m curious to have your perspectives.”
- “What are your thoughts before I move on?”
- Stock the boardroom or audience with allies who will validate your perspectives. Book time to share your vision with them before the meeting to build your sponsorship.
Rule #3 – Sincere Passion Is Contagious
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – DH Lawrence
A powerful message is dampened by a cautious or uncertain delivery.
Tips to help you to shine when it is time to speak:
- Don’t say what you have to say to gain approval. Say what you have to say because you truly believe it.
- When you speak, make eye contact with as many people as you can. Let them not only hear the conviction in your voice, but see the confidence in your eyes.
- Have documentation at hand that supports your position rather than just an opinion.
- When you are finished speaking, don’t end with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, what do you think?” submission.
- Never end your point of view with your voice rising as it will appear that you are asking for permission.
Rule #4 – Perfection Is An Illusion
Everyone makes mistakes. The wise are not people who never make mistakes, but those who forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes. – A Buddhist Monk
For me, a major breakthrough in terms of stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight of my full potential came when I finally gave myself permission to be imperfect. What I have learned over the years is that audiences are more apt to champion me when I focus on them, as opposed to myself.
Tips to help you to own your power and become comfortable being visible:
- If you make a mistake in front of your entire world, admit it, fix it, and learn from it. How you deal with adversity speaks volumes about your character.
- Like a figure skater who falls during their routine, don’t sit at center ice and give up. Instead, get up and continue forward.
- Focus on getting it right, as opposed to being right. When you are more interested in delivering value to others you are less likely to dwell on your missteps.
Everyone Has A Spotlight . . .
I’ve come to believe that each person has a spotlight waiting for them. – Katherine Stone
In the end, stepping into your spotlight and getting noticed means that you are more likely to be considered for opportunities for career advancement.
So go out there and shine!
“The family gathering also includes Claudia’s resentful, conservative sister Joanne, her stuffy banker brother-in-law Walter and their two spoiled children . . . along with their eccentric Aunt Glady” – from Home For The Holidays
Beside marking the beginning of the “most wonderful time of the year,” the holiday season can often be as stressful as it is joyful. A time for reconnecting with loved ones and . . . well, let’s just say tolerating those with whom we would prefer to enjoy a long-distance relationship.
But in the contemplation of having to deal with a cornucopia of unique individuals and idiosyncratic personalities, you might be far better prepared than you think.
You Can Choose Your Friends, but . . .
There is an old saying with which we are all familiar that goes; you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.
In other words, you are stuck as they say with the cards you are dealt – at least genetically speaking.
However, this same rule doesn’t only apply to your family. It also applies to the people with whom you work.
In this regard, you have, whether knowingly or not, been in training all year for these special holiday moments at home or office parties.
A Different Kind Of “Family”
If you think about it, we often times spend as much if not more time day-in and day-out with our co-workers than we do our own families. They are in essence a family of sorts, and not usually of our own choosing.
So it is safe to say, by learning how to deal with the unique individuals who are part of our work family, we will likely be equipped with the necessary tools to deal with our real families come the holidays.
Let’s take a few moments, and think about some of the great “home-type” personalities we deal with every day, and what we do to create a harmonious office environment.
1. The “Head” of the Family
Whether maternal or paternal, the head of the family in the workplace is our boss.
In part four of a series of posts on how to deal with a difficult boss, I provided the following tips. After reading them, ask yourself if there are parallel lessons we can learn and use at home:
- Recognize that you are not likely alone in your situation and as such, seek the counsel of other trusted co-workers without having it descend into a shared bash session.
- Try to better understand your boss. Maybe instead of criticism, a little insight into why they think the way they do might go a long way toward building a better relationship.
- Without having a desired outcome in mind, or preconceived idea as to how they may respond, look for opportunities to talk with your boss. Start by asking questions about how you can make a bigger difference in their world and/or if they have any specific suggestions that would enable you to help them achieve their goals or objectives.
2. The “perfectionist” sibling
I have always believed that behind every perfectionist hides to a certain degree, insecurity. Although perfectionists can appear to be critical, they are usually that way with themselves. It’s also easy to assume that perfectionists lack sensitivity. However, I have found that they tend to camouflage their own feelings but once you can see beyond their perfectionism, they are truly caring people.
In fact, I can remember reading a newspaper article in which one pundit suggested that “In the workplace, people generally don’t want to get in your way; they just want to make sure you aren’t shoving them out of your way.”
