1. Keep it Real
Oscar Wilde says, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” We often get caught up in trying to impress others until we forget to show our true selves — holding back opinions, squashing our creative ideas, and downplaying our personalities, all due to the fear of being judged.
Recently at a leadership competition in San Francisco, several groups of leaders from different companies were asked to judge a group of people that were selling their ideas. Seven out of eight participants were advanced marketers. Apparently, the judges made the least obvious pick — the one and only engineer-guy. To everybody’s surprise, he took all the audiences on an eye-opening presentation laced with Star Wars metaphors and extremely revealing statements. However, it was accepted very well because it was true. The engineer came up as a creative problem solver with a sense of humor, and needless to say, that presentation was the one that everyone remembered because it was authentic and brilliant.
2. Make Deposits, Not Withdrawals
Just like a bank, every interaction that you have is like a deposit or withdrawal. People either feel energized after working with you — or exhausted. To make sure you’re in the former camp, examine the factors that contribute toward deposits. Are you easy to work with? Do you give undivided attention during conversations? Do you support your team during peak periods of stress? Are you leaving conversations making others feel empowered, motivated, and energized? These are great leadership qualities that will help you grow your deposits.
As I share this advice, one vice president that I worked with comes to mind. He was known as a technology innovator and leads one of the largest team at the company. He knows very well that positive emotion accelerates innovation. As such, he made a concerted effort to leave inspiring end in most of his conversations.
Try to give full attention to the person you are speaking. People are often distracted in their own thoughts. When you’re having a conversation with someone, give your undivided attention and pay a close watch to your non-verbal gestures. Give eye contacts, and don’t get distracted by the 10 action items waiting for you (or your phone!). The more focused you are in your conversations, the more you’ll get out of them, and the more deposits you’ll make.
3. Get Comfortable With Pressure
In the business world, professionals are defined by how they handle stress — called as “cope-ability.” Whether you’re presenting in front of a massive audience or dealing with customer service, nailing the pressure moments will define a lasting impression.
Pay attention to how you cope with various situations, and start to be comfortable towards it. In fact, go out of your way to face new challenges. After a long practice, you’ll be more immune to pressure and it becomes easier to overcome. Similar to muscle memory, where the act becomes a routine, your body just goes into autopilot. Being in your comfort zone for too long only makes it easier for you to crack under pressure. But if you’re constantly in the “stretch” zone, you’ll create a habit of performing well no matter what the pressure level is.
4. Be Bright, Be Brief, Be Gone
This tip is something that has been stuck with me ever since a coaching session I had few years ago. It’s all about being an expert in your line of work and presenting your ideas in a succinct and effective way. Thus, you need to know what’s your ace and your weaknesses. Then don’t be afraid to try multiple possible solutions and bring up ideas to discussions. Whether you’re presenting at a meeting or having an impromptu chat with your boss, nail your point with simple language and simple solutions. Be bright, be brief, be gone — and you’ll always be remembered.
5. Get Elected
You often hear the advice to “manage up” and to promote yourself, make sure the higher-ups know about your achievements. In fact, many people in the corporate world have climbed the ranks this way. Ask yourself this question, “Do I work with a diverse group of people at all levels?” If you do, great. If you don't, look for ways to extend your network into a broader set of colleagues. Do not be afraid to interact with your superiors, it’ll result in more inclusion, buy-in, and a more successful career all around.