Overcoming public speaking anxiety for introverts

Overcoming public speaking anxiety for introverts David, a manager at a global publishing company was kind enough to write me and share the approach he took to overcoming his performance anxiety.  He wrote: ” I am considered an introvert and I am transitioning to a leadership role,” he said.

“……The ironic thing for me is that my position requires a lot of public speaking, training and facilitating in meetings. I will say that it can be very draining, and very often I will withdraw from the public for hours or the rest of the day after long meetings or training sessions. I dine alone or take two-hour naps to recharge.

The public speaking aspects, as well as the internal and external customer interactions that I am “forced” to do, are not so problematic for me now because I  a musician, and have for much of my life focused on solo piano. There is nothing quite as nerve-racking as walking up to the stage to expose your every weakness, physical and mental, before an audience who is all too familiar with the repertoire. You think you will make a mistake, then you do, and everybody knows when it happened. It often looms larger in the performer’s mind than it does with the audience, and so it eats away at you. The small mistakes can make you that much more nervous during your next performance. “

Here is how David said he overcome that challenge: “One of the things I tried to do was to put more focus on the energy or the spirit of the performance, to focus on the performance itself and not the technical aspects of the piece. In this way, someone might say, “oh, it’s a shame you didn’t nail such-and-such a section”; however, they cannot take away from the energy or the emotion of the performance. This makes a performance satisfying to both audience and performer.”

And he continued, ” Besides all that, it makes public speaking a breeze! I always go into a meeting or a training room with the idea that talking is easier than playing Liszt. I have placed my mindset in advance so I can methodically make presentations and “improvise” as necessary. This way, public speaking becomes like playing and I am never nervous.”

David’s parting words? “My advice for people with public speaking fears is to go out and take some piano lessons, with the goal of performing a piece in a group recital after a year or so. These things are typically arranged by studio teachers and are great for inviting family and friends. Not only does one benefit from learning a new language, but one also benefits from the trial-by-fire performance of a Mozart trifle, missing some notes, then moving on with life and getting better.”

Thank you, David. Let’s see if anyone takes you up on your suggestion. Playing an instrument also helps your brain cells multiply so it sounds like a good suggestion all around.

Kaleidoscope: Become “Value-unique” this Valentine’s Day

Become value-unique this Valentine's Day You know it right away. When you walk in a restaurant and the hostess doesn’t catch your eye. It happened the other night…it was a LONG night as we waited for our food and made the best of it. The leadership of that restaurant could benefit from reading author and customer service guru’s Chip Bell’s books, especially his latest one called Kaleidoscope.

It is a quick read with deep ideas like how to deliver a “masterpiece” and “deliver with candor.” I love this guy and his books. And so will you.

In The Genius of Opposites, I write about the exponential power of opposites. In my case,  it is introverts and extroverts, who through their different perspectives and styles emerge with stronger solutions than they might have alone.  Chip writes that by challenging our staid thinking we emerge with truly innovative customer service solutions.

Check out his guest post and I encourage you to buy his book TODAY on Valentine’s Day for those you love, including yourself! Let’s help everyone “deliver innovative service that sparkles!”

Chip’s words:

There is an old conflict resolution technique by which opposing parties have to articulate the other person’s view as if the two had swapped positions. It is useful in clarifying misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and erroneous facts. It is a clear and present manifestation of standing in another person’s shoes.

The technique is a powerful tool for innovative service. It is turning everything upside down and around to find new ways to deliver a profoundly delight-filled experience to those you serve. What if we used drones instead of trucks for deliveries? What if the doctor came to you? What if the guests controlled the theme park experience instead of the park cast members? What if the car drove itself? What if a wearable—shirt, watch, or headdress—managed the vital workings of your life?

We love to talk about managing differences—introverts vs. extroverts, old farts vs. upstarts, men vs. women, or democrats vs. republicans. But looking at the world from a dramatically different perspective led to the decline of the flat earth society, barbers as bleeders, and the horse as the best mode of transportation. If turned a circus into a Cirque du Soleil, a bookstore into an Amazon, and a Big Boy Burgers into a Chick-fil-A.

