Here’s a little bit of trivia about me you probably didn’t know: I was the senior speaker at my high school graduation ceremony. Now, let me be clear: I went to a very small, independent study high school where most of the students attended just one day of class per week. The ceremony was actually held in the parking lot. So I’m not bragging here. I wasn’t valedictorian, though I did graduate with honors. I was actually selected to be senior speaker by the students and the faculty, which—for me—is even better than if I had been chosen for my grades.
So, why do bring this up? Because I wanted to share a quote from my graduation speech. It’s one that still inspires me to this day.
In everything you do, shoot for the moon. Because even if you miss, at least you’re among the stars.
I’m not sure who said this or where it came from. I don’t even remember the first time I heard it. But the words were so powerful; they’ve stayed with me for decades now.
The other day, I was reminded of this quote while interviewing Dick Bolles, the author of What Color Is Your Parachute? (By the way, if you missed it, you can listen to it here.)
During our conversation, while discussing the concept of searching for your “dream job,” Mr. Bolles said the following:
You have to start with the largest vision of what you really, really, really want to do with your life so that if you only get 60 percent of that, you’ve gotten far, far more than if you started with a vision that you hacked down in the name of supposed reality.
How often do you find yourself aiming low because it’s more “realistic”? What are you perhaps missing out on because of that? What if you aimed higher? What if, dare I say it, you aimed for the very top? Even if fell short, would you not possibly end up better off in the long run?
Sometimes, it feels safer and easier to keep your hopes in check. Why try for something that seems so far out of reach? This kind of thinking only limits what you’re capable of. It doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t inspire you. And it forces you to play small.
So, as I told my graduating class back in 1996, shoot for the moon. Whether you’re looking for your next job, your next home or your next mate. Aim for the dream. You might not get it, but then again…you just might.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, January 02nd, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Recently, while hosting a free group coaching call, I had a few questions from professionals who wanted assistance in the art of persuasion. Whether you’re looking to convince your boss that you need some additional training or you’re hoping to show an interviewer that you’re the best candidate for a job, persuasion is an essential tool for professional success.
Below, I’ve outlined the three basic steps you should follow to be persuasive in the workplace.
Know Your Position (and Believe In It)
First and foremost, what are you fighting for? You have to be clear about what you want to accomplish and why. Set out the specifics. How much money do you want for that training course? How much time do you need off to attend? Be clear about your goal. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, it’s easy to get off course.
Beyond that, it should matter to you. If you don’t care, don’t bother. Whatever you want to persuade another person to do (or think or feel), you simply MUST believe it’s the right thing. The more confidence you can demonstrate, the more convincing you’ll be.
You want a raise? You want your co-worker to take over a project for you? Step number one is to believe it’s deserved. Or, at the very least, to believe it’s rational. Are you asking this person to do something you wouldn’t do if the roles were reversed? If so, re-evaluate your position.
Have Evidence to Support Your Position
Facts are hard to deny, especially when they can be proven with evidence. Whatever your position, be prepared to back it up with concrete proof. If you’re going to a performance review, for instance, take samples of your work, complimentary letters from clients, and anything else that demonstrates your excellence. If you’re asking for a raise, take documentation that shows why you deserve more reward for your work. You may also want to take research that shows the appropriate salary range for a person in your field with your experience. The more you can point to tangible evidence (from reputable sources) to support your request, the more reasonable it will appear and the more likely you’ll get agreement.
Predict and Prepare for Objections
I have one mantra for professional success: Be proactive. Don’t react to what’s going on around you. Instead, predict and prepare. Be actively engaged in the discussion. Don’t wait for objections to come up. Anticipate them and know how you will respond. Be ready to have your request declined, and be prepared to rebut the verdict.
What could make this person refuse your request? What concerns will he or she have? How can you diminish those concerns and help this person see the wisdom of your point-of-view?
