15 September 2015

It May Not Sound Perfect – Speak Up Anyhow

My story’s a good one: my writing voice isn’t unique; I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation. This story has allowed me to take a pass multiple times and not do much writing, which I don’t like and don’t feel particularly competent nor confident doing. When asked to write an article or submit a written response to something, I frequently find reasons for not doing it. But the reality is, my story is holding me back – I’ll never be a perfect writer, I may never feel that what I put out into the written universe is good enough and adds enough value to the already- crowded conversations happening online and in print. But I’m doing it anyhow by accessing my confidence and acknowledging that although I’ll never be completely satisfied with what I write, I have worthwhile things to contribute to the conversation. I’ve got several practices for finding my writing voice, capturing it, and submitting it for others to read, including envisioning how satisfied I’ll feel completing a writing assignment, and knowing that by sharing my thoughts and contributing to the conversation I may be helping others.

Many of my coaching clients have good stories as well. One of my favorites and often repeated one goes something like this: I didn’t speak up at that meeting because I wasn’t sure I have all the info, and anyhow, everything of value has already been said. Sound familiar?

These smart storytellers are missing opportunities to contribute more fully because their stories are powerful: they don’t believe they’re prepared enough or perhaps they’re simply not confident in what they have to contribute. It’s easy to hold ourselves back and make our stories a reality.

Earlier this year I was working with a senior association leader, Susan (*named changed), who was identified by her CEO as a rising star in the organization. He said she had a tremendous grasp of the complexities of the work and had a fantastic ability to complete projects on time and on budget. However, Susan’s boss told her he wanted to hear more from her; he shared that people were very impressed with her work, but wanted to better understand her unique voice, and learn from her.  When Susan and I talked about it she said she wasn’t comfortable speaking up yet because she didn’t feel that she had enough knowledge and experience to handle all the issues and questions that would surely come her way if she put herself out there. After further conversation, she admitted she wanted to be in control and would speak up only when she was certain she had all the answers to all the questions.

Well, the truth is we are rarely, if ever, going to feel fully prepared (and confident of perfection) when a great opportunity comes our way — and we have to be okay with that.

Susan’s boss presented her with a great opportunity. He believes she can do great things – even before she thinks she is ready. He believes this because she has proven herself – not that she’s perfect, but that she is competent and a valued member of the team. Susan tapped into her confidence and got out of her own way by visualizing herself succeeding and focusing on the fact that her boss thought she had information she could teach to others. I’m happy to report that she is thriving today.

Individuals, like organizations, grow and thrive by taking risks, by accessing their confidence even when they don’t feel 100% competent…and stepping out even when they’re not perfect!

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