In this context, you should do the following:
- Spend time with your co-worker outside of the office. It doesn’t have to be a big dinner or a weekend retreat. A simple cup of coffee away from the office on a regular basis is a good first step.
- As you spend more one-on-one time, you will begin to build a rapport with them that will help to create a level of trust. This does not necessarily mean that you will become the best of friends. What it does mean is that your values and intentions will become known to one another, and you just might find that you have more in common than you think.
- Sincerely acknowledge what they do and what you have learned from them. After all, everyone has something to offer. By recognizing their unique ability and contributions, you will make them feel good about themselves and you.
3. The eccentric Aunt or Uncle
Have you ever spent time with someone vacantly smiling and nodding with their every statement, while looking at the clock wishing that someone would rescue you from the conversation?
This being said, and taking into account the pressures of operating in a “make every second count” world maybe, we have to take some ownership in terms of our impatience.
Rather than simply dismissing a fellow employee as a Walter Mitty-type eccentric who is there to rob you of your time, try this approach:
- Recognize that the eccentric’s creative or unique view of the world might actually free you from constraints that you may not have realized even existed. After all, Bertrand Russell once said “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
- Look for ways to include the eccentric thinker in group discussions where the free flow of ideas is welcomed.
- Really listen to what is being said by an eccentric with an open mind, putting aside any preconceived ideas as to who you think they are. In fact, this is good advice to follow with anyone you meet.
4. The rebel of the family
You know about whom I am talking . . . the family rebel.
The Random House Dictionary defines a rebel as “a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.”
We are at once both repelled yet drawn to the rebel of the company, because they challenge the status quo. They frequently break the rules and justify their actions with pithy sayings such as “it is better to ask for forgiveness, than permission.”
Yet rebels can and often are agents of needed change.
To deal with a rebel, you have to first understand them. Here are few tips that should help you:
- A rebel is not afraid to take a chance, to stick their necks out if they believe in what they are doing. The key word here is “believe”. A rebel can be someone who truly believes in what they are doing, and are therefore a sincere and often positive force of energy.
- A rebel will definitely ruffle a few feathers – especially the perfectionist. So if you believe in what the rebel is doing, be prepared for a bumpy but ultimately fulfilling ride.
- While you can support and even encourage a rebel, never shy away from pointing out to them the consequences of their actions. In essence, become a voice of balanced reason, delivered in a diplomatic tone. This includes helping them to consider the feelings of others.
5. The family peacemaker
Where we would be without the peacemakers?
You know who you are, the one who is always looking at a situation from everyone’s side . . . but your own.
While it is both important and rewarding to try and be the glue that brings everyone together under one harmonious note of equanimity, this role is fraught with risks.
If you are the peacemaker, be sure to remember the following rules for survival:
- Never let your own opinion and sense of your own values get lost in a sea of competing ideas. You have a voice that is equally worthy of being heard, so do not be afraid to use it.
- Do not automatically assume that any form of disagreement is in and of itself a bad thing. A wise executive once told me many years ago that if the two of us agree on everything, then one of us is redundant.
- Finally, know when to walk away. Not all problems can be solved through rational thinking and flip charts. Sometimes things just have to work themselves out in their own time, and in their own way – without your help.
Over this holiday season, when you leave your work family to visit your real family, remember the above points. Then embrace the differences you share because this is what makes life both interesting, rewarding and worthy of celebration. Last, you cannot inspire others to see your point of view when you are judging them.
Happy Holiday’s to one and to all!
“There is no failure except in no longer trying” – Chris Bradford
During a seminar, I was once asked an interesting question . . . how do you stay successful?
I must admit that it made me stop for a brief moment as I am usually asked how does one become successful. Maintaining success is not something that most people talk about, simply because once we have achieved our goal or objective there is a sense that we have arrived.
In this context, I responded by saying that I think the real question is “now that I have succeeded, what’s next?”
Let’s face it, and unlike a good movie, life does continue beyond the rolling credits.
Success Is Only The Beginning
One of the reasons why I have always embraced Bradford’s words, as well as those of Winston Churchill who said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal,” is that both recognized that whether in the afterglow of success, or the midst of failure, there are challenges to be met and overcome.
Even though the lessons we learn from failure are often times obvious, and clearly essential to moving forward, moving beyond success has its own unique lessons.