It isn’t always easy to get agreement, especially from superiors in the workplace. They need to be convinced. Appeal to their logic and remember to tune into WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Tell the person how this decision will impact him and, on a bigger scale, how it will impact the company.
Follow these steps and you’ll be much closer to achieving your long-term career goals.
Here’s a hard truth that some of you will hate to hear: If you don’t stand up for yourself and specifically ASK for what you want, need and deserve in the workplace, you probably won’t get it.
Most people (your managers, coworkers, clients, etc.) aren’t looking out for anyone but themselves. This shouldn’t surprise or anger you. Yet every day, I meet professionals who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own needs and desires because they’re afraid or embarrassed. They think, “If I really deserve this thing, they’ll offer it to me.” These people find excuses for why things don’t work out; they drop hints and play games. But they never just bite the bullet and say, “Here’s what I want, here’s why I want it, and here’s why I think you should give it to me.” And then they wonder why they feel so powerless.
People can’t read your mind (and let’s face it, they wouldn’t want to if they could). So it’s up to you to explain what’s going on in there. When you want something, you have to ask for it, plain and simple. Here’s how:
Know Why It Matters
Whatever “it” is—a promotion, a raise, an extra day of vacation, a little help with a project—you have to be clear about what it’s worth to you, why you’re willing to stand up for it, and why it should be yours. Come up with the top three reasons your boss (client, coworker or whoever) simply can’t say no. And, most importantly, make sure you believe you deserve it with all your heart (even if it takes a little convincing).
The process of asking works best when you’re specific, concise and very, very direct. The more vague you are, the more likely your request will be misinterpreted or ignored. I recommend writing it out. One or two sentences is usually all it takes to clearly state your case. It also works best to start with the words, “I’m asking for…” so there’s no confusion.
Pick Your Time
Make sure the person to whom you’re making your request is really listening. Otherwise, your efforts will be wasted. If needed, ask for an appointment to ensure there are no interruptions. (Also, make sure you’re directing your ask to the right person.)
Prepare for Objections
If something matters, it probably won’t be handed over without a little hesitation. That’s perfectly fine. Prepare in advance for potential objections but don’t do the work for them. In this process, you are the sales person. Recognize that your “buyer” is just doing his due diligence but don’t let him persuade you. Stand firm and map out your rebuttals. Look at it as a challenge. This is the fun part!
Confidence makes all the difference. Put your thoughts on paper and then practice, practice, practice. Stand in front of the mirror and watch yourself. Don’t stop until you’re thoroughly comfortable and the words roll of your tongue. Yes, it might feel a little goofy at first, but you’ll get over it. The more you can demonstrate that you believe in yourself and that what you’re asking for is rightfully yours, the greater the chance that you’ll get a positive response.
If your request is declined, don’t put your tail between your legs and go home. Instead, use this as a conversation starter. Ask for more information. Fight for your point-of-view. Find out what needs to happen in order to get to “yes”. Press for specifics and get agreement. Then, follow up. Remember: When something is really worthwhile, it may take time to achieve.
When I was in college, I spent a year in England as part of my University’s study abroad program. What an amazing experience! And, while I brought back a lot of weird slang and an unusual faux accent (which thankfully disappeared quickly), the one British-ism I still refer to regularly is “Mind the Gap.”
You see, the London underground system (which they call the “tube”) has a looping announcement for passengers to “please mind the gap,” referring to the space between the train and the platform. Apparently, tourists like me just love this. It’s so polite! Us Americans would say something like, “Don’t fall in, idiot.” Or, even more likely, we’d post a discreet sign saying, “Property owner not responsible for injury.”
So “Mind the Gap” is a popular slogan for touristy t-shirts in London. It’s also one of those things that can make a gal nostalgic for a little British courtesy and a public transportation system that really works. But that’s neither here nor there.
