Posts Tagged ‘insecurity’

I cannot resist the temptation to post this up and I don’t think this needs any more elaboration on my part.  Some people just don’t realize how naked they are of their insecurities in front of colleagues, friends and even family members.  Please, don’t live in your own little bubbles.  Allow me to vent a little bit here, but consistent to my belief, I never leave criticisms alone without some recommendations.  This time around, they come from Michael Bucci of AskMen.com.  The last paragraph sums all of this up well.

Learn How To Brag Discreetly

By Michael Bucci

So here you are, sitting at the bar of a trendy restaurant lounge, enjoying a fine drink with a few of your friends. You are easing into the night and having a merry time doing so. You will soon be meeting some associates and lady friends for an evening out on the town.

It’s A Pleasure To Meet You

I’ve already discussed the importance of making a good first impression, but just as a reminder, know that people will form an impression of you within the first few minutes of contact. More likely than not, the impression they get will be reinforced over the next few hours.

Suppose you are talking to an attractive woman that is to your liking, or perhaps you are talking to a potential friend or business associate, how can you get the point that you are successful (or at least on the ball and soon to be successful) across?

What To Avoid

You are doing well for yourself; you’re a junior partner at a prosperous law firm. You’re on the fast track and you want people to know this, so you buy yourself a big diamond ring and tell anyone who’s willing to listen about how great your new Mercedes SLK-500 is and how much you prefer it over the BMW 740i or the Lexus. You also go out of your way to specify that anyone not driving such an expensive car is a big loser that is worth less than a bag of cheap fertilizer.

So what have you just achieved? Sure, everyone present will know you are making some green and are climbing the corporate ladder, but they will also hate your guts for being such a braggart. You’ll alienate everyone there, not to mention make a few enemies in the process. Not exactly the desired effect.

By following some simple tips, you’ll have a heads up on the competition and still keep your modesty intact.

Don’t Flaunt It

The old expression, “If you got it, flaunt it,” does not apply in this case. In fact, it rarely applies in any case. The last thing you want to do is come off sounding like a constant bragger. You don’t have to make it known that you drive a Ferrari by telling people directly. Instead, you can discuss cars in general with others and wait for them to ask what you drive.

When you tell them you drive a Beemer, say it matter-of-factly. Don’t add more details unless they ask you the questions. The trick is not to sound like you’re bragging, and don’t purposely make the other person feel small because they don’t drive a fancy car.

This way, they’ll know you drive a nice car and they will respect the fact that you don’t attach this to your ego too much (even if they attach a lot of meaning to what you drive).

The same goes for your clothing. You can wear classy tailor-made suits and Brioni shirts, but there’s no need to announce it to the world. People will notice you are well dressed, more so than the average man, and they will make a mental note of it. Just because they don’t comment, that doesn’t mean they don’t notice.

So how do you appear super successful and stay humble?

1. Never say how much you earn

Maybe you are knocking down $500,000 a year, but you should not make a point of telling everyone you meet what your take-home is. If people ask (which is impolite to begin with), just smile and say you do well for yourself and you are very happy with how things have turned out. Don’t offer more detail; to do so is somewhat crass.

2. Compliment others

A good way to brag discreetly is to compliment others on their clothes, car, jobs, etc. By doing so, it makes you seem like a nice guy for noticing other people, and they will in turn be flattered by the attention. Furthermore, they will likely compare themselves with you on the very things you are complimenting them on.

For example, if you tell Bob that’s he’s got a nice car (slick, fast, tears up the road, etc.) he’ll be proud of his car. He will immediately wonder what you drive. If you are driving a similar or better car, he will automatically raise you to his level, if not higher. Objective achieved: you bragged discreetly and so did he.

3. Just the facts ma’am

The worst thing you can do is embellish everything you say. People will catch on that you’re all about hype over substance rather quickly. Instead of telling long stories about how you single-handedly slayed the giant dragon, opt to emphasize the hard work and team effort that went into achieving the goal.

Mention that you are only part of the team and stick to facts. If it is a fact, then no one can argue or hold it against you. If you closed the big deal, then you will be recognized for your accomplishment, even if you give credit to others. The point is to avoid hogging all the glory or you will make enemies — a lot of them.

4. Your crew

Who better to sing your praises than your friends? This one is simple; just have your friends chime in once in a while with some tidbit about you that you can’t mention because it would be bragging. They can praise you and get away with it, so long as you act modestly about the thing in question and don’t talk about it much, if at all.

