Top dog or underdog?

Last week I attended a briefing day for coaches on the BIS coaching for high growth programme.

As with these types of events you are not informed about the other participants who will be attending. On entering the room it was immediately apparent that it was filled with dark coloured suits and middle-aged white men. I often work on programmes where I am the only female or one of a handful of females (and often the only non-white female) and am well accustomed to these types of situations.

 But it doesn’t matter how often they occur, there is usually that niggling thought in the back of your head that jumps forward and whispers:  “should I be here, am I credible enough, will I be able to hold my own….?” These were really nonsensical thoughts as we were all assessed and screened for suitability. But the mind often by – passes such rational explanations!

And suddenly I could feel the confidence evaporating and those self-limiting thoughts and beliefs taking over. Drawing on some of the techniques that I have used in the past to overcome such situations, I headed off to introduce myself to a group.

And so there I am engaging and building rapport, when I spot the only other female coach within the room . It is quite amazing how quickly you can process information on what you see before you: appearance, clothes, hair, shoes…. Women have a habit of secretly checking each other out and your level of self-esteem, confidence, values and beliefs will influence how you react and feel about yourself. You might vie for ‘top dog’ position, assume that ‘the other person is ‘better’ than you and lose your nerve / confidence or think ‘I am ok; you are ok’.

I have seen all of these different ‘types’ in action and whilst I now adopt the latter approach, there have been times in my early career where the first 2 behaviours came into play. 

So how do you build your confidence and hold your own when in such situations? Here are 7 tips that my clients have used successfully:

 –  Know yourself: take the time to find out your strengths, passions, core values and purpose. Be clear who you are, what you stand for and let your authentic self shine through

 –  Believe in your abilities, knowledge and experience. If you are lacking in knowledge and ‘know how’ then do something about it. Expertise together with confidence creates presence, builds credibility and enhances your personal brand

–  Boost your confidence, self-esteem, positivity by celebrating small successes. The happier we are, the greater is our resilience

–  Use the power of visualisation on the run up to events – play out mental images of you being and acting successfully – interacting with people, hearing yourself speak, noticing your feelings and emotions. Start telling your unconscious mind that this is what you want to happen

–  Dress in attire that reflects who are you and your brand. Wearing the right clothes and taking time on your appearance will help to boost your confidence

–  Recognise and replace negative thoughts quickly – develop your ability to shift perspective quickly

–  Be flexible in your style and approach and adapt to the person / group that you are engaging with

How did you cope with similar experiences and situations? What strategies did you use? Love to hear your story  

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About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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One Response to Top dog or underdog?

  1. Jamie says:

    Vera, You described beautifully how a lack of confidence can seep into our being and interfere. Your suggestion about recognizing negative thoughts and replacing them is truly life-changing. So many times we send our brains the same self-defeating messages. Noticing them and replacing them can make all the difference. Thanks for the great reminder!

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