I bring this up today because, in my work as a career coach, I find most of my clients come to me when there’s a gap of some sort. There’s a gaping hole between where they want to be and where they are. That gap is so big and so intimidating; they have no idea how to cross it. So they simply stand there, on the training, letting it take them wherever it happens to be going. They never make the leap to the platform.
While working with one client in particular, something new dawned on me. As she sat there making excuses for all the ways in which her career was out of her control, complaining that her motivation was low and her confidence shot, I suddenly heard that polite safety announcement in my head, “Please mind the gap.” And that’s when it hit me.
“Maybe your mind IS the gap!” I shouted.
She stopped speaking and looked at me like I was possibly having a stroke.
“You see,” I told her, “the gap between where you are and where you want to be isn’t that big. But your mind has turned it into something insurmountable. You’re letting your fears and anxiety run the show. We just have to get your mind back in check. It’s like that old trick, mind over matter. Except…it’s mind over job!!”
And thus a new idea was born.
Here’s the truth: Your mind is a powerful tool. But, if you don’t actively manage it, all kinds of junk can take over. Fear, anxiety, self-sabotage…these things live in everyone. When left unchecked, they can create a negativity spiral. That’s when that gap between where you are and where you want to be becomes a giant chasm, impossible to leap across.
If you’re not happy at work, you’re not powerless. Perhaps your mind has played tricks on you, messed with your confidence and forced you to believe you’re stuck. But, in reality, you have everything you need. You CAN take charge of your career by simply mastering your mind.
I’ve always had really high expectations for my friends. Sometimes, this leaves me disappointed. But the people with whom I develop real friendships are truly the most trustworthy, compassionate people in the world.
The other day, during a coaching class, the instructor asked a question that gave me pause. She said, “Would you be friends with you?”
Interesting idea, isn’t it? I thought about those high expectations I hold for my friends. And, disturbingly, I started wondering if I actually model those traits myself.
Would I be friends with me? Probably not.
Man, that’s really sad. But it’s also enlightening. That one question helped me pinpoint some specific things that I do to myself that I simply wouldn’t accept from others. If I want to embody the essence of what I love in others, I have some work to do.
I encourage you to ask yourself this same question and consider what it means to you. Below, I’ve outlined a few more questions to help you really “get” what I’m talking about here.
Do you keep promises to yourself?
I can’t stand it when a friend breaks a promise, even if it’s a small one. When we plan on meeting for lunch at 1 and you don’t show up, I’m absolutely livid. And yet, I do this to myself all the time. I tell myself that I’m going to do something—go to the gym, take a class, whatever—and then I don’t show up. What kind of friend would do that?
Do you play fair?
Remember playing board games as a kid and the weird rules some of your friends would try to make up? Around the age of 9, I stopped playing Monopoly with my sister because she made a rule that only she could buy Boardwalk and Park Place (I got to buy the purple ones and the railroads…the worst properties in the game).
No one wants a friend who makes up silly rules, or switches the goals posts halfway through the game. A friend is supposed to help you succeed and celebrate the small wins along the way. Do you do that for yourself? Or do you find ways to make the game harder or make winning less meaningful?
Do you truly have your best interests at heart?
A friend wants what’s best for you. She knows you deserve it. There’s nothing too hard, or too expensive, or too awesome for you. But sadly, many of us don’t think of ourselves with this same perspective. We don’t think we’re worth all that. Do you want what’s best for yourself, no matter what?
Do you treat yourself with compassion?
Do you beat yourself up for tiny mistakes? Do you blame yourself whenever something goes wrong? Do you dwell on “failures” and find all the ways you messed up? A real friend wouldn’t do that. A friend would listen with compassion and love. She would give you honest, thoughtful feedback to help you improve. She would hold you in her arms and remind you that you did your best.
You probably wouldn’t stand for someone else treating you the way you treat yourself. Take this as an opportunity to become a better friend to yourself. Maybe even take yourself out on a little date, just to say you’re sorry for the way you’ve been acting…It couldn’t hurt.