Who Are You Trying to Impress?

When Being A Good Student Is Working Against You…

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Some of us were always determined to impress the teacher. Our homework was done on time, not crumpled, or half-eaten by the proverbial dog. We were thorough — often doing work for extra credit. And of course we basked in the praise and good grades the teacher bestowed.

That was me, in 6th grade.

Recognition of this kind can be habit-forming. Each time we demonstrate that we “know it all,” there is a subconscious expectation for reward.

But we are not in that kind of school anymore. Our lives as professionals call for a different approach.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a two-day conference with business thought leaders. All of the leaders had written books — some had grown successful companies, others were professors at notable business schools, and a few were consultants. Arguably no one had anything to prove. After all, they were speaking to an audience of 900 smart people.

The most memorable presentations did not give us vast quantities of data or impress with statistics, they focused on creating value for us, the audience. These speakers had thoughtfully created compelling presentations to give us something we could use — a fresh approach, an interesting concept, an awareness-expanding idea.

However, there were a few others who seemed driven to tell us more about their topic than anyone could reasonably absorb or possibly even care about. As I was watching one person go through her reams of slides, the image came to my mind of that “gold star student.” She wanted us to know that she knew. And having done that, she believed there would be some rendition of a good grade, a pat on the head, or some other adulation she had come to crave.

Having fallen into that same trap myself, all I could feel was compassion for her (even as I tuned out what she was saying).

A Question for Reflection Today:
Are you trying unconsciously to impress a teacher or parent? If you take as a given that you are already impressive, how would that shift what you are offering to your audience, your colleagues, your clients, your boss?

Looking forward to hearing from you!



Originally published at elizabethbcrook.com on June 6, 2017.