Opposites can be the birth of innovative service‹the kind customers experience as having the charm and attraction as a toy kaleidoscope! It takes courage and curiosity. It requires the pursuit of paradigm-breaking experimentation.  And, it takes embracing the fact that value-unique (ingenuity borne of difference, not sameness) is a far more powerful marketplace differentiator today than value-added (giving customers what they expect plus a little more). Disruptors get comfortable with dissonance and shun the way we’ve always done it.˛ While we all enjoy the ease of “birds of a feather flock together,” the winners are the embracers of “opposites attract’.


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.

Introverts and others act the part in the courtroom

share_05I had the same reaction many of us have upon seeing the word “SUMMONS” on the form letter that arrived in my mailbox. “Jury Duty? How can I get out of it?” and ” At the very least I will get some reading done. I haven’t been selected the other 3 times I have gone down to the county courthouse so this will be the same. “

I never realized that the three days I spent serving as a juror would prove to be so enlightening and disturbing at the same time. One of the observations I made was that all of us involved in deciding the fate of the defendant had roles to play and during the trial, we were expected to play our parts. It was only after the trial ended did this become clear to me.

The Jury Experience 

Monday morning I took public transit down to the county courthouse in a sad part of downtown  Atlanta where I was starkly reminded of my white suburban privilege. As I waited with several hundred jurors we were told that there were a number of trials on the docket that day and many of us would be needed.

I actually started to be curious about the experience. After all, didn’t both the promo video and pleasant jury administrator say it was our responsibility as citizens to serve on a jury of our peers in a democratic society? In addition, my spouse Bill had served on a murder trial several years ago in this same county and was greatly affected by the experience. I mulled all this over and was simultaneously intrigued and nervous about the potential of serving. .

It ended up that, in fact,  my number was called when the final juror pool was selected. The three-day trial was to decide if a young man was guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There was a great deal of evidence for us to consider and multiple witnesses. The experience opened my eyes up in many ways as I learned about the way things work in the courtroom, the role of gang violence, drug busts and how law enforcement acted in all of this. I had to listen so intently and take in the body language of the witnesses and other players every minute I was in the courtroom. And we were instructed many times by the judge to not discuss the case, so I felt the fatigue of keeping my conflicting theories and reactions inside without having a chance to discuss them until later.

Act The Part 

What became quickly apparent is that we all had roles to play in this courtroom drama.

The Defendant – He was dressed up in a new suit, looked focused and took constant notes. Was he told to do that by his defense attorneys to show he was seriously paying attention?

The Judge – SERIOUS. A woman who had a face that meant business in her courtroom. She chastised both the prosecuting and defense attorneys equally and would not let us jurors use pens to take notes because the clicking noise was “distracting.”  Her demeanor showed that she owned the courtroom.

The Defense attorney –  Had a flair for the dramatic. She was pregnant, wore stilettos and went after witnesses coolly and intently.

The D.A. – A warm, southern gentleman who was conversational in his manner. He slowly and methodically laid out the case.

The Jury – Our foreperson was a gregarious retired school principal who led us in a memory name game on our first morning:)  After that, we all seemed to bond pretty well. We went from banter in the jury room to somber, silent walks into the jury box.

Stepping Back Into Ourselves 

After 2 days the closing arguments ended and we entered deliberation.  Everyone on the jury had their chance to be heard and we made absolutely sure that, based on the evidence we believed the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  It was a huge responsibility and we wanted to be as certain as possible that we made the right decision ( It helped that the judge later told us she believed we had).

So why did I title this blog post “Act the part”?

Here is what happened. After the verdict was announced,  the judge told us that she and the attorneys would be visiting us in the jury room. They wanted to learn how we had made our decision and what made an impact on us. What evidence did we weigh? They found feedback helpful, they said.

And there they were; in front of us, without armor or posturing. The prosecuting and defense attorneys were no longer glaring tensely at each other. They were actually laughing as they debriefed some of their interactions. The judge shared that she was acting so stone faced up on the bench because smiles could be interpreted as favoritism for one side or another. And as one of the few black females in her position, she was held to a higher standard. She also got in some opinions about SEC football. Who knew that our judge was a real person who liked sports?

