“My dad taught me an important lesson. If you rehearse every maneuver ahead of time, people don’t panic when things get really intense.” So says, Peter Hancock, CEO of AIG when discussing how competitive sailing led to his management philosophy.
The worst is likely the last thing you want to think about when you are preparing for a job interview or new business meeting. It’s the last thing you want to imagine before going on camera or leading a presentation. And, it certainly isn’t how you visualize each day at work, when it seems everything is going all right.
But, on any given day in any given circumstance, it pays to be prepared. Not simply ready. Prepared for everything around you to fail.
I recently graduated a group of young managers from my Global Marketing course on campus at UCLA. Thirty presentations in three hours, including switching out presenters, finding PPTs and making sure the technology stayed up. We almost made it. Then, the last presenter came up at 9:50 PM. It was Umut, the gentleman from Turkey who graciously had taken the final spot because he had my permission to go a bit longer than the others. In the middle of this stellar visual display of a new product introduction into a foreign market: bam. Lights out.
Are you prepared for things to go all wrong on your big day?
That day could be a big job interview. Your pitch meeting with producers. The ship date for your trade show exhibit.
Imagine your big day. Gone terribly wrong. Are you ready?
Do you have a back-up plan? Do you have a back-up plan to your back-up plan? Have you rehearsed exactly what you will do?
Our presenter did. Umut took his laptop and his index cards. He faced the laptop toward us, sat on the table with it and used the light to see his cue cards. Turns out it just lit up his face, because his eyes stayed focused on us.
He smiled. Of course, he did. Umut had given that presentation in the dark for the last seven days. Right before he went to sleep, he rehearsed. He practiced during the day, while he was driving. In those rehearsals, no visuals supported his narrative.
Whatever matters to you: first rehearse for the worst. Prepare as if no one else could help you, support you or save you. Rehearse for the intense times, when someone else might panic.
As I watched Umut present I could only think how lucky we were to listen to him, and how lucky his future employers will be.
Luck might be the meeting of preparation and opportunity. That’s the opportunity to succeed when others might fail. What display of mastery, confidence and calm should you be rehearsing for right now?
In a typical population, left-handers make up about 15%. Of course, not every population is typical.
- Among the five designers of the first Apple computer, four are left-hand dominant.
- Three of the last five presidents are left-handed.
- In a group of alcoholics, left-handers triple their typical representation.
So, your left hand might have a lot of interesting stats, but odds are you’re right-handed, so it’s likely you ignore it unless you really need… an extra hand.
On the other hand….
Your right hand pretty much stars in life’s events. It shakes all the other hands that are stuck out to welcome you. It gets supported in those little desk-chair units at school. Scissors are made for it, no special request needed. It waves hello and good-bye.
Actually, given all the action your right hand sees – your left hand might be jealous.
Sounds nonsensical, doesn’t it? Your hands are simply doing what comes naturally. It’s silly to think that something underhanded (ha!) is going on.
So, let’s get serious. What does your left hand have to do with your attitude about other people at work?
Like your body parts, your co-workers are functioning largely as they are naturally inclined to do. Some are quiet. Some seem to dominate every meeting. Some seem to be incapable of helping when you need boxes carried or midnight oil burned. Some seem to want to jump in (lend a hand?), anytime you look stressed.
Sure, some of us have better titles, more initials after our names and bigger spaces to work in. Some of us have special training and skills. Those attributes don’t change our nature. Largely we each are doing what we do, as we are naturally inclined to do it.
So stop being mad at everyone who acts differently than you want them to. When you stop taking others actions so personally, you become a much happier person. A person who is more in control of yourself, and your career trajectory.
The next time someone infuriates you, maybe you could take a breath and think:
Wow. Just like my own left hand. It often isn’t strong enough or quick enough to do what I need. That’s the way things are.
What does that take? Charity. Patience. Compassion. Three personal branding qualities that you want to keep in mind and on hand.
(With my apologies to left-handers!)
Twice each year, I give a personal branding boot camp on campus at UCLA.The single hardest part of camp will be helping each participant appreciate themselves. Appreciating yourself is a weird concept for most people. We are used to talking about our strengths and weaknesses. We are comfortable talking about our hard and soft skills.
Yet that simple sense of internal value is fundamental to setting up a sturdy foundation for a personal brand. Irrespective of what you can do. The most valuable part of you is simply who you are.
When it comes to that personal intelligence, most people have a very hard time identifying something wonderful about themselves that has always been a quality carried deep inside. Something that will be carried throughout life.
Often it’s a knack. Like a knack for giving the perfect gift, which is a connection to the inner needs of others. Or it might be a power. Like the power to light up a room just by entering it, which is positivity. Or it might be a force. Like the force of a calm mind when everyone is in chaos, which is leadership.
This quality of yours will appreciate over time. That is, if you recognize it, attend to it, give it space to grow and speak about what it’s done for you and others.
There are plenty of reasons why you aren’t regularly celebrating your real value.
During many of your so-called formative years, you heard your parents say the word “no” to you; about five times more than you heard them speak your name. And, maybe the recession, which turns out to have been bigger than the 1930s Depression, you had a particularly tough time.
Of course, it’s easy to not see the truth about life, as well as your personal brand. Almost everything about your situation can change, when you change how you think and talk about yourself.
So start celebrating. You. Start looking back at the smiles you’ve had, the smiles you’ve won and the way you want to bring more on. Maybe you have to change your scorecard – maybe you’ll need to rethink the job title, the salary, the type of company, or where you live.
But, before any decisions are made: Celebrate. You.