Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to sound Confident even when you are not

Even if you have great ideas, nobody will listen to them if you sound like a wimp when you open your mouth. By contrast, even mediocre ideas seem profound when spoken with confidence. Fortunately, it's not difficult to sound confident if you follow these simple rules:

ü  Imagine yourself as your audience's equal. 
If you're speaking with a CEO, imagine yourself as a CEO. If you're speaking to engineers, imagine yourself as an engineer. Find and focus on the commonalities between yourself and your audience. If you're not a supplicant you won't sound like one.

ü  Mentally rehearse each sentence.
You'll seem to be massively less confident if you trip over your own words or half-articulate a half-baked sentence. Before you speak, take a brief moment to imagine, in brief, what you're about say aloud. That pause makes you seem thoughtful and wise.

ü  Speak from your chest not your throat or nose.
When people get nervous, their voices tend to move upwards so that the sound emerges from the throat or nose, which can make even deep wisdom sound like a whine. If you move your voice down into your chest you'll sound (and feel) more confident.

ü  Speak 20 percent slower than seems natural.
Many people also express nervousness by talking fast. (You may sound like a desperate Salesperson who travels door to door.) People with real expertise tend to speak a bit slowly, as if they expect their listeners to hang on every word (Now you know why all leaders around you take their own sweet time when they speak).

ü  Eliminate your verbal ticks.
Some people use verbal ticks ("Uhhh....," "you know...," "I mean...,” etc.) while thinking of what to say next. This makes you sound like you're unsure of yourself, so it's better simply to silently pause in midsentence. You can record yourself and practice, if needed.

ü  Never articulate a statement as a question.
A little uptick at the end of a sentence transforms even a definitive statement into a plea for approval. If you're confident, you make statements that reflect your knowledge and opinion. If you've got a question, you ask a question. No mixing the two.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Excel, Succeed, be Indispensable at work

Gone are those days when meeting the requirements/expectations was enough. Today’s business environment being complex, competitive and ever evolving, requires an employee to constantly grow and adapt to ensure the business stays on.

It is true that all employees ‘work’. No matter how you work, at the end of the day, you are either working to make yourself indispensable or working to make yourself obsolete. Being adaptable, dynamic, learning and growing with your organization as it changes and evolves; aligning your long term purpose with that of the organization makes you indispensable.

No shortcuts/cheat-codes. Have you known many highly-successful people to be lazy? In order to be truly irreplaceable, you have to work well, work smart. You can't take shortcuts and still expect tremendous respect and rewards. For those who have taken this in literal sense: this doesn’t imply that you should not use even the keyboard shortcuts J 

Be adaptable, not rigid.  In an age where technology, workplace environment and strategy techniques are constantly changing, the most pernicious thing you can do for your career is to cling on to something from the past and refuse to change. 
The good news about rigidity is that it gives you a sense of control — it is predictable. You understand it, know it, can explain it, and can even teach it to others. The bad news is that the sense of control is often a false one or temporary at best.
You can always tell when someone isn't adaptable to change. They demonstrate their paralysis through resistance, advocating for the old way, talking about the good old days, or undermining current change efforts through their lack of cooperation and cynicism.

Being a perfectionist will be your downfall. Most people think that being a perfectionist is what they need for success, however, in reality, it prevents it.
Perfectionism fosters inaction — waiting until we can guarantee success before we take action. This negates accountability and prevents excellence. We wait for the perfect plan, the perfect decision, and the perfect action that won't fail.
As the wise have said, Strive for excellence and success will follow.

Be of service to others without expecting anything in return. Most of us only do things for other people if we get something in return, but a truly respectable/favorite employee is someone who makes decisions and solves problems for the good of their team and other departments in the organization. 
The more you become "we-centered" rather than "me-centered" the more indispensable you become and in turn you become a favorite. Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefits — in other words, when we genuinely care not only for ourselves, but also for the people we interact with, lead, or serve.
So be proactive to discuss the issues or concerns pertaining to self, team or account with your managers.

Be purpose-driven, not goal-driven. At work, you will have goals to achieve, but I believe these goals are often established without a clear sense of purpose. And since most people are often too busy to go above and beyond their daily tasks, they're not making an effort to produce actual changes and add value. It’s easy to understand that goal setting motivates constructive effort but can induce some unethical behavior too. So ensure your goals have an underlined purpose, either defined by you or your peers.

Be assertive. Life is a game, so play big or go home. Take charge, stand apart and don't be afraid to speak up during meetings for fear of sounding unintelligent or being wrong or having a totally different opinion from your senior colleagues. Remember, your managers/leads are also an employee of the organization, only with a different set of roles and responsibilities. So it is not a grave sin to have a different opinion. 

Forgive others quickly. Accountability is measured more by how you handle mistakes, mishaps, and breakdowns rather than getting everything right all the time. It's about how fast you can pick yourself up when you fall; how quickly you correct a mistake that you/your team made; that little or no harm comes to your customer, family member, or friend. It is important to quickly accept mistake to be able to get up quickly.