Actually, this switch in behavior makes perfect sense. We ALL have to play roles according to the situations in front of us.  In most work scenarios we have to adapt to the culture, the climate and the people. Consider If that DA and attorney started kidding each other the way we saw them do in our post-trial meeting. I am pretty sure the jurors would not know what to think and it would have impacted our decisions. Or If the judge had shared her strong opinions about women and football she would have clearly colored our thinking. Impartiality would have gone out the window.

We do have to adapt and hide some of our true cards  IF that serves the scenario. Read  Unless You’re Oprah Be Yourself Is Terrible Advice by author and professor Adam Grant for research that supports this view.

In my coaching work, introverts ask me why they need to be more visible and vocal. And extroverts ask why the need to slow down and be quiet. The answer is that those behaviors can help them achieve success precisely because they are playing roles.

For all its flaws, the criminal justice system continues to function. If the many professionals charged with carrying out justice can act the part when the stakes are high then we should take a cue from their playbook and stretch into roles that will get our own jobs done.

And I do hope you get a chance to serve on jury duty. I think you will find it to be an eye-opening if not transformative experience.

Why You Should Embrace Your Inner Introvert To Make Career Decisions

Why You Should Embrace Your Inner Introvert To Make Career Decisions

I am very pleased to share this week’s guest blog post.  Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, a long time friend and colleague has built on her strong background as a corporate executive and coach to help people figure out how they can make that next career decision. I love that she recognizes the value of tapping into our introverted side to do that.  Read more below and consider checking out her training video series here. 

by Darcy Eikenberg, PCC

It was a moment I’ll never forget. I had just landed in Chicago one winter’s night for a business meeting the next morning. My boss was trying to reach me, and since this was before we had smartphones and Bluetooth to easily talk and drive, I pulled over into a McDonald’s parking lot to take her call. Then, she blindsided me.

She told me she was retiring early. I hadn’t expected that at all. She was an amazing mentor and champion and still had many years of valuable career runway left. While in hindsight I should have seen warning signs that she wasn’t happy, I was totally gobsmacked.

And then, the other shoe dropped. She told me that she’d already chosen someone as her replacement. And it wasn’t me. Right then, in the bad fluorescent light of the McDonald’s parking lot, I realized something.  I felt . . . relieved. Because I realized I didn’t want my boss’ job. And in the same moment, I heard a little voice inside my head ask: “SO, if you don’t want the next obvious job up the ladder, what DO you want?” And I had no answer. All I wanted right then were fries.

The Path to Making Better Career Decisions

That’s when I started on the path to decide what was next for me, which led me to research, test, and now, teach better ways to make big career decisions. And if I’ve learned one thing in the decade since that night in a cold McDonald’s parking lot, it’s that it would have been a lot easier if I’d let my introverted side take the lead.

I’ve since realized that focusing your introverted energy—the energy to look inside yourself instead of outside—is critical to making a successful career decision.

I call this process “listening to the whispers.” But it’s a stage too many extroverts like me skip over. They often jump immediately from any career discomfort to action. Updating resumes. Surfing LinkedIn. Going to networking groups where they deal out business cards like blackjack. And they wonder why they stay stuck.

But for you introverts (and those of us who need to embrace our inner introvert), those whispers become a human GPS, helping create more clarity about what you want next in your life at work.

As an extrovert, I learned the hard way. If I’d embraced my inner introvert then, I would have had more confidence and clarity in my decision-making, and not wandered down the right path not merely the “logical” one. So when it’s time to make your next career decision, it’s a good idea to channel your inner introvert. Even if you’re an extrovert like me. I know you will be glad you did.


Red Cape Revolution founder Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, is an executive & leadership coach, speaker and author of “Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence & Control.” Join her video training series, How to Make Your Best Career Decision for free when you sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/DarcyTraining2017




Stereoptying introverts

We are in danger of getting carried away with pronouncements about introverts.  I bristle when I hear this kind of stereotyping. In a sort of backlash, the scale has tipped away from extroverts, pronouncing them as ignorant loudmouths who are superficial.   Unfortunately. when we highlight introverts as being the best we imply that extroverts are not. It serves as nothing more than an attention getter.

