7 Smart Strategies That Will Cure Your Fear of Public Speaking

By Minda Zetlin at Inc.com. Originally at http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/7-smart-strategies-that-will-cure-your-fear-of-public-speaking.html

7 Smart Strategies That Will Cure Your Fear of Public Speaking
Got stage fright? Reframe what you expect from a speech, and your attitude about it will change as well

IMAGE: Getty Images

Does the prospect of speaking in front of a live audience make you nervous? If you’re human, the likely answer is yes. In surveys, people routinely report public speaking as their number-one fear–ahead of their fear of death.

Chris White, who leads the Center for Positive Organizations at The University of Michigan, struggled with similar feelings. “Many of us can relate to this stomach-clenching, heart-pounding, throat-choking anxiety,” he says. “This is a problem for someone teaching MBAs and executives as part of his day job!”

But White used his leadership smarts to overcome this problem by reformulating his goals for every speech. It’s a process that he says will work for nearly any challenge that makes you feel overly pressured or nervous. Here’s his approach:

1. Stop hoping that your speech will be a smash hit.

“I knew both from my past experience of clamming up in front of groups, and from research, that having a performance orientation–‘this next talk has to be a home run!’– is often counterproductive,” White says. “As my stress level increased, my presentation skills would decline.”

White fought this phenomenon by reframing his ambitions for each presentation. Instead of trying to make every one a home run, he thought of each as an opportunity to learn and improve for next time. “Each talk became a ‘practice swing’ in which some things would go well and others could be adjusted,” he says.

Perhaps counterintuitively, this mental exercise actually improved his presentation skills by loosening the grip of stagefright. “Don’t swing for the fences,” he advises now. “Take a lot of practice swings.”

2. Make learning one of your goals.

“Research shows that having both performance goals and learning goals is often a better way to get you to your destination,” White says. You can harness this effect for public speaking and for many other kinds of tasks as well. “When setting an intention, create multiple kinds of goals: performance goals, contribution goals, and learning goals,” he says. “Among the goals, keep the learning orientation front and center in your mind as you take action.”

3. Consider the ultimate purpose of your talk.

This may seem to conflict with White’s suggestion to put more emphasis on learning and less on performance outcome. The difference is that, rather than focusing on your own success or failure, you consider the broader purpose of your talk. Are you trying to build awareness for your brand or product? Address a social problem that deserves greater attention? Inspire investors to invest or students to learn?

“When fueled by a sense of purpose and a desire to help others, our intrinsic motivation grows–and, accordingly, so does our productivity,” White explains. Studies have compared the productivity of those who heard from a beneficiary of their work, and those who have not, he adds. “Unsurprisingly, those who felt a strong sense of contribution dramatically outperformed those who had not–even when following the exact same work process.”

4. Notice if you’re putting undue pressure on yourself–and stop it!

“Obsessing about the performance outcome is not always the best way to go,” White notes. No matter how important the speech you’re making actually is, taking that pressure off yourself will only help. “In my case, reassigning the speech’s meaning from ‘hit a home run!’ to ‘take a good practice swing’ really helped lower self-imposed anxiety,” White says. “It opened up new possibilities for learning and improvement every time.”

5. Good or bad, get feedback about each speech.

“To especially boost learning–as well as performance–create opportunities for self-reflection and feedback from others along the way,” White says. “As 70 percent of leadership development happens through experience rather than in the classroom or from books, using a process to catch every drop of insight from what we do could be more beneficial than taking another course. These days, however well or badly I feel a talk has been perceived, I try to do the same personal preparation and debrief.”

6. Find fellow travelers.

To find others who were working on similar stage fright issues, White began taking acting courses in his spare time. “This gave me supplemental practice outside of the workplace, and a structure to practice getting out of my comfort zone in front of people,” he says.

Even better, it gave White a new way to think about the question of good and bad performance. “The acting class format routinizes feedback on things that go well–and things that don’t!–such that when little things go wrong, they are looked at in the proper perspective,” he says. “Additionally, it created a gentle and fun, yet strong, accountability mechanism to keep me on track for at least the ten weeks of each course. I felt accountable to my scene partners… and had a big showcase on the calendar to focus my efforts if I felt tempted to slack off!”

There are many kinds of fellow travelers for various tasks, he adds. “It could be a training buddy, an acting group, a mentor or coach. It makes the journey more fun, and keeps you accountable along the way!”

7. Take the long view.

Seeing each speech as one point along a continuum of constant improvement will give you a much better attitude toward its success, or lack thereof. “No matter how big the talk, or how well it goes, there are always things that go well, and things that can be adjusted,” White says. “These days, my comfort with public speaking has increased, and so too my performance. And it will keep doing so–I have many practice swings ahead of me!”


