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Unleash your creativity: Saying Yes to Change

You know how for the last few years there’s been a whole conversation about how women should learn to say no? Well, today I’d like to invite you to unleash your creativity by learning when NOT to say no! Come with me!

Between February 4 and 6 2014 there was a transportation strike in London during which some Tube (subway) stations were closed. If you are a commuter, you can empathize with the pain our friends across the pond must have felt. For two days, the Underground stopped and people had to figure out a different route to get to work.

As we all know commuters are masters of efficiency. For years they’ve studied to the millisecond the best routes, shortcuts and timesaving schemes until they arrived to the “perfect” one. So, having their routine suddenly interfered with created more than a bit of anger.

When the dispute was over, most people went back to their old routine. But a substantial minority did not. In what turned out to be an unplanned, yet, a great social experiment, about 5 % of commuters discovered a new, more effective (or maybe more pleasurable) way to get to and from work every day. Why do I tell you this story? Because it reveals that sometimes, to unleash your creativity, you need a major, unexpected disruption.

Necessity is the mother of invention inspirational quote

You don’t need to wait for a disruption to practice your creativity. You can set your own disruptions deliberately.

Rejecting change may get in the way of unleashing your creativity

The reality is that most of us resist disruptions even when they pretty small. They entail changes in our plans, routines or expectations. The train is late; your client cancels and appointment; it rains the day of your annual picnic; your favorite coffee house is closed when you’re craving a shot of espresso, and a million other circumstances that face us daily.  Suddenly, we become children ready to throw a tantrum and it’s all you can do to hold the fumes building inside and not give into the tantrum completely.

But what would happen if at the moment the disruption takes place, right when you hear that the flight is cancelled for instance, you said, “Wow, the news sucks but let me think for a second about how to do something unusual with this circumstances.”

It’s not easy to change direction when things don’t go as you expect. Sometimes, the emotional toll is hard to deal with. But the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Many great innovations were born of mistakes, of disruptions and /or extreme situations where people were forced outside of their comfort zone. That’s what pumps your brain to come up with new solutions. That’s why disruptions can seriously help unleash your creativity and we’d all be better off embracing them.

Being more creative is about embracing change. Pictures taken at a recent Red Shoe Movement Signature Event.

A few weeks ago, I had a trip planned to Europe. The night before my trip the friend I was visiting had an emergency and asked me to cancel the trip. I immediately agreed that this was the right decision and called the airline to cancel the flight. It took me a bit longer to align my emotions with the new circumstances. We had put a lot of energy and expectations into planning this trip and the fact that I knew cancelling was the right thing to do, it was still not enough to get me out of the funk.

So I gave myself 24 hours to process the change of plans and then I bought a ticket to Seattle. Look, my bags were packed, my calendar cleared, my mind prepared for a week off. A friend of mine had just landed a new job there and I had never been to town so I said, why not. 48 hours later I was on top of the Space Needle, having a fabulous time.

Not only did I visit with my friend and enjoyed some quality time with her, I also did some serious sight seeing. But most importantly, the change of scenery enabled me to pivot from a big disappointment quickly, and make new plans rather than wallow on what should’ve or could’ve been. My conversations during the trip informed new projects I had been thinking about and the trip in general lifted the cloud that came over me as a result of the unexpected change of plans. It allowed my creative juices to flow again.

Asking questions like this one can also help unleash your creativity

Unleash your creativity on demand

There’s a story about Keith Jarrett the famous, talented jazz musician, who is always extremely meticulous about his instrument when he performs. One time in 1975, he accepted to play a concert in Cologne, Germany, despite the fact that the Opera House got him the wrong piano, one only intended for rehearsals. That concert was recorded and surprisingly, it has become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album. What Keith Jarrett did when faced with such a disastrous situation was magic. He turned lemons into lemonade. How ready and open are you to do the same? How creatively do you react to adverse situations?