5. Never sound pretentious

There are geniuses in this world, and they do things with ease that amaze most mortals. However, no one will hold this against them unless they are pretentious about their achievements. Never make your success sound like it was a walk in the park. You don’t have to tell people it was the hardest thing in the world, but never make things sound too easy or people will resent you for thinking you’re better than everyone else.

Make it sound like they could have accomplished the same thing as you; this will reassure them of their abilities and they won’t feel threatened by you. Internally, they’ll probably admit to themselves that they would not have been able to succeed as you did, but as long as only they know this fact, they’ll be saving face.

Remember, you can be better than everyone else. In fact, you can even know that you are better; just never say so out loud and you’ll do great. So go out there and be modest, downplay your achievements and learn to brag discreetly. Once you get good at this, you’ll realize that this is the way the game has been played all along.”

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We so-called city folks are full of ourselves.  We think we are street-smarts and hence we are constantly guarded against everyone around us.  Indeed there are loads of crooks out there prying on the least prepared and the most gullible.  Though as residents of almost every fast-paced city, we should all learn to be a bit more accepting, and a bit more compassionate to people around us. 

We never want to lose out, so when we interact with people, a mental calculator surfaces that shows us what potential benefits, or trouble, we can get from the other party.  Shall we be friendly, or shall we just nod along politely?  What are the odds that we will be taken advantage by him or her?  What do they want from me? 

Not until I left the city and entered into a new surrounding did I realize how ridiculous our behavior could be.  I came into contact with all kinds of people in Taipei, and I received a lot of friendly treatments from all of them.   The people I met genuinely wanted to share life stories with me.  They opened up, and they took the time to invest in conversations. 

And I don’t mean hollow conversations where people only talk about what food they have eaten, cars they drive, or how much money they make.  I don’t think people should need these topics to justify their existence or value on the planet. 

I was greeted by very sincere folks in Taipei who were genuinely interested in knowing about each other.  I met people who openly shared their darkest secrets and insecurities with me, a stranger from Hong Kong whom they had never met before.  Though I cannot recall the last time I experienced it here at home, I didn’t find that odd at all.  It should be human nature.  The conversations I was engaged in were always candid, honest and at times vulnerable.  I like that on people.

In my mind, everyone should possess a certain level of confidence.  Showing your vulnerabilities is not a sign of weakness.  If you have inner qualities that excel amongst others, people will feel it without you needing to flaunt it.  Confident people, as long as they are not cocky, are incredibly attractive.  Insecure people, on the other hand, are usually despised and almost hated by others.  When I see people who are humble and willing to improve upon themselves, you will see me throwing myself at them like a moth to a flame.

Sounds like a bunch of random thoughts, but I owe it to Taipei who reaffirmed me on the goodness of people in the start of 2011.  Thank you.


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As leaders, arriving at a changing or even turmoil environment can be a daunting reality.  There is a lack of trust in the air from the people left behind.  You can hardly find anyone with enough facts to put the puzzle together.  Everyone is saying what you can and cannot do.  Neighboring departments all seem to be using the chance to grab a piece of your empire.  Your comrades are all skeptic.  You don’t know who to trust.  Your boss hired you into the situation and expects you to turn things around, fast. 

This sounds very common to all professions of all industries.  Those days of hiring you into an established post already with good processes and good people are long gone.  We are all expected to improve, land better results, and accomplish the so-called impossibilities.  If not with the latter, your subordinates would have already been qualified for your job.   From day one, you should have already set your expectations right.

I am still surprised to see how many new leaders performing below expectations, not only in the first quarter, but for the first full year.  Yes I know how challenging any new environment is, and how insecure we can all become, at least secretly, from all the observations and disasters landing our way right from the start.  However, there is just no way to look back and ponder.  In my opinion, they have nothing much to lose if they are hired to turn things around in the first place.  Things cannot get any worse, and timing cannot be any better, in reality.

Speed is critical.  People need to see actions, attitudes, opinions, and bold drives.  Employees need to see hope and change.  Though there is no guarantee (is there any, ever?) of the outcome, new leaders need to be able to articulate his or her vision and couple with a few tangible action plans quickly, usually no later than the first quarter assuming office. 

Doing nothing, hiding in his or her comfort zone and let the whole situation plays itself out is by far the worst thing any new leaders can do.