With regard to this latter point, I had an opportunity to catch-up with Toni Adams who is the Vice President, Global Partner Marketing at VMware. Founded in Palo Alto California in 1998, VMware is a software company that provides cloud and virtualization software and services, and was the first to successfully virtualize the x86 architecture.
Toni, is no stranger to success, and he was kind enough to take some time out of his busy day, to share with me his views on creating a model for sustainable success.
I am certain that you will find the following points very helpful from both a personal career as well as a company standpoint:
1. Avoid the risks associated with complacency
Like Jim Collins’s assertion in his book “good is the enemy of great,” complacency according to Toni can be a problem for many successful companies.
In this regard, you have to:
- Avoid the pitfalls of being satisfied, by finding ways to do things better, or seeking out new opportunities to expand on your original vision.
- Continue to operate in an environment of full transparency, where decisions are made based upon merit as opposed to hierarchy.
- Be responsive to changes in the market – don’t simply do the same things that got you to where you are because you have always done it that way.
- For leaders within the company, always stay connected with your entire team. Know them, understand them and build/maintain a rapport with them as they are your collaborative partners. (This also holds true for everyone in the company regardless of your title or position.)
- Recognize that maintaining the entrepreneurial zeal or shared passion that built the company is an act of will as opposed to a natural part of the growth process.
2. Unto thy “culture” be true (and inclusive)
I remember watching a television sitcom based upon the challenges that a closely-knit family faced whenever someone gets married or brings an “outsider” into the picture.
The fact is that with success and the subsequent growth, your business is going to experience something of a similar nature as you welcome more “outside” people into the corporate fold.
In this context, Toni offers the following advice:
- Recognize that the function of the company’s culture is to create an environment of collaboration. Therefore, it’s important to extend the company culture to include everyone and not just those who have been with the organization from day one.
- Understand that the company’s culture must go beyond internal stakeholders to include external relationships such as those with customers and suppliers.
3. More than a product or service
While you can have a unique product or service, success is based upon more than what you sell. I am of course talking about your values. For what do you stand as a company as well as an individual is critical to becoming successful, and staying successful.
In my latest book The Future of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand, I wrote:
“Self-branding is when you incorporate your values and goals into a clearly recognized image (although I do not think the word image goes deep enough) that enables you to leave your indelible mark on the world. Aligning your personal brand with your company’s brand means that you will be in sync with your employer’s values and goals. It means that you “get it” in terms of where the company wants to go and how you can play a role in both the organization’s as well as your own personal success.”
Toni talked about this when he said that success goes beyond the product or service that a company offers. The fact is that a product or service must reflect the values of the company, including the people behind it.
Beyond the obvious, values are important on a practical level for the following reasons:
- Like attracts like . . . specifically, good people will be drawn to an organization that reflects similar values. If you create an environment with a strong work ethic, mutual respect and a truly collaborative spirit, people with these same values will want to become a part of the team.
- Your values as a company will be clearly demonstrated by the level of service and support you give to your customers.
- Your values will influence your relationships with external stakeholders such as suppliers.
In our desire for success, it is important that we have a game plan beyond the attainment of our own personal goals that encompass the success of others.
Ultimately, this game plan will enable you manage your success, and to create a lasting legacy of excellence in much the same manner that Toni has outlined.
“You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you’d have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here!”
Even though I am not what you would consider to be a football fan, there are nonetheless many powerful moments in the movie Rudy from which the above quote has been taken.
Moments that I believe transcend the sports world, and apply to both business and life in general.
The reason I thought about this movie, and in particular this scene, is that I was recently asked the question does desire and commitment trump talent alone?
The individual, who is a senior executive with a large corporation, posed the question because he was having difficulty in deciding which one of two people on his management team would be promoted to a new, more demanding position.
On one hand, the candidate who he had initially favored was – at least on paper, capable of doing a great job based on a long list of degrees and academic accomplishment. In other words, he possessed the prerequisite skill sets that appeared to perfectly align with the requirements of the job. However, he had never demonstrated a desire to do more than what was necessary to get by in terms of fulfilling his past assignments.
In considering this individual, the executive’s hope was that when faced with a new and bigger challenge, he would find his passion and rise to the occasion. In essence finally deliver on the potential the company saw in him when he was first hired.