No doubt that the more you practice, the better you become at turning the unexpected disruptions into sources of creative solutions. The problem is that you never know when or what will go wrong so it’s hard to practice with random life occurrences. But what if instead you set your own disruptions? If you’re looking for a great way to unleash your creativity on demand, here are 5 ideas to consider.

Few things accelerate your creativity as saying yes to change. Try it! Photo insert credit: Pnina Yuhjtman.

Here are 5 disruptions to unleash your creativity:

1Assign the role of contrarian to someone in your group. It’s natural for a group of people who work together to try to arrive to agreements, and that’s fine. In the end, we need to push towards one common goal or project. But that one common project could be much more creative if you consider as many different points of view as possible before settling for the best idea. If you make sure one person has the role to come up with what’s wrong with what everyone agrees on, it will force the group to continue improving on the idea.

2Interrupt yourself strategically. Rather than working on a project from beginning to end without taking a break, stop. Set up an alarm at a random number of minutes and no matter where you are at stop, get up, take a walk, make yourself a cup of coffee or make a phone call. (Or rather than ignoring it, follow your smart watch instructions to get up and walk 250 steps every hour!) Interrupting your thinking flow makes you come back to the project with new eyes.  Now you may think you get interrupted a million times by beeping sounds from your electronic devices anyway. Not the same thing. Those interruptions are counter productive as they don’t allow enough time to dive into a project. The idea is to dive in deep and then stop. So silence your devices and just set up your alarm. You can do this with anything: while writing a blog, creating a presentation, developing a product, etc.

3Change roles. Try to rotate roles even for a day. Ask your boss for the opportunity to spend a day, a week or a month in someone else’s shoes. It could be in a different function, or location. Talk about a real change of perspective.

4 Shake up your flex-policy. A great way to unleash your creativity could come from reversing the days you work from home and from the office. Or, if you have never taken advantage of this policy, it may be time to try it. This simple change will likely throw your routine off and it will force you to come up with creative solutions for everyday problems.

5Pick a different route or way to get to work. Create your own transportation disruption and either chose a different route to get to work or a new mode of transport. Do you usually take the train? Use your bike. Do you normally drive? Ask a colleague for a lift.

Lateral thinking is a great strategy to foster your creativity!
Inspirational quote

Test your comfort zone often…

Even small disruptions like going to the bathroom on a different floor can elicit new conversations with people you don’t usually see. And who knows where those conversations may lead?

If you really want to unleash your creativity, it’s important to embrace change and say yes to those things that make you uncomfortable. They may prove to be the spark you need to take things to the next level.

 

 

5 Tips to Stay Cool Under Pressure When Things Don’t Go as Planned

What happens when the worst November snowstorm in history hits New York City on the inaugural day of your leadership development event? You roll with it baby! Here are a few insights on how to stay cool under pressure when things don’t go as you planned.

The snow had already piled high on the ground and was falling at a fast clip as my team and I were arriving at the WarnerMedia building in Columbus Circle. We tried to keep our boots out of the puddles that were quickly forming in the sidewalk while keeping our heads down to avoid messing up our hairdos. It wasn’t easy.

The worst snowstorm to hit New York City in November had caught it unprepared. And of course it had to fall on the day when we were hosting “Celebrating True Inclusion Stars” with a Cocktail Reception and an Awards Ceremony. It was the evening before our 7thannual RSM Signature Event and we were honoring leaders who had won the Hall of Fame and Red Shoe Leader awards during 2018. Guests were coming from Europe, Central and South America, Canada and the U.S. Thankfully, the out-of-towners had arrived right before the storm. The biggest problem for most people was to get to the venue from their hotels and homes.

As you can imagine, we were bombarded by messages from people being stuck in the highway, or without a cab. And from executives to honorees to our team members who had a role in the event who couldn’t make it.  It was one of those moments when your patience and trouble-shooting skills are sorely tested. One of the opportunities to truly practice your executive presence.

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony- A great example of someone who knows how to stay cool under pressure.

