Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Book Excerpt: How do you start building confidence?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. We all evaluate ourselves in relation to others. The problem is you have no idea what is going on for another person. You can’t know why they do what they do, what motivates their behavior. In fact, someone who looks “confident” may just be another shy person covering up his own insecurities and doubts. Instead of focusing on others, shift your attention back to yourself. The only reasonable comparison to make is between your past and your present performance. Bring your attention to your goals and to the actions you need to take to achieve them.

2. Set Self Confidence Goals. Although developing self confidence is a very abstract goal and self confidence itself is impossible to quantify, you can focus on the tangible and concrete actions that result in confidence. Choose one area, break it down into small, manageable steps or actions with concrete results. Make them measurable, like, “Strike up a conversation with 1 stranger per day” “Call 3 headhunters” or “Attend 2 events per month.” Write down your goals and post them somewhere visible, like the bathroom mirror or on a Post-it on your computer. Review them every morning, or at least every week. Over time, with persistence, a little here ... a little there, the next thing you know, you’re a shy person who starts conversations.

3. Always take time to prepare. Don’t waste time talking yourself into “feeling” confident. Be more productive in your preparation. The better you know your stuff, the more confident you will feel. No matter what the event or activity, make sure you set aside time to practice or to think through all the possible scenarios and how you would respond to them. Again, it’s a question of directing your attention away from the anxiety and toward the actions needed.

4. Visualize another reality. Before a stressful event, take a few minutes to create a mental picture for yourself. Instead of imagining a staff meeting as a place where you will be put on the spit and grilled, imagine it as a circle of colleagues who are all there to help you. Instead of picturing the company holiday party as a mob scene where everyone will already be in their cliques and you’ll be alone in the corner, think about it as a series of one-on-one conversations over a glass of your favorite red wine.

5. Ask for honest feedback. It might seem counter-intuitive to advise someone who is self conscious to submit themselves to the scrutiny of others, but you may be surprised by what you find out. It’s likely that your perspective on yourself isn’t accurate, and it’s definitely not complete. The only way to discover that is by submitting yourself or your work to others. Solicit honest feedback from someone you trust. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. This isn’t to say that what others say about you is the truth. But your own opinion is a very narrow slice of the pie. You need more information, more perspectives to weigh.

6. Think Small. It’s unrealistic to imagine that you will suddenly transform yourself into a gregarious networker. But you can get in the habit of doing tiny confident behaviors, of stretching yourself and expanding your comfort zone systematically, each time a bit further. For example, when you meet someone for the first time, greet him or her with a firm handshake, a smile, and look directly into their eyes for a moment longer than may be comfortable to you. Or, when talking on the phone, smile. The person on the other end can hear it and will respond to the energy in your voice. If you want an enthusiastic response to your ideas, bring that enthusiasm into your voice.

7. Give yourself many options. One of the reasons we get so nervous about one conversation, one interview, one prospect, is because we don’t have many eggs in our basket, so every egg counts for a lot. If you give yourself lots of options, lots of opportunities to practice saying the things that need to be said, not only will it get easier but each one won’t carry as much weight. You’ll be able to afford a couple unsuccessful conversations because you know there will be more chances to learn those lessons.

These are just a few. Certainly you have a few tips. Please contribute them.

Excerpted from Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive (Career Press, 2006). Order your copy here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

USA Today article says you can learn to be an extrovert

Introverts and shy people can learn to be more sociable.
"It's a skill that can be developed." So says more than one
CEO quoted in an article in USA Today,
Not All Successful CEOs are Extroverts (from June 7th).

According to the article, 4 in 10 top executives consider themselves
shy or introverted. This was borne out in my research for
Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide
for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive
. In fact, Sheila Campbell,
owner of Wild Blue Yonder, admitted to "masquerading as an extrovert."

Here's another fascinating factoid from the article:

"A PsyMax study of 240 presidents, CEOs and chief operating officers found creativity to be the one trait most common to highly successful executives. Past research, not associated with PsyMax, has shown introverts to be among the most creative people."