The other candidate, who was now being seriously considered, at first wasn’t even on the radar screen for the new position. After all, the executive explained to me, she did not have the same level of education as the “preferred” candidate, nor did she have the same level of seniority. What she did have however, was a desire to excel in everything that she did.
If she did not know the answer to a particular question, she would without fail do the research that was necessary to get the right information.
If there was a need for overtime or to double check her work to make certain that it was the best it could be, she did so without fail. She was even available to help fellow employees with their assignments when called upon.
In short, and while she wasn’t as qualified as the preferred candidate, she did possess what I call an inner Rudy. She had heart and a burning desire to succeed.
The difficulty according to my executive friend was determining which candidate was more likely to excel in the new position. Which one would be the best hire?
Would the candidate who was clearly more qualified for the position finally live up to his potential?
Alternatively, and even though he had no doubt that the less qualified candidate would give it her very best, would that best be good enough? Would she be up to the task?
Rather than simply giving him an answer in favor of one or the other, I asked him a question.
When you first started out, and eventually rose to the position you are in today, what made you successful?
At first he looked confused, but then paused for a moment to think about my words.
He then said that despite his level of education, he had throughout his career, encountered many challenges that required him to look outside of what he knew to seek the answer. In doing so, he relied heavily on the support of others – his fellow employees, managers and mentors.
However, the one thing he learned is that their level of support, and his ability to find an answer, originated with his desire to do the best job he could.
I then reminded him of a quote regarding Henry Ford from Napoleon Hill’s book Think And Grow Rich. Specifically Hill’s assertion of Ford’s belief that “Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.”
In the end, I told him that I think this definition of education still holds true today, because it reflects a true desire to excel, and a real heart for achievement.
Given the above, if you were in this executive’s shoes, who would you hire?
The one thing I will tell you, is that the executive ultimately made the right decision.
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As we move into the fresh promises of a new year, I feel that it is important to reflect upon both the experiences and the lessons that we learned from them in 2013.
For me, the ability to travel has added a dimension to this exercise in that enables me to truly gain a cultural perspective that has broadened my understanding of the world in which I live. Of course you do not have to be a world traveler to gain perspective, you merely have to possess a passion to observe and to look outside of yourself to better understand your unique and important place in the lives of others.
So here are the lessons I have learned this past year, in no particular order of priority;
- Look at other cultures as a privilege to learn that not everyone thinks the way you do.
- Don’t believe you have all the answers or need to summarily defend your position. Asking curious questions when people are disagreeing with you is a chance to see how values influence behavior. Knowing the values of other people helps you to better understand why they stand strong in their beliefs.
- Don’t be misled by appearances. Leaving Bogota airport, I was greeted with police armed with guns. It was not to scare us but rather to protect visitors to make them feel safe. People were just wonderful and hospitable throughout the countryside.
- Don’t let first impressions dissuade you from knowing someone. We form impressions based on our own experiences. I learned that looks can be deceiving when you misinterpret different approaches. We tend to size people up and decide if we want to know them or to do business with them. Not everyone is as demonstrative until we reach out first to show our warmth and interest.
- Don’t get caught up in status related “stuff.” In traveling through Eastern Europe recently, I learned the power of pride. It’s not about fancy cars or designer trappings. In Budapest, I experienced the true meaning of pride as people shared their excitement for buildings being rebuilt, churches and synagogues being reconstructed after destruction from past wars, for freedom to reclaim their culture and for restaurants that shared aromas of native dishes with pride.
- Don’t judge someone by the wages they earn. Wages may be low in some countries but happiness is an inside job. Experiencing just the joy of living and experiencing simple traditions like an espresso, a croissant and conversation at an outdoor cafe are considered the wealth of living.
- Instead of looking at the glass as half full or half empty, we must embrace our power to make success happen when we focus on opportunities and see failures as temporary lessons we had to go through.
- We must have gratitude that we live in North America where we have freedom to speak, travel and network as we like. We must have gratitude to know that tomorrow is another day if today disappoints.
- North America is a melting pot where different cultures bring us richness through the sharing of new experiences. I’ve learned to celebrate how lucky I am to have met so many amazing clients from all over the world and look forward to finding common ground in my present and future relationships.
- Finally, and to quote Linda Ferguson who heads up NLP Canada Training, “Shine. When you shine a flashlight, it is not about making the flashlight feel good. It’s about putting light where light is useful. When you shine, you allow the people around you to see better (and you feel good).”
Wishing you success and significance for 2014