Insights on how to stay cool under pressure

1Have a back up person for every key player

As can be expected when you put together a major event, last minute challenges are the norm. The day before the Cocktail Reception, we almost lost our EMCEE who wasn’t feeling great. As we anxiously searched for a replacement (and luckily found one) he called back to inform us he was doing better and was pretty sure he’d be fine for the next two days. But the truth is we hadn’t even thought about having a stand-in for our EMCEE. Big mistake. You should treat your leadership event as theater producers treat every play. They have understudies at the ready for each main actor.

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

2Train every member of your team to play more than one role

Some of the most important “losses” we experienced as a result of the storm were in our own staff. We didn’t learn about these absences until the very, very last minute as they were trying to reach our location and got stuck for several hours on the road. So a decision needed to be made right then and there to tell them to turn back and go home safely while we reassigned their responsibility to someone else. Now, how can you do this if nobody else knows the task at hand? We had a large team who knew what the event needed to look like, and what was expected of each person. Everyone had a general idea of what the others were responsible for. So it was relatively easy to delegate the roles to different people on the spot.

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

3Script as much as possible

I don’t mean to suggest that you should micromanage the team. But when you put together a leadership development event or any other kind of event, there are certain key aspects that need to be scripted. From the remarks everyone in your team will deliver, to the flow of the event, to the bios of key participants, and so on. The more you can put into writing the easier it becomes to provide the script to someone that has to quickly stand in for someone else.

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award- In charge of the Panama Canal expansion, Ilya led for years this massive infrastructure project staying cool under the most intense pressure.

4Use humor and engage the audience

Resorting to humor when things don’t go as planned is one of the best tactics to stay cool under pressure. Being transparent about what’s happening and what’s wrong fosters empathy and as a result builds patience. It helps you get people to cut you some slack.

As the storm delayed some of our honorees, we had to shift the order in which they were being asked to come up to stage to receive their award and say a few words.

The slides had been prepared with the AV department as a PDF, however, and they could not be shifted from their original order. So, we went around changing the name signs on the seats to keep straight the order in which each honoree was supposed to go on stage. But we couldn’t change the order on the slides projected on a movie-size screen. We had to play with the clicker moving the slides back and forth to find the right honoree. As this job fell on me, I made fun of the situation: “Moving back in time, we now call x” or “And now, we enter the time machine again and we move forward to y…” Making the audience part of the joke helps to keep things light and irons out any wrinkles in your perfectly planned presentation.

Even one the directors of our event, Teresa Correa,  opened up the Award Ceremony by saying that the snowstorm showed the power of the Red Shoe Movement to give guests a true New York City experience.

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

5Be present with those who are present

When it comes to putting together a large event, there’s a common reaction when something happens (like a snowstorm) and not all the people who had confirmed their attendance can make it. I’ve been in many a conference when the organizers spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about those who didn’t come. The truth is that you should have the best event for those who did. And rather than spending time disregarding the audience you have, you should always be gracious, and grateful to them for showing up. That’s what we always do and this time was no different. Although, surprisingly, we hit the numbers we were hoping for, we could’ve had a lot more. We acknowledge the unsuccessful efforts others had made to join us and left it at that. The rest of the evening was focused on making our guests have a wonderful time.

Yes, this post is about a professional event and a snowstorm. But many of these tips work for any other kind of situation when you need to remain cool under pressure.  When you have a seemingly impossible deadline, when you’re faced with any type of work-related crises or with the upcoming holidays. Preparing for it, using humor and rolling with the punches is a strategy that always works in your favor.

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

Negotiation tactics and insights that women shouldn’t miss

If you tend to shy away from negotiations you’re not alone. Many women do. So I sat with a negotiation expert to find out some negotiation tactics and insights we could all use. Read on!

If you had a chance to pick the brain of negotiation expert Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida, the Academic Director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University, what would you ask her? Leave your question in the comments section!

I chose to focus on proven negotiation tactics that women don’t usually take advantage of. Granted, Dr. Fisher-Yoshida wears many hats. She’s the Co-Executive Director of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) and the Director of the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Program, both housed in the Earth Institute at Columbia University. She also has her own consulting firm, Fisher Yoshida International which leads organizations through change by improving communication and aligning their mission and vision. But negotiation seems to be weaved into all her activities.

