As a professional speaker, I enjoy engaging with the perspective brought by audience members. Sometimes their input actually reminds me of things to include next time.
One night, I was speaking at a CIMA event and describing the two essential elements for having a secure career (we all know secure jobs are a thing of the past!).
Thanks to a comment from the back of the room I recognised there are actually three essential elements ...
My own journey and also helping hundreds of people with theirs has taught me a lot about what underpins career success. Since working in recruitment, outplacement, career guidance, and executive mentoring/coaching over the past 25 years, I've come to see that ongoing success depends on just three things:
1. What You Have to Offer
As we move through life we continually build skills, knowledge and experience.
Add that to our natural talents, education, personal characteristics and cultural background, and we become a unique person with enormous potential to help certain people with certain problems.
What you know and what you can do will be of value to someone somewhere.
Your biggest risk is that you don't effectively communicate (or even recognise!) the value you can bring.
Being able to know it and communicate it really helps. The task is then to find the right audience ....
2. Your Connectedness
Connections (i.e. relationships) can provide you with a smooth pathway to people, places and information that are not always so easy to access.
There is an old saying, "It's not what you know but who you know." That is a clue to the importance of connectedness.
Of course, as many have pointed out, it is really about who knows you.
Some people focus on the quantity of connections. The real power is in the quality of your connections. I don't mean the quality of the people. I mean the quality of the connections.
For example, you could have 1000 connections on LinkedIn or 1500 friends on Facebook, but how do those people see you? How well do they really know you? Would every single one of them happily recommend you to their important clients/colleagues or closest friends?
The true measure of your connectedness is the degree to which you are:
And by the way, as Stephen M.R. Covey points out in his excellent book, "Speed of Trust," trust applies to two aspects of a person:
(a) their character (e.g. would you be happy for them to look after your home for a week?)
(b) their competence (e.g. are they able to do the job someone has entrusted them to do?)
When it comes to being liked, I realise that it is futile to expect that from everyone. However, I think it is important to keeping working at becoming likeable in the way you engage with everyone. That doesn't mean being a person who is constantly "nice" (aka "a doormat!"), but one who interacts with people in a way where you raise their status and your own at the same time. In other words, you show respect to them and yourself at all times.
Even if you disagree about something, they feel seen, understood, and truly respected. (Of course, we all know that, in an argument, when people start saying, "With the greatest respect ..." it often means they actually don't have that much respect!)
3. Your Self-Confidence
Thanks to the audience member that night, I was reminded how critical this factor is.
In fact, without it, nothing else works.
Nobody would want to have a fabulous house sitting on weak foundations. The whole thing is going to inevitably collapse and be worthless!
You can have a fantastic capacity to contribute and even lots of quality connections, but if you've lost confidence and self-esteem, nothing will work.
That is a tragedy for you. It is also a tragedy for others. The people you could have helped in your own unique and brilliant way won't get the opportunity to enjoy that!
So how to you build and maintain the confidence?
You need to hang around people who believe in you, and people who have a the capacity to see (and draw out) the potential in others.
You need to become aware of the stories in your head. Notice what you are believing to be "true." Notice how you react when you believe that it's true. Be willing to take another perspective. This is what Byron Katie is so good at teaching.
Ironically, it is actually quite arrogant to believe our own limiting thoughts. As Wayne Dyer once said, "Nobody knows enough to be pessimistic!"
When you learn to stop simply believing (without question) the negative stories in your head, you free yourself to notice the positive things you do each day, and are also more able to recall the many successes you've had from the past.
Of course, you're not perfect. None of us are, but you have a much healthier and balanced outlook. As many have pointed out, it is about having self-compassion and self-acceptance even when you're having a crap day. These can liberate us to find a deeper level of confidence.
For example, my talk didn't start well that night. As a professional, I know it is important to have a strong start and on this occasion, I hadn't prepared one and rambled for a couple of minutes. In the past I would have panicked, beat myself up and actually undermined the rest of my session. Instead I simply noticed it, forgave myself and made a note to do it differently next time.
I didn't catch the name of the man at the back who made the comment in that talk, but I thank him for the reminder of this essential third element, which I am now passing on to you.