It is true that introverts have a tendency to exhibit certain strengths but it does not exclude extroverts from claiming those strengths as well. In writing my books, I try to be careful about putting absolute labels on either group. Most of us actually straddle the introvert-extrovert line and are not firmly camped on either side of the spectrum.

Take a look at this infographic about introverts and how they “rule the world.”  I agree with mostly all of the myths and strengths highlighted here except for #5. “Introverts make better bosses” is questionable.  One research study says introverts make better managers with extroverted employees but that does not mean that introverts always make better bosses.

We need to be careful about making sweeping generalizations about introverts and extroverts. There is relatively scant research to make truth claims about either one. And people’s temperaments are complex and not so easily wrapped up. Yes – Introverts can be terrific at listening (Reason #2) however extroverts can also be, by using their natural skill of developing rapport and asking questions.

So in this article upon which the infographic is based,  7 Reasons Introverts Now Rule the World,  the author, Larry Kim writes that extroverts are okay BUT that introverts are particularly suited for the digital age.

“I’m certainly not trying to hate on extroverts. I’m simply suggesting that it’s time to rethink the qualities we value in business. The tendency has been to favor the boisterous, loud, whirlwind energy of extroverts. Instead, we need to take into account those introverted underdogs. They are the ones, with their thoughtfulness and creativity, who we’ll see pulling the strings in our increasingly more digital-oriented age, the one in which they were born to rule.”

Yes, I agree we do need to rethink the qualities we value in business. But let’s consider that both introverts and extroverts are both uniquely suited to meet the demands of a complex workplace and yes…. they were both born to rule.


Infographic Example
This infographic was created using the Visme. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.

Getting Introverts To Respond

3 Reasons It's So Hard To Work with Your Opposite

Are you an extrovert who often complains that introverts shut down and are reluctant to open up to you?  Sometimes, in the desire to connect with introverts, extroverts will try doing the same things, only harder and more intensely.  This can create barriers.  But by using a few different proven approaches they can get introverts to respond and start a constructive dialogue.

1) Pause – allow your words to “land”…wait before answering the question you just asked! Sit in uncomfortable silence before speaking.

2) Listen more than talk  – someone told me that we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason!

3) Avoid the “What’s wrong?” question….It only irritates the introvert because nothing usually is the matter.

4) “Praise in public, reprimand in private”  usually makes sense. However, a lot of introverts don’t want the spotlight on them so consider giving them kudos one on one and letting others know about their achievements through email.

5) Avoid coming on too strong by peppering introverts with a slew of personal questions. Keep your distance physically as well. There’s nothing like a close talker to turn off an introvert.

Try these strategies and note the responses you receive. You will be pleased that small shifts can open up communication channels in significant ways.

Getting Honest About the Leader You Are

33F0B02A-C04F-4435-BF59-AA0B24B49D5B-1588-000002E4663F390C_tmpI am so pleased to share this guest post from my friend and colleague Bill Treasurer, whose great new book A Leadership Kick in the Ass comes out Monday! This book is not afraid to share the truth about what it takes to truly lead. One of those truths is that “good leaders nearly always start out as bad leaders.”  Here is more in Bill’s own words.

I learn a lot from every leader I work with. For over two decades, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with thousands of leaders across the globe. For the last dozen years, most of my work has been with unionized Chicago-based construction companies. These are leaders who do real, in-the-trenches work where the consequences of mistakes can be catastrophic. Some of the leaders with whom I work lead giant multi-million-dollar projects on Chicago’s highways, transit lines, and at O’Hare airport.

One thing my work with leaders has taught me is that nothing stunts leadership growth as much as closed-mindedness. When your ability for self-reflection is shut down, personal accountability is next to impossible. Blaming others or giving excuses for our own faults, mistakes, and imperfections is, sadly, an all too common response.