Negotiation advice and insights for women from one of the leaders in the space.

Negotiation advice and insights for women from one of the leaders in the space.

Mariela Dabbah— You have a Ph.D in Human and Organizational Systems and an M.A. in Organization Development from Fielding Graduate University, and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University. At what point in your career did you decide to become a negotiation expert?

Beth Fisher-Yoshida— It was early in my career. I started my work in negotiation while doing cross-cultural communications while I lived in Japan. There I learned intercultural communications and conflict resolution. I had started my career in Special Education but realized that I wanted to advance beyond being a teacher. I was interested in working with people, not in advancing as an administrator. So I started to work with adults in learning and development in Japan where I had gone to learn art. I became involved in intercultural communications, moved into working with adults in organizations. And then I went back to school for my second masters and my doctorate. I find that intercultural communications, conflict resolution and negotiation are overlapping areas.

MD— Why do you think negotiation has always been a sore subject for so many women? I confess that for a long time it was a difficult topic for me too.

BFY—I think there’s a stigma attached to it. Women are fearful of it because the traditional way of negotiating is very male oriented so women shied way from it. They didn’t think they were good enough for it. It had an image of you have to be tough, play hardball tactics, bang on the desk with your fist. It’s counter cultural to how women were raised to be: Nurturing, empathetic, consensus builders. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many women are naturally inclined to build relationships. So if I think of negotiation as a way to build relationships, I have a natural tendency to negotiate. It’s all about how we frame it. Men and women in some way can use the same negotiation techniques and in some ways not, because their behavior is not understood the same way. When a man is tough, it works. For a woman it comes across as a being the “b” word.

Don't miss: 3 Key Negotiation Strategies for Women!

MD— What situation comes to mind when you think of one of the most difficult negotiations you undertook through your career?

BFY—I had a very difficult negotiation in Japan when I was having a performance review with my manager. I was negotiating my performance review and was questioning how I was being measured in order to try and understand. He misunderstood my line of questioning. It took months…

Another example. I’m an expansive thinker, I like to brainstorm, and to me, rules are something to be looked at but with which you can be flexible. So for me, a challenging negotiation is when I work with people who think rules are very strict. They become very stubborn about sticking to the rules and they become contentious when they see you’re trying to be more flexible. Unless I back down and take a strategic look, the negotiation will stall. They feel backed into a corner and they need to defend their honor or principles, and when people are not relaxed their brain becomes more rigid.

A good sign to look for is when someone repeats something over and over. It means they are not listening any more. They may feel threatened and they feel they need to defend themselves. They lose ability to entertain possibilities. This is called cognitive rigidity. They get stuck in a certain mindset. Earlier in my career I would’ve continued to push my agenda. Now, I know that I have to take a step back. My suggestion is first, try not to create that scenario but if you see the negotiation going that way, back away from that scenario. It can be even worse when you both go into a space of rigidity.

5 Successful Negotiation Tactics and Insights You Can’t Miss

MD— Could you highlight for us some of the most successful negotiation tactics you’ve seen?

BFY— Let’s look at a few.
1Relational orientation. One of the most successful negotiation techniques is a willingness to collaborate. When people are attuned to what they want and what others want in the negotiation and everyone wants to be flexible on how you come to an agreement. There are different ways of getting there and it’s a question of exploring what works best. They care about the other party because they want to have a long- term relationship. Relational orientation is a very successful negotiation tactic to keep in mind.

2Manage your emotions. If there’s a situation where people are getting emotionally elevated, they are losing their perspective or their calmness, a good tactic is to disturb that moment. Practice breathing and mentally or physically (suggest a ten-minute break) separate from the situation and come back to it. Stop it from escalating out of control.

