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Creating space for social time can strengthen your team

Laptop with an active zoom meeting on screen.
Laptop with an active zoom meeting on screen.
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I met four of my best friends at work. This wasn’t by design. It just sort of happened after spending half of our waking hours working alongside one another. And, although we don’t work together currently, our connection — and our group chat — remains as alive as it was back when we did.

Research tells us that having best friends at work is a great thing for us and for our companies. Gallup found that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged compared with the women who say otherwise, and we know that higher levels of engagement lead to a slew of desirable outcomes for organizations. …

The Sensitive Striver

How to embody the ever-elusive executive presence over Zoom

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

At least once a week, I hear from leaders who ask, “How do I project more executive presence?”

And now, in light of the ongoing global pandemic, these same top performers wonder how to capture that ever-elusive executive presence in virtual meetings as well.

Appearing confident via video is essential regardless of whether you want to:

  • Advance to senior management
  • Be assigned to higher-profile assignments
  • Earn a promotion or raise
  • Build influence and visibility

But projecting authority online is easier said than done, especially for Sensitive Strivers.

Charismatic displays of showmanship aren’t a Sensitive Striver’s style. And it can be hard for them to get their voice heard over more outgoing colleagues. …

How to defeat anxiety, engage your audience, and remember what to say

Confident young man.
Confident young man.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Has this ever happened to you? — The night before an exam when you start to panic because you think you don’t know anything, or the morning before you have to give a presentation and you forget all the words?

The reason why this happens is that when you’re stressed; your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which interferes with the process of forming and recalling memories.

The memories are in there, but you’ve shut the door to that part of your brain. You’re stressed and tense, and it’s not letting you think clearly.

Now, I’ve worked in B2B sales, strategy consulting, and law, so I’ve watched and given my fair share of presentations. In fact, there were weeks during my role in consulting where my days consisted of just that — giving presentations to industry experts. And I can guarantee this — not every expert is good at presenting and not every presenter needs to be an expert. …

Use your “magic spot” and other secrets that will help you speak with greater confidence and authority

A person holds up a microphone.
A person holds up a microphone.
Image credit: smolaw11.

Whether it’s a presentation in front of thousands of people, a meeting with your coworkers, or even just a first date with a person you like, how you sound can help pull your listeners toward you or push them away.

“Your speaking voice is like walking: it’s something we’ve always just done, but we’re always judged on the quality of our voices whether we know it or not,” says Lisa Popeil, MFA — a celebrity voice coach and owner of Voiceworks in Los Angeles who’s helped people improve their voices for over 40 years.

And it turns out our voices might be more important than we imagined. …

The Sensitive Striver

Don’t let your colleague’s bad behavior undermine your own

People seated around a desk show frustration while having a discussion.
People seated around a desk show frustration while having a discussion.
Image source: fizkes.

Dealing with a passive-aggressive co-worker isn’t easy, especially when you’re a sensitive person. Because of your nature, you may find yourself taking a difficult colleague’s comments personally — making them mean you’re incapable. Or you may find that your colleague’s slights and undermining behavior trigger your emotional reactivity.

This happened to one of my clients, Colleen.

Colleen came to me after just being promoted to director of her hospital unit. Although she had received positive feedback about her performance, Colleen still felt imposter syndrome stepping into a larger leadership role.

As a Sensitive Striver, her empathy, emotional intelligence, and conscientiousness made her successful. But on the flipside, Colleen also put a lot of pressure on herself to do well and make other people happy. …

When I signed up for a life of conducting orchestras, I didn’t realize I’d also need to learn how to handle enormous audiences

Aerial photo of a concert attended by over 40,000 people.
Aerial photo of a concert attended by over 40,000 people.
Credit: Roll Focus Productions

When I signed up for a life of conducting orchestras, I was only thinking about conducting music. No one told me that I would be talking to audiences all of the time, and I didn’t expect my first concert as Music Director of the Victoria Symphony to be in front of 40,000 people.

The Sensitive Striver

You work hard and have great ideas to contribute — you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve.

Woman smiling and pointing
Woman smiling and pointing
Photo by EVG Culture from Pexels

Another meeting is coming up at work, and you’re dreading it. But if you want to get ahead, it’s important to speak confidently in meetings.

This is a goal one of my clients, Allison, had when she first started coaching. She came to me asking, “Why do I get so nervous before speaking in a meeting?”

Allison was an experienced cybersecurity professional — so highly regarded for her specialized expertise that she was recruited out of her current role into a new one.

Her new role was exciting and presented a huge opportunity for her career. But the thought of greater visibility made her impossibly anxious. The fear of speaking in meetings paralyzed her. Whenever it came time to contribute, Allison would freeze, overthink her response, and end up rambling. …

The Sensitive Striver

Honing your ability to thrive within ambiguous circumstances is a vital skill you need to rise into a leadership role.

Business woman gesturing uncertainty.
Business woman gesturing uncertainty.
Image credit: shironosov.

Embracing ambiguity in the workplace, while necessary, can be a challenge. After all, it’s natural to desire direction and a sense of control in our careers. It’s comforting to have specific instructions provided to you or to have a clear vision of the future to work towards.

However, uncertainty at work is a part of life in today’s business world, especially after the COVID-19 crisis. If you don’t become skilled at tolerating ambiguity, you can quickly become overly timid and risk-averse.

This is particularly true for “Sensitive Strivers”—the high achievers who are also deep feelers and thinkers, who can all too readily spiral into fear of the unknown and fear of failure. As perfectionists, many Sensitive Strivers tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty because there’s no clear-cut “right” or “wrong,” which breeds stress, self-doubt, and overwhelm. …

The Sensitive Striver

Your ability to see nuance, uncover patterns, and synthesize data makes you especially suited for strategy. So why doesn’t your boss see it?

Two women in a meeting room having a discussion at a board.
Two women in a meeting room having a discussion at a board.
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

“You need to be more strategic.”

Many of my executive coaching clients have been told this in a performance review. They’re told that if they want to move up into senior leadership, garner more respect and influence, and manage larger teams, then they have to become more skilled at strategic thinking.

As thoughtful Sensitive Strivers, many also find themselves puzzled by this feedback, wondering how they could be a deep thinker but not necessarily a strategic one.

Sensitive Strivers and Strategic Thinking

Because of their sensitivity, Sensitive Strivers process information more intricately. They also tend to be naturally conscientious, highly self-aware, reflective, and intuitive.

On the flip side, their brains are often racing, which can lead to worry, indecision, and doubt. It’s not uncommon for them to over-analyze day-to-day experiences and be so mired in details that they fail to see the bigger picture. …


Your leadership breakthrough will never come from staying comfortable

Illustration of a mountain with a red flag at its peak and a red dotted zigzag up its face, representing a trail.
Illustration of a mountain with a red flag at its peak and a red dotted zigzag up its face, representing a trail.
Image credit: nazarkru

Discomfort, anxiety, and, most of all, fear, lead us to say “no” to opportunities when we should say “yes”. But real leadership comes with learning to live in that state of optimal anxiety—and to embrace it, rather than run away from it.

I once almost lost one of my biggest opportunities through this temptation to say “no” when I was a young and enthusiastic associate at Booz Allen. I was attending one of my first conferences as a company representative, and during a break in proceedings, I happened to run into a gentleman sporting a Corvette jacket. As someone who loves Corvettes, I couldn’t resist the temptation to comment on it. …


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