After many years of leading innovative change that produces stellar results and building relationships that benefit everyone involved, a seasoned veteran in her field of expertise, let’s call her Maria, has received an invitation for a seat at “the table” – the table of an opportunity she has been dreaming of attaining for years. While she is thrilled to be invited, she also fills with a sense of anticipation and doubt, wondering if she truly belongs.
What is fascinating about Maria is that she most definitely deserves to be “at the table” and has truly earned her spot, but she’s hesitant to embrace it. Inside, she has two points of view battling within, one with pride to have received the invitation, the other an inner critic that tells herself “you don’t really belong here.”
This kind of internal battle of good thoughts vs. bad thoughts is something that Maria needs to overcome and she’s not alone. Most people struggle with where they should land on the spectrum of confidence vs. humility in any given situation.
Maria overcomes her fears by telling herself “I belong” until she believes it before she enters the room and takes her seat at the table, letting her positive thoughts override anything that could be standing in her way.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? We have too and learned that there are three distinct actions you can take to gain the strength and confidence you need to overcome your fears and take the seat you’ve earned.
- Be Prepared
- Lift Yourself Up
- Build Advocacy
#1. Be Prepared
Build confidence by being the most prepared person in the room.
What does that mean? How do you prepare?
- start by knowing your audience
- who the individual members are
- what each cares about
- what they’re looking for in the right person to “sit at the table”
- what else can you learn in advance about their organization and what they care about as a group
- what questions do you have that you were unable to uncover through your research
- tip: learn about members of your audience through searches on LinkedIn, Google and asking friends in common
- identify commonalities
- people you both know
- companies you’ve both worked for or with
- charitable causes that you both care about
- shared philosophies, such as servant leadership or start with why
- think through your needs
- what do you want to gain through this experience
- why is this important to you
- what do you have to offer that no one else can (your unique value)
- connect the dots
- when the time comes to meet, validate your findings by asking the team questions about what they’re looking for in the right person
- now that you know exactly what your audience wants, you can tailor your discussion to their specific needs, asking the right clarifying questions and giving them relevant examples as to how your experience relates to the experience they’re hoping for
- tip: avoid topics that spark hot debates that could be polarizing and topics that make people feel uncomfortable. Instead, focus on goals (those of the organization and yours), skills, experience and results.
#2. Lift Yourself Up
“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” – said The Little Engine That Could
Similar to this classic children’s tale, we sometimes need to lift ourselves up with mantras, affirmation statements or other words of encouragement.
- be kind in your thoughts
- “I have worked hard and have earned my seat at this table”
- “I welcome this opportunity with open arms”
- “I am grateful that my life’s work and path has led me here”
- “I belong.”
- “I pursue my best in attitude, effort and achievement and will bring these qualities to this new opportunity.”
- “I appreciate that those who are evaluating me have their own needs to consider. I will control what I can by sharing what I can do for them as I strive to improve their situation.”
- look and feel
- the way that you look and feel about yourself should exude confidence, pride and feeling great overall
- before your meeting, fuel yourself up with food that energizes you
- as you walk in, and throughout your engagement, stand tall, visibly showing your confidence and pride – need a little help? practice a power pose before your meeting – learn more in Amy Cuddy’s famous TED TALK
- dress for success by ensuring that whatever you choose to wear makes you feel confident, adding to your presentation versus detracting from it
#3. Building Advocacy
When a person of influence believes in you, it’s easier for others to imagine themselves believing in you too.
Need proof of this fundamental truth in human nature? Companies invest billions in celebrity endorsements (Nike alone spent over $9.4B in 2016). Social Media success is often measured by the number of “followers” and “likes” you have. Would you hire someone to dogsit, housesit or babysit for you without a referral or checking references?
- give your audience peace of mind
- ideally, you will have someone “at the table” who will vouch for you
- next best is a recommendation from a trusted friend of someone “at the table” who has first hand knowledge of your experience
- if you are a bit of an unknown, have a list of references ready to share
- don’t underestimate the value of creating advocates amongst those you’ve just met who have a seat that the table – build rapport and show your value in your meeting and some members of the team may become your best advocates of all
While feeling that you belong can be a psychological hurdle that you need to overcome, you can do it! Being prepared, lifting yourself up and building advocacy within will strengthen your chances of securing your seat at the table of an opportunity you had once only dreamed of. Close your eyes and imagine yourself where you want to be, having earned your spot. How does that make you feel? Now open your eyes and go forth to seize the opportunity you desire.