3Good listening. Listening at multilevels. Not only listen for what you want to hear but also listen for what’s not being said, and for what’s important to the other person. Ask yourself: “What’s going on here? What do I really want to know to open up the other party?” People reveal more than they think. If you listen well, you’ll find out a lot. Ask the right questions. Not just the yes or no kind of questions.

4Preparation. Most people don’t take enough time to prepare. They want to wing the negotiation. As long as things go a certain way you are okay but if they detour you don’t know how to do deal with the situation. If you prepare backup plans you can turn the negotiation in several different ways. Otherwise you get stuck and then you walk away frustrated. You waste an opportunity to build the relationship and have a good negotiation.

5Clarify the issues you’re negotiating. Sometimes we think we are here for the same issues but we may not. At the beginning of the negotiation set the scope to make sure you are negotiating the same issues.

Sometimes junior women in their careers have said to me “I didn’t know I could negotiate that.” It’s important to know what’s negotiable for you and for others. And you learn what those boundaries are for yourself and for others. When you hit a wall and you’re offensive to the other person, you need to know what that person’s boundaries are so that you don’t continue pushing and closing the door.

Dr. Beth-Yoshida leads groups discussions on negotiation tactics

Dr. Beth-Yoshida leads groups discussions on negotiation tactics

MD— If you had to say which negotiation tactics women tend to shy away from, which ones come up?

BFY— Women tend to shy away from negotiations when they start to tell themselves they are not experienced enough, or not good enough so they don’t challenge themselves or the other party. They want be nice, they don’t want to ruffle feathers. So it’s about asking for what they want but also about how they ask. Men and women can’t assert themselves the same way. Women have to find their voices. They shouldn’t sound like they are whining or getting emotional when they ask for what they want.

It’s hard for women to have a strong self-advocacy because they don’t want to sound as bragging or egotistic (even if they qualify for whatever they are asking.) They want to be noticed without having to brag about themselves. But the truth is that they won’t. Other people will pass you by.

Another area where they shy away is if they are working mothers they don’t want to be seen as not carrying their weight. So they don’t ask for any accommodation in order not to be seen as weak, even if it’s at the expense of burnout. Some women feel that if they ask for accommodation they are side tracked. It depends on the organization.

Take our Negotiation Skills Quiz!

Negotiation Tactics and Insights You can Learn

MD— You are the Academic Partner of the WIN Summit in New York City, which focuses on helping women learn negotiation tactics, so you obviously believe this is a learnable skill. What would you say is the first step women can take to shake off their discomfort around negotiation? And then, what is a good way to learn some of these key negotiation tactics you talk about?

BFY— Everything starts with self-awareness. Start focusing on all the things you have accomplished and the things you know how to do well. Know your strengths, your impact on other people, and acknowledge your achievements and your success. Focus on all those great things you did that allowed you to get to this point in your life. Then you can look at what holds you back. More often than not it is the lack of awareness of what you’ve done.

Then find negotiation techniques that fit with what you know and with your personality. Start small, negotiate with people you know, identify what you did well and build your confidence. Reframe for yourself what negotiation means. People negotiate all the time. As long as you get scared about what you think negotiation is, you’ll avoid it. But if you deconstruct what it means and you realize you’ve already been doing it for a long time, it will be easier.

A good negotiation tactic is to listen to what's not being said.

A good negotiation tactic is to listen to what’s not being said.

MD—You work with clients helping them develop customized interventions to improve the organization’s performance. What is the role of negotiation in an organization?

BFY—In the workplace there are formal and informal negotiations going on all the time. The obvious formal negotiations are: Title change, promotion, salary increase or if you are in procurement and you negotiate with a vendor. Then there are all the informal negotiations you do all day long. You are part of a team and you negotiate work assignments, responsibilities and deadlines. You build relationships with other teams and negotiate with them too. People who don’t negotiate well, don’t do well in all of these daily situations.