For a deeper insight you can refer to books like the ones below:
1)The SPEEDof Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything - Stephen M. R. Covey
2)MakingYourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability - Mark Samuel

Friday, February 8, 2013

Downward Comparison & Self-serving Bias

People usually compare themselves to other people around them inorder to learn more about themselves or even just to check if they are better. However, once a threat to self-esteem enters the picture, people often adjust their strategy and choose to compare themselves with others who are worse off than they are.
Downward Social Comparison is defensive tendency to compare oneself with someone whose troubles are more serious than one’s own. Why do people change their strategies when under a threat? Simply because they need to feel better, often doing so by connecting to the experience of others. If you/your friend/family member has ever been in an accident in which the car was severely damaged you would have probably reassured yourself by reflecting on the fact that at least no one was seriously injured. Similarly, people with chronic illness may compare themselves with people suffering from life-threatening diseases
Let us look at another interesting aspect of Self Management. Suppose you and four other individuals have applied for the same Job and you are selected. How do you explain your success? Chances are high that you tell yourself you were hired as you were the most qualified. But how do the other four people interpret their negative outcome? Do they tell themselves that you got the job as you were the most able one? Highly unlikely! Instead, they attribute their loss to “bad luck” or not having sufficient time prepare for the interview or they were suffering from fever on the day of the interview etc.
These different explanations for success and failure reflect the Self Serving Bias –the tendency to attribute one’s success to personal positive factors and attribute one’s failure to situational factors. A logical explanation for Self-serving bias is that unbiased self-judgment requires a phenomenally high degree of self control, which, is usually overridden by one’s automatic inclination towards self enhancement.
Self serving bias is mostly prevalent in Western society or otherwise with people who have an individualistic approach as the emphasis on competition and high self esteem motivates people to try to impress others as well as themselves.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


In my previous article, I discussed about Basking in Reflected Glory to enhance self-esteem and boost self-motivation. This article presents a self-management technique which is contradictory to BIRGing in the way it is put to practice. With this technique the idea is to disassociate oneself from anything that may present them in a negative light.

Cutting Off Reflected Failure - CORFing is practiced by attempting to distance or separate ourselves from some failure that may have a negative impact on our self esteem, reputation, or self image.

When your favorite team wins you BIRG saying “we won”, “we were outstanding” etc but when the team loses you end up saying “they lost”, “they didn’t perform”, “they never played like they wanted to win”. This is one example of CORFing. Here, you not only disassociate yourself from failure, you also give them credit for failure or rather put blame on them.

BIRGing & CORFing are easy to witness within the world of sports, but they also make their mark in the workplace. Within organizations, employees are motivated to align themselves with successful projects and products and distance themselves from failures. Although the point can be made that employees are doing it for the same basic self image benefits, they are also motivated to BIRG and CORF for job security, keeping themselves off the radar in bad times and calling attention to themselves in good times.

Over usage of BIRGing and CORFing techniques are harmful for everyone but if one is playing a lead/manager role then the over usage will lead to catastrophic impact as it can push you into a position for ego-preservation. Let’s coin the term BasCor Lead for a person who is a lead/manager and does over usage of BIRG and CORF techniques.
Such behavior can erode followership or a productive team atmosphere as others start to recognize that BasCor Lead is a fair-weather fan, only aligning himself with us when the going is good and “throwing us under the bus” when we hit some rough patches. An effective leader must be willing to weather the storm, sharing in the collective successes but also standing up for their team when things don’t go to plan. For most, BIRG and CORF can be more difficult to accomplish in the workplace as our affiliation with a particular team or project is often more obvious. BasCor Lead and others like him will find a way to do it, though. It may come in the form of claiming to have always disagreed with the failed approach the team took (CORF), or claiming to have been a staunch supporter/leader of a successful project that, in reality, they demonstrated ambivalence toward (BIRG).

However, we must remember that BIRGing and CORFing are not always intentional and that these leads/managers may not have realized the subtle (and not so subtle) ways they have exhibited it. This requires them to create strategic self-awareness of this tendency and the effect it has on team relations, thus curbing its prevalence. One can help their leads/managers by casting light on past occurrences of such behavior and the fallout or ramifications it caused.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Social Identity is a critical component in self-management. A person’s energy level and motivation can be highly influenced by his/her social identity or impression as it directly connects with one’s self-esteem.
Before I start talking about BIRGing, it’s important to throw some light on Social Identity Theory. Social Identity Theory explains how self-esteem and self-evaluation can be enhanced by the identification with another person’s success by basking in reflected glory not earned. Social identity is the individual’s self-concept derived from perceived membership of social groups. Having high self-esteem is typically a perception of oneself as attractive, competent, likeable and morally good person. The perception of having these attributes make the person feel as if they are more attractive or impressive to the outside social world and thus are more desirable to others to be in a social relationship.

Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) is a self-serving cognition whereby an individual associates himself/herself with another successful individual such that another’s success becomes their own.
What fascinates me most about BIRGing is that the simple affiliation to another’s success is enough to stimulate self glory. The person engaging in BIRGing does not even need to have been personally involved in the successful action with which they are affiliating themselves. Examples of BIRGing include anything from sharing a city/town with a past or present famous person, to religious affiliations, to sports teams. For example, when a fan of a cricket/football team wears the team’s jersey and boasts after a win, this fan is engaging in BIRGing. With regards to social psychology, BIRGing is believed to enhance self-esteem and to be a component of self-management.

BIRGing has connections to social identity theory, which explains how self-esteem and self-evaluation can be enhanced by the identification with another person’s success by basking in reflected glory not earned. Social identity is the individual’s self-concept derived from perceived membership of social groups. Having high self-esteem is typically a perception of oneself as attractive, competent, likeable and morally good person. The perception of having these attributes make the person feel as if they are more attractive to the outside social world and thus are more desirable to others to be in a social relationship.

BIRGing is a widespread and important impression management technique to counter any threats to self-esteem and maintain positive relations with others. Some positive effects of BIRGing include increased individual self-esteem, feeling accomplished thus minimizing inferiority complex. It can show pride of self as well as pride for the other person’s success, thus boosting their self-esteem as well. BIRGing can be negative when done too extensively that the individual engaging in BIRGing becomes delusional or forgets the reality that they did not actually accomplish the successful event.