The Allure of Intrapreneurship

Originally appeared in Talent Management Magazine: http://www.talentmgt-digital.com/read-tm/november_2014?pg=15#pg15

All talent professionals greet the annual Gallup Engagement figures with some interest and curiosity. Increasingly, though, I have noticed a little less engagement (pun intended) with the numbers in recent years. It seems that the issue is so big, complex, and intractable that it is easier to just be sadly aware of its existence, than it is to systematically address it.

One potential remedy that is receiving increased attention from both media and talent professionals is intrapreneurship: the art and science of individuals navigating organizations to create change, even without the benefit of formal authority. Recent innovations in organizational structure and management approaches are increasingly putting emphasis on the ability of individuals to influence irrespective of position. Equipping employees with the skills to influence these more organic organizational designs is important. Perhaps even more important, though, is equipping people in heavily matrixed organizations to be able to get things done – to avoid being paralyzed by organizational inertia.

We systematically teach MBA students and executives the skills to be able to lead change without formally having the title of “leader”. Many of the examples we use in teaching are of initiatives that represent “positive change” – such as building a more humane workplace, developing products that are beneficial for less advantaged populations, advancing practices and processes that are better for the environment, or creating a healthy relationship with the communities in which we work. However, the same approaches are effective in driving just about any initiative. Indeed, we find that the skills needed to create change from within organizations are remarkably similar to those used to create change in society at large.

. From studying social innovations over the last century, reviewing the relevant and multi-disciplinary academic literature of the last 40 years, and interviewing dozens of change agents working within companies large and small, and around the world, we’ve identified four main variables that influence the success of intrapreneurial initiatives:

Timing Matters

Just because an idea is perceived as a non-starter today, does not mean it will be greeted with the same negativity tomorrow. When IBM was considering new program ideas for its global corporate social responsibility function, the idea of a “Corporate Peace Corps” was mooted… and was virtually laughed out of the conference room. Fast forward a few months: Chairman Sam Palmisano published his thought leadership doctrine of “The Globally Integrated Enterprise”, and began searching for programs that embody this philosophy. The Corporate Service Corps was launched, and became wildly successful and popular at Big Blue and beyond. The program was listed as one of IBM’s best 100 innovations of its first 100 years, and has subsequently been replicated in many top companies.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

Any large organization can be thought of as a complex network of formal and informal structures and relationships. The ability to understand the social terrain, and to navigate it effectively, is one of the key factors for successfully leading change from any seat in an organization. The characterization of “Mavens”, “Connectors”, and “Salespeople” as key players in the spread of ideas and epidemics, outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, actually holds up very well with regard to the academic research into network structures. This enables us to make sure to engage the right people, in the right sequence, to increase our chances of success in selling internally.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

A winning argument in Walmart may be doomed from the start in Whole Foods. We find that intrapreneurial superstars adapt the way their stories are told at two levels: master frame, which is tailored to the logics of the company culture and adaptation, where the intrapreneurs adapts the frame to the interests of a particular audience. For example, while overall concept will remain the same from conference room to conference room, the typical CFO will tend to have different hot buttons to the VP HR. The best intrapreneurs realize this and adjust their narrative and evidence accordingly.

Bring Friends

If the timing is right, the allies are in place, and the case fits the culture, then it is time to organize around the initiative. Typically, mobilizing allies can be done through utilizing the myriad existing structures in most organizations – such as town halls, brown bag lunches, intranets and so forth. Once momentum builds, we often see pilot initiatives preferred to fully-fledged efforts straight away (the exception being in projects that require high capital expenditure to get things started). The best intrapreneurs have mastered the art of building snowballs that often start small and unnoticed, but grow over time through the force of their own momentum.

The talent management fruits of enabling intrapreneurs are bountiful. Equipping people to time initiatives appropriately, line up supporters, make a resonant case, and mobilize allies could unlock a new level of performance and engagement in your organization.


Reimagining our workplaces

Originally at http://www.workforce.com/articles/20410-positive-business-positive-results

Positive Business, Positive Results: An Open Invitation

The term ‘positive business’ refers to the application of this vision to the world of business — the belief that organizations can be reimagined to achieve extraordinary outcomes. Everyone has moments of greatness that stay with us for years, but why is it that those instances seem so fleeting?

Isn’t it possible to create a structure or apply processes that will allow us to have and celebrate more professional moments of greatness on a regular basis? Just think of the benefits this would not only bring to the individual workers, but also to the organization itself.

The term “positive business” refers to the application of this vision to the world of business — the belief that organizations can be reimagined to achieve extraordinary outcomes for shareholders, employees, communities and the environment. Many global businesses and innovative emerging companies have reimagined the way they organize and manage various aspects of their organizations, which entails everything from recruiting and workforce management to operations and legal to sales and marketing. These forward-thinking companies realize that, just like people, their organizations experience moments of greatness. These moments can be amplified in a virtuous cycle.

I invite you to envision positