“I totally lack confidence,” one of my clients said when she walked in my office. It's a problem for many women, but particularly for her, as she worked in Alaska’s oil patch, surrounded by type-A personalities jostling for rank.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“At quarterly, company-wide meetings, when I’m asked questions to which I know the answer. I freeze. Or I say something, but am so tongue tied, I sound uncertain. My boss likes me and knows that I know what I’m doing, but I’m about to lose my job.”
My job as her coach, was to turn the situation around and fast. She needed to learn how to perform when asked hard questions in meetings and in front of male coworkers who could wither her and each other with scornful looks.
First, I had to get her to believe she could change. Here’s the experiment that convinced her and you can try for yourself. You’ll be surprised.
Stand with both feet firmly planted and turn your head and torso to look at the furthest place you can see on the wall or out the window. Memorize that spot. Now return to face the computer screen, with your feet in the same position.
Before you make this turn for the second time, and with your feet in the same place, imagine a cloud of bright, empowering light that massages the back of your head, upper shoulders and back, all the way to your waistline. Let yourself fully get the benefit of this massaging cloud by spending a moment in your mind, imagining how it massages you until you feel more relaxed, supple and flexible. Now, turn and see how far you see on the wall or out the window. If you’re like most who’ve tried this, you’ll see one to four inches further.
What happened? Your mind did.
When my client and I talked, she told me she built a picture in her mind of how the others at the next quarterly meeting would ridicule her ideas.
“Do you actually know your stuff?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“And you’re the subject matter expert in your area?” I challenged.
“What if you imagined they’d think she knows her stuff?” I asked.
She laughed and said, “That’s what my manager says.”
“How about believing it?”
Next, I had to get her willing to step outside her comfort zone, so she could practice speaking in easier situations and build up her confidence before the next quarterly meeting, coming up in six weeks.
“Where else can you speak?”
“I’m not a speaker,” she said.
“Growth happens when you push through the wall of your comfort zone,” I said. “Where can you speak?”
In reality, she had multiple opportunities, at her kids’ school, in several committee meetings, and at her church.
“Seize every opportunity,” I challenged, “you’re preparing.”
Pushing through begins when you pick a task outside your comfort zone, one which slightly scares or intimidates you, and keep doing it until you get it right. Trying is success, whether you initially succeed in the task or not.
The best part – my client learned others found value when she spoke in meetings – she took that sense of herself into her quarterly meeting. When asked questions, she gathered her thoughts together and spoke clearly and articulately, and kept her job.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you’d like Lynne to answer, write her @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.
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