How a leader takes feedback says a lot about just how open his or her mind really is. In my work with leaders, I sometimes have them go through a 360-degree feedback process, where the people they are leading rate the leader’s style and performance. The raters often include the leader him or herself and the leader’s boss, peers, and direct reports— hence a “360-degree” view. The feedback uses an anonymous survey consisting of quantitative data and qualitative (open-ended) questions. The idea is that people are likely to give more honest answers if they don’t feel threatened that the leader will retaliate against them for their honest feedback.

Leaders within the same company and in similar jobs often have dramatically different responses to the sting that sometimes comes with the feedback yielded during a 360. For example, one leader with whom I worked, a guy named Bruce, got feedback that he was “petulant”, “irrational” and “blockheaded”. His response to the feedback? He blew it off, rationalizing that it was just the sour grapes of poor performers.

Bruce’s response was very different than another leader I worked with at the same company, a guy named Derek. In some respects, Dereck’s 360 was even more biting. Words used to describe Derek included “hot-tempered”, “explosive”, “edgy”, and “harsh”.

At first, Dereck got defensive about his feedback too. Then he got quiet. Then he asked me, “How do my results compare to others.” I replied, “Not too good.” So Derek and I set out to change things. For the next six months, we met every two weeks for coaching. During that time he defined the leader he’d like to be led by. He started investing time with his direct reports to listen to their needs. He started keeping a leadership journal. And he started taking better physical care of himself.

I wasn’t fully aware of how earnestly Dereck had been about assimilating his 360 feedback until five years after coaching him I started working with two of his direct reports. Both of them spoke in glowing terms about what a mentor Dereck had become for them, and how he had inspired them to get interested in leadership too.

And what became of Bruce? He remained a blockhead, and, not surprisingly, got fired.

It takes a very self-aware and courageous leader to say, “I was wrong” or “I messed up” or “It was my fault.” Yet, saying these powerful words often endears a leader to those being led. There is something completely disarming, and even attractive, about a leader who admits when he or she is wrong. Something profoundly important is revealed and communicated when a leader admits a mistake: humanness.

Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO) of Giant Leap Consulting, Inc. His new book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass, focuses on the crucial importance of leadership humility. He is also the author of international best-seller Courage Goes To Work, which introduced the new
management practice of courage building and Leaders Open Doors, which became the #1
leadership training book on Amazon. Bill’s clients include NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, Walsh Construction, Spanx, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs, and many others. Learn more at: www.BillTreasurer.com, www.CourageBuilding.com/Kickass. Free leadership video tips at: https://www.youtube.com/user/GiantLeapConsulting

Quiet Leaders, Heroes When It Counts




It is in a crisis that the true colors of people rise to the surface. In the case of a snowstorm last week, I benefited from the strength of three quiet leaders when it really mattered.

The weather forecast wasn’t great last Saturday, but I made it to LaGuardia airport in NYC without incident. As I settled into the Delta Skyclub the snow fell harder and the dreaded red canceled signs on the screen started appearing. I waited in line with the other passengers and managed to secure a standby seat on the one remaining flight headed back to Atlanta.

The delay seemed to last forever, but miraculously the flight was not canceled and 6 hours later several of us headed down to the gate. My first quiet hero was an off-duty flight attendant who volunteered to join the assigned crew so that the plane could comply with the FAA and be able to take off.  She changed into her uniform and waited 2 hours for her clearance. Then she stepped into character, switching from a weary passenger to a focused, working flight attendant. When I boarded the plane and thanked her she looked slightly embarrassed. “Of course!” she said and continued helping passengers on the crowded flight with their bags.

After we landed late that evening, I ran to a taxi at the curb. Atlanta was emerging from an ice storm and I knew driving could be treacherous. My cab driver navigated the road safely. He exhibited calm and made low-key conversation so the time flew by. I trusted him to get me safely home and he did.  When I thanked him he just smiled.

It was 2:30 a.m. when the garage door finally opened and the man who I have known most of my life stepped onto the ice to help me out of the cab. I was so happy and touched that husband Bill actually waited up for me. He showed up and that meant everything.

The actions of quiet leaders speak so much louder than words ever can.  Without fanfare, they deliver when it counts.