Insecurity?  Please, no time for that.  Don’t start putting the blame on people and the predecessors.  Yeah yeah, that’s why new leadership is sought.   I have seen new leaders complaining about how they are left with no alliances, soldiers and culture.  Yet they always fail to realize that they are the leaders of change as well.  They have way more ammunition than they thought.  They can hire and fire.  They can instill new thoughts and culture.  They can set examples by getting their butts off meeting internal customers, stakeholders and senior executives to remove obstacles and attain buy-in.  Without that,  they can hardly expect their subordinates to change, just like that.

We all need a large mirror to reflect on what we do, behave and run away from.  It is particularly difficult to see the truth when you are a leader because there are very few who would dare to hold up the mirror against you.  Needless to say, knowing how to pick and utilize your talent pool is probably the most critical and very first thing any new leader should master.  Identify the good people, know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and spot the ones who are marginally effective.   Only then would you be able to take in the right advice and recommendations, from the right people.

Insecure leaders, on the other hand, tend to be skeptic of competent staff members due to reasons listed in Part One.  To me, these are just signs that they are still acting as managers, and clearly not yet leadership material. 

This, is where executive coaches come in.   One coach used to say “Getting past your insecurity and embracing contributions from talented staff is the best starting point of becoming a new leader.”

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It cannot get any more disillusioned when you find out your leaders are insecure.  Leaders are there to provide vision, boost morale, remove obstacles and I believe most importantly, identify and groom talent. 

How do leaders get to be insecure?  Well to be fair, it applies to everyone including you and me, but we naturally hold higher standards for our bosses.  We all just got to watch it and not fall into the same trap.

1. Lack of confidence.  It happens to all of us.  We know we aren’t good with everything and sometimes it’s simply because we are less than enthusiastic with certain parts of our work.  We all know that if our hearts aren’t there, there is just no way we can deliver a satisfactory job.  In addition, it just sounds like everyone else is so much smarter than us, and we seem to be the only ones who have no idea what everyone else is talking about. 

The truth is, yes we are not good with everything and no one really is.  There should however at least be a few things that you do well for others to remember you by.  Capitalize on that, know what your weaknesses are and work on them.  There is just nothing more attractive than people who are confident and positive.  Needless to say, watch the line between confidence and cockiness.  I have seen so many people on far ends of this spectrum and too few can balance it well.

2. Threat.  Afraid of overshadowed by colleagues or subordinates?  Think that they may get noticed more and take your position away?  Same case with leaders.  Insecure leaders get so paranoid about the possibilities and make every effort to control information, stir up arguments, micro-manage, set up bureaucracies to make sure they themselves are useful, rather than thinking for the company’s interest.   Unfortunately they seldom know how naked they are.  If I can see it, everyone else can too.

3. Inexperienced to lead.  Leading talent is no easy matter.  Every one of us are different entities and we are motivated by different means.  Some want stability, some want power and some want money.  Bad leaders do not take the time to get to know their team and lead by cookie-cutter techniques – yes, very old-school techniques.  Some leaders do not pay attention even after you honestly share with them what you want.  In my opinion, I know I will probably never be able to provide all that my staff wanted, but I would remember it by heart, check-in with them constantly, and explain to them what I can or cannot do, with a timeline whenever possible.   Leading is very much a tailor-made approach, and I always believe staff responds to honesty and feeling recognized as a distinct individual instead of a generic “team member”.

4. Unable to scout talents.  Admit it, we all get frustrated when we see bad sheep in the department.  It’s bad enough that our leaders fail to notice it, but there is nothing worse or demoralizing than seeing the wrong people get rewarded, or good people go unappreciated.   Leaders need to set good examples by recognizing and reinforcing talented individuals and behavior, so that whatever competition there is within the organization,  it’s a healthy one.  Good leaders attract good people, and I follow many good mentors because they are passionate, charismatic and down to earth.  I believe with year 2011 just around the corner, retaining and attracting new talent is only getting more and more critical and challenging.  But hey, that’s what we expect of good leaders!

 I don’t need my leaders to have super powers.  I am very realistic.  I also don’t expect them to know more than me in everything, and that’s why I am hired to work for them and contribute what’s needed of me.  I however want to see my leaders to be trusting, confident and have a stand.  We may disagree on things but I want to be able to respect them, because it says something.  If I have lost respect for my leaders because of one or more of the above reasons, I know it’s probably time to pull the plug.  Yes dear, we as subordinates have choices as well. 

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