Monday, February 6, 2012

Power, Service, Value

You say you are hugely confident (and bossy!) at home but mouse-like at work.  You say you need to gain self-confidence (which I think you already have LOTS of).  This really has to do with your relationship to power.  When you walk into a room and

•  you’re not sure of your knowledge,
•  you believe you’re not in control, and
•  you decide to continue the deference you learned  in the presence of power,

THAT’s when you become less confident.  You are hardly alone in your fear, and it can suit the powerful to rattle their swords at you.  But 90% of the time it’s you deciding to be scared. 

It gets easier as you get older – being with power – but vestiges always remain.  A few examples from my life:  (1) I am on the board of an organization whose other members are highly successful men.  (2)  I went to a ball last night that I knew would be dominated by the young, beautiful and chic.  (3) Because of my husband, I’m often in the company of important political, business and union leaders.  They all bring out my Yikes!  Years ago I would’ve been cowed into a submissive silence or adopted a bravado stance that would frequently fail.  Now I have a different practice that works for me.

When you enter a room scared, it’s because you’ve brought your ego and self-interest as shields to protect you from the power game.  All that does is make you feel worse, and every experience feels like a one-down event for you. 

You need to do your pre-work.  We talked about your love of research and how to prepare yourself by doing it on the people who will be there or the subject under discussion; and to prepare questions beforehand so you’ll feel a greater measure of control.  Most of us can’t make up good questions in the heat of the moment.

That will help, but what will jolt you into an eye-to-eye position in that room is to ask yourself in advance:  How can I add value here?  How can I be of service?  You will immediately leave your timid self-centeredness which loathes the power game, and leap onto a platform whose center is the work to achieve and the creating of something better, a far more interesting prospect than the state of your quivering ego. 

If you take time to answer these questions, you will enter power experiences with an eagerness that will surprise you.  You will be taken out of your self-absorption.  You will have more fun.  You will be more useful.  You will also learn that the powerful are human, not that different from you and – frankly – they prefer hanging out with people who don’t leap in terror at their bark.  Okay, there are exceptions, but usually everyone else in the room agrees they’re jerks.

Here’s what you’ll find:  You will never completely get over that fear, but you will learn that your comfort level goes higher and higher up the power chain.  You will almost always feel nervous, but that's an energy you SHOULD have and you can make it work FOR you.  There will always be some powerful one who scares the hell out of you no matter what you do, but this will be rare.  You will also notice that, having worked hard to be better at this power thing, your self-confidence will have grown!

So many benefits to adopting a different attitude toward power.  Please, try it today.