It’s a lot about communication. I take the negotiation principles and apply them to communicating effectively to get what you want. I don’t need to call these situations “negotiations” but you need to understand the principles and practices of negotiation in order to function effectively in an organization. Especially when organizations are going through change management. When they need to implement new procedures, and people resist and push back. They’ll say “we’ve always done it this way” and they don’t want to do it in a different way. It’s a negotiation to get them to change and communicating effectively is part of it.

This is a different kind of negotiation because you’re all working at the same organization and you are all there to fulfill its goals. You need to figure out how all the parts work together towards those goals. Identify what each part needs and how you’ll make it all work together.

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida does intensive work in Colombia

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida does intensive work in Colombia

Negotiation Tactics in Different Cultures

MD—Do different cultures use different negotiation tactics? Could you give us an example of how Latinos might negotiate with Anglos, for example?

BFY— Different cultures manage personal and professional relationships differently. Some groups need to build first the personal relationship so they can trust you, like Latinos or Japanese. Whereas Americans first want to negotiate and then socialize. This is the efficiency model. But for people with a different concept of time, building the personal relationship can take a long time but then the decisions can be made quickly because they know you.

The concept of saving face is different in different cultures. In Japan for instance, you need to go around to everyone before the meeting and make sure to get their support before you speak at the meeting. Nobody likes a surprise at the meeting. So by the time it comes around it’s just an opportunity where everyone is agreeing to agree. Here in the U.S. people can go into a meeting and brainstorm ideas, be creative. In Japan people won’t take the risk to be creative because they don’t want to be criticized or come across as being different, or make others feel uncomfortable. And if you have a more senior person in the room you don’t want to step on their toes. There’s a lot more sensitivity toward “the other” in Japan than here. Here, if I want something I’ll say it. If I step on your toes, I’ll say sorry but I’ll still move forward with the idea. In the U.S. you may see some of that orientation towards other in women who are relationship oriented.

MD— You have a new book coming out on this very topic of women and negotiation. Could you give us a small advance on some of the book’s highlights?

BFY—I’ve interviewed women about their experience negotiating in and out of the workplace. I was interested in how they developed their negotiation orientation. What influences in their lives shaped the way in which they negotiate. How they model the way they negotiate.

MD—What influences did you receive?

BFY— I always pushed myself not to back down. I felt that if you don’t try something that feeling would grow and get trapped in you. I always admired people who asked for what they wanted. For example I had an art teacher when I was 12 and she had a nice way of deflecting questions she didn’t want to answer without offending people. She negotiated that communication very well. You could feel her boundaries. Then there were women along the way that were role models. I saw what they were able to accomplish. And I also didn’t want to be the person who was silenced or lost confidence. I always pushed myself to accept challenges and figured out how to do things afterward.

You can connect with Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida via Linkedin

Turn Professional Disadvantage into Your Advantage

Thinking of turning a professional disadvantage into an advantage may sound contradictory to you. But, as Malcolm Gladwell proposes in his book David and Goliath, we often underestimate the benefits of the disadvantage.

Gladwell explains it by analyzing the biblical story of David and Goliath from a different point of view. From his perspective, David’s very inferior size, lack of protective armor, heavy weapons and training (which historically was interpreted as a disadvantage) were the reason he won the fight. That is, he did not win it despite being much smaller than Goliath. He won it because he was smaller and more agile and because he had other skills that Goliath didn’t expect from an opponent with whom he was going to have a close range combat.

A professional disadvantage can be your best advantage. Get inspired by David and Goliath's story.

A professional disadvantage can be your best advantage. Get inspired by David and Goliath’s story.

David was not an infantryman like Goliath. He was a shepherd boy used to using a sling to defend his flock from predatory beasts. Therefore, he wasn’t wearing heavy armor that limited his movements and slowed him down, as his enemy was wearing. Moreover, he didn’t occupy his hands with a shield, a spear and a sword. The boy just carried a sling and a bag with five stones.

By skillfully shooting a pebble to Goliath’s forehead, David ended the giant’s life and then cut off his head with the fallen man’s own sword.