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Recommended Reading: The Heart and Art of Netweaving

Here is a review of "The Heart and Art of Netweaving," by Richard Littell. I haven't read this book but it sounds great and seems to reinforce a lot of the ideas I talk and write about. I just heard about it from Marketing Mentor client and copywriter, Mary McCauley-Stiff, of Five Star Writing. (Review written by Joe Carroll and published in the Gwinnett Business Journal)
"The Heart and Art of Netweaving," by Richard Littell

This book is about how to build long-term relationships
both on a business and personal level. It is squarely
grounded in the fundamental belief that what goes
around comes around. Author Robert S. Littell draws
a sharp line between networking and netweaving.

He portrays networking as a very "superficial"
process in which people exchange business cards,
have short conversations and try to immediately
establish if the person is a prospect or someone
that can solve their problem. If there is no match,
they move on to the next person.
It is not a situation where people really get to know each other.

Netweaving, on the other hand, seeks to help
someone else out without expecting a return favor.
It takes the "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours"
concept out of the equation. The whole concept is built
around the law of reciprocity. It is an altruistic concept
which puts other people's needs above your own.
However, the author implies that if you do it often enough,
sooner or later, good things will come back to you.
The author also encourages his readers to
become "netweaving ambassadors."

A netweaving ambassador, or "power netweaver," is someone
who has become very skilled in connecting other people and
becoming a resource for others. They know the right questions
to ask and are skilled in the art of listening. They follow up
and follow through in order to maintain the relationship
and take it to the next level.

Littell provides three key questions that he says
help others to open up:

  • Tell me the story of how you landed your
    biggest account, or landed your best client or customer?
  • What is your most burning problem, need or
    opportunity with which I might be able to help?
  • What is your strategic advantage?

All of these questions are designed to break through
the superficiality level and get to know and understand
people better so you are in a better position to help them.

Not everyone that you meet will become members of your
network for a variety of reasons. A key requirement is
the trust factor. If you can't trust the person that you are
developing a relationship with, then chances are you will
not be able to refer him to other people in your network.
Littell also says that you don't keep score in networking,
but if you are giving and giving and never getting anything
back, then that person is a "taker" and not a "giver".
It may be time to move on.

How to provide referrals is also an important
aspect of the netweaving process.

The author distinguishes three types of levels.
Level one is where you simply give someone a name
and phone number of someone you feel would benefit
from meeting this person. With level two, you add
an e-mail or a note or perhaps a personal letter and
describe why the two people would greatly benefit
by meeting each other. With level three, you actually
make a phone call in addition to the e-mail or letter
to further expand on why the two people should meet.

This concept of helping others is not for everyone.
The world is full of givers and takers. Takers will have
no patience for developing relationships because
it takes time and commitment. For those who truly
enjoy helping others, this book can give you a wealth
of solid techniques to help you start to build your network.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Book Excerpt: What to do if you've offended a colleague

The last 2 chapters of Stop Pushing Me Around are a "Communcations Cheat Sheet" of all sorts of situations and strategies for handling them. Here's an example:

Situation: You’ve offended a colleague without knowing it

Strategy: You can’t control how other people hear and react to what you say. If you suspect that you might have offended someone, acknowledge it with, " If I offended you in any way when I [said, did, did not say, did not do] something, I'd like to apologize."

From there:

* Offer an explanation of your thinking (or lack of thinking) process to help the other person understand your point of view.

* Be curious about how it was perceived. Use the opportunity to learn a little bit about that person.

* Ask what you can do to resolve the issue. Though you can’t take back what you did or said, ask what you can do to make the person feel better. (Sometimes asking the question is plenty.) Be creative and take the initiative to offer suggestions as to what you can do to minimize the results of your mistake.

* Keep it all in perspective. Usually we panic in the moment over something that, looking back, we realize is not that significant. Try to bring that hindsight into the present moment. If you handle this well, it’s likely that your relationship will improve as a result of the bump.

What do you think? Any other ideas or perspectives on this issue? Please comment, if you do.

(Excerpted from Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive (Career Press, 2006). Order your copy here.)