Here are 3 lessons I learned from speaking at the AASCF (Alberta Association for Services for Children and Families) conference in Edmonton.
Lesson #1 - Don't try to conform
Ah, my rocks. Rock painting started out as an activity for my daughter and I to do last summer o a camping trip. What do you do with a 16-year-old for a week camping by the river with limited cell services? I thought maybe rock painting might be fun. We took a trip gathering a bunch of rock and enjoyed goofing around with each other. I started painting them, but she lost interest pretty quick. She enjoyed watching my interest though that did not end with the closing of our week. As summer progressed, I became fascinated with gathering rocks and painting them. Throughout the fall, my family more than tolerated our kitchen table strewn with rocks, they encouraged me. That's all fine and good, when it is your family. But seriously? Who would care? Who would like them?
After reaching out tentatively to favourable responses, I decided to take them with me as tokens of gratitude from my booth at the conference. Now lets see, there were pens of course, shopping bags, shopping cart tokens, flashlights, candies, stress balls and .... at my table, home made painted rocks. Hmmmm.
The rocks were a hit!
By noon, all 60 rocks that I had envisioned lugging back home with me were gone. What impressed me most, was the meaning they had to people. From simply the meaning of rocks in people's lives to the messages on them, people told me stories. "My friend tells me that all the time" says one lady about the bright yellow rock embossed with an even brighter orange sunshine, reminding the reader, to Bring the Sunshine. A man holds one and with an ache in his heart, tells me, "My son needs to hear this message" You are Enough. Another visitor asks if she can take one for a youth she is seeing later and chooses Just be You. One lady ready for a new stage in her life took with her the eraser shaped pink rock Fresh Start.
Had I worried (more than I actually did) about what others would think of my rocks and they they weren't professional enough, all of those people would not have been touched in a way they needed in that moment. Conforming to the way others do things brings mediocrity. Being fully and authentically me brings gifts I hadn't even considered. In the end, it wasn't about me.
Question: Do you try to fit in, blend in or conform?
What could you do that would make you stand out as an individual who has their own set of beliefs, ideals and ways of doing things?
Lesson #2 - Confidence comes from within
My session called Leadership GRIT didn't start until 9:45 on Friday morning. The "always be prepared" part in me went to my room to set up early. It was a good thing. A couple of mishaps (not enough seats) were fixed and I had time to spare. I could have started rehearsing my session again, going over notes and ensuring the slide show was just right, but I didn't. Instead, I went within.
I have learned that the best way to build confidence is by putting myself out there. In doing somewhat risky things, I get more comfortable at them and feel braver, more confident and capable. I've also learned that in order to do that, I need the right mental chatter going on in my head.
By replacing "I dunno if this is going to go so well" or "Man am I ever nervous" with "I am a confident and capable speaker" and "I share a powerful, clear message" my confidence begins to soar. I assumed the "super woman" pose. I walked around the empty conference room tall and confident. And I spoke to myself again, and again and again. I've got this. I am an impactful speaker. I make a difference in people's lives. In essence, I followed Amy Cuddy's suggestions in her 2012 Ted Talk about what your body language tells you combined with positive self-talk. The results ... Feedback says (and my heart tells me) I did a damn good session. I did my best, and that is exactly what I wanted. The best I could offer.
Question: Do you wait for others to tell you that you are good, smart, knowledgeable or capable?
What can you do to develop internal confidence in you?
Lesson #3 - Be human, be real
I share a lot in my sessions about me, my experience as a leader and many lessons from my own life of parenting, marriage and community. Sometimes I wonder, if too much. Yet it is often through my own pain, tear, or self appreciating humor that I realize people "get it". The real life stories help people to get it in their own life. I am certainly not "holier than though". I fail. I make mistakes. I have challenges. I also try to learn from them and through them. I then share those lessons in hopes it will help others through similar situations. Here is what people provided for feedback after the session that demonstrate to me, that being real, is exactly what people need:
My lesson is that we need real people in the world and we need to learn from real people.
Question: Do you put a mask or persona on so that people will see the "perfect" you?
Where could you be more open with your faults, mistakes and learnings, that might help others?
Some pictures from the conference
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.