Now, think about it. We have spent centuries using this story as an example that sometimes those who are most disadvantaged can overcome those most advantaged (the weakest beat the strongest, the poorest beat the richest, etc.) when statistics show that this turn of events takes place much more frequently than we think. It’s time to review our idea of ​​what a disadvantage is.

Don't miss 4 Simple Actions to Improve your Self Confidence
Identify your professional disadvantage and turn it into your best advantage.

Identify your professional disadvantage and turn it into your best advantage. Here Katy Sullivan, 4 times- US Champion of 100 meters, runs with her prosthetics.

Turning any professional disadvantage into an advantage

In your career it is simple to justify that whatever doesn’t go well for you happens because you have a professional disadvantage (or any kind of disadvantage for that matter.) You don’t have the right education or contacts; you don’t have the proper title; you’re overqualified or you live in the wrong town or country. What would happen if you took this apparent professional disadvantage and let it guide you towards a solution only you could identify? Something that few people without your particular professional disadvantage would even think of.

For example, your apparent professional disadvantage is that you live in an economically depressed area where the economy is broken, it is difficult to get work, and everything is an uphill battle. By carefully observing your situation you realize that the cost of living where you are is so low that you could offer products or services at attractive prices abroad. Can you use e-commerce platforms such as Freelance.com, Outsource.com or Alibaba.com to sell your product or service outside your town or your country?

Or, considering your professional disadvantage is that as the marketplace has changed, your role has been collapsed into other roles and it no longer exists as stand alone. You seem to be overqualified for most of the jobs you apply to. Could you set up a consulting business that offers services to those companies which no longer have your position as they are deemed to have unfulfilled needs?

Or suppose you are interested in running a new project in your job and the other person being considered for the position has much more experience than you. Instead of seeing your lack of experience as a professional disadvantage, take advantage of it to focus on developing good relationships with those with whom you would be working on the project in question. By doing so, you have a chance to share your unique points of view, your great creativity and your social skills. In other words, you demonstrate with facts the great value you would bring to that group if you were chosen. Suddenly, your lack of experience is no longer relevant because the team feels comfortable with you and what you bring to the table so you become the obvious choice.

Let your professional disadvantage guide your success

Let your professional disadvantage guide your success

Lateral thinking can help you figure out best way to leverage your professional disadvantage

You can read this article and say, “Yeah, it’s easier said than done. Not all professional disadvantages can be turned around.” Sure, it’s true that there are situations where you won’t come out on top. But you will always get more benefits from using your professional disadvantage as a driving force to get ahead than by letting it determine a future in which you are not happy.

So try it. You have nothing to lose. Sit down with your perceived or real disadvantage which you consider is responsible for your current frustration and let it guide you into the field with David’s confidence. With no armor, no weapons, just a sling and a bag with five stones. And see what happens.

4 Simple Actions to Improve Your Self-Confidence

At the core of most successful people there’s self-confidence. This doesn’t mean they were always (or even that they are still always) self-confident. But that they built their self-confidence enough to get them where they are. And that they continue to reinforce it so they can keep going. Don’t miss these 4 simple actions to improve your own self-confidence.

Definition of self-confidence

self-con·fi·dence

ˈˌself ˈkänfəd(ə)ns/

noun

  1. a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.
synonyms: morale, confidence, self-assurance, assurance, assertiveness, self-reliance, self-possession, composure

Differences between self-esteem and self-confidence

 

Knowing your power helps strengthen your self-esteem. Believing in what you can do and proving yourself increases your self-confidence.

Knowing your power helps strengthen your self-esteem. Believing in what you can do and proving yourself increases your self-confidence.

So that we are all on the same page, let’s start first by understanding the differences between self-esteem and self-confidence, the subject of today’s post.

Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. It refers to your self-respect. It’s slightly different from self-confidence in the sense that self-esteem refers to how much I value myself. Example: I deserve/don’t deserve to be successful. Whereas self-confidence refers to how much I believe in myself. Example: I can /can’t reach my goals.

It is useful to recognize that all of us at some point may falter in our conviction and need someone to remind us of our value, be it our families, friends, colleagues or social media followers. Someone who tells you: “you deserve it,” “you are worth it.”

But one thing is to have a moment of weakness and another is to harbor constant doubts about your worth, your knowledge, skills, etc. This is a feeling that fosters anxiety and can prevent you from developing a fulfilling career. So if you suffer from chronic low self-esteem, you may need to consult a specialist such as a therapist or a coach.

Today’s conversation focuses on self-confidence, a state of being that occasionally, even the most successful people also need to reinforce.  And the good news is that there are very effective ways to give yourself a shock of self-confidence whenever you need it.

Self Confidence Definition

Self Confidence Definition

Let’s explore these four self-confidence boosters.

1Powerful appearance

Many experts will recommend that you explore the root of your lack of self-confidence. And looking inside is always a good way to go. But today I suggest that you begin working from the outside in. Starting off with what is generally considered “superficial”. Your appearance.

There are many studies that indicate that clothing affects how we feel. And feeling good is an important step when it comes to building or reinforcing your self-confidence.

Choose a look that suits you well and with which you can connect with the world. That in itself will affect your attitude. It will give you the courage that you may lack to face certain situations or to accept a challenge. Carefully consider every detail of your outfit, including accessories, shoes (and if they are red even better!), Purse, briefcase, or bag, etc.

The same goes for grooming. A good haircut can renew your image and help raise your self-confidence. A little makeup, lipstick, and a good manicure can have a very positive effect on how we face the world. These seemingly superficial changes have a very favorable impact on how we see ourselves and therefore, how we feel.  I for one, don’t feel the same when I wear sneakers than when I wear high heels. When I wear sweatpants than when I wear a dress pants. It’s not better or worse, just different. And as different situations call for me to feel and project something specific, I always wear outfits that help me feel my best in that particular situation.

Here's a great post on how to use color to dress for success!

2Powerful postures

Amy Cuddy did the research around power poses ability to increase your self-confidence.

Amy Cuddy did the research around power poses ability to increase your self-confidence.

Maybe you heard about certain power postures that send the message of self- empowerment to the brain. Try them every day when you get up and also just before an event in which you want to stand out.

  • Hands at the waist, legs separated in superhero style.
  • V-shaped arms, legs separated in the style of a sprinter who just won a Gold Medal.
  • Standing in front of a desk or table, hands on the table, legs apart, a defiant boss-style look that says: “This is the right thing to do”.

3Powerful words

Human beings are verbal beings. We are the stories that we tell ourselves and others. The words we use to define ourselves, explain situations, and make sense of life determine who we are and the results we get.

If you want to increase your self-confidence, watch your words and eliminate from your vocabulary those that disempower you. So instead of saying: “I’m not good at this,” you can say: “I choose to take on this challenge and learn what I need to conquer it.” And very concretely, instead of “I can’t speak in public,” you can say: “I will find a coach to help me develop my public speaking skills.”

Getting rid of disempowering words will also help you find new actions that will help you achieve your goals. New actions lead to new results and positive results breed self-confidence. You see, as you repeat this cycle and build on small successes, you will continue to boost your self-esteem.

Get rid of words that disempower you. Acquire new ways to talk about yourself and what you want.

Get rid of words that disempower you. Acquire new ways to talk about yourself and what you want.

4Powerful mantras

And keeping with the theme of words, it is very valuable to create a mantra that you can repeat daily. Particularly just before a situation when you are about to get relevant exposure. Some examples:

  • I achieve everything that I set my mind to
  • I choose to be successful
  • I am an excellent negotiator
  • I give myself permission to make mistakes and learn from them
  • I got this!

I assure you that if you consistently repeat these four actions you will reap the benefits of a strong self-confidence.

And if you are looking to build your self-confidence alongside a community of like-minded professionals, join our Step Up program where we work on all the soft-skills needed to take you to the next level. Get a dose of daily inspiration on Instagram.

Join the Step Up program and be you, amplified!

Join the Step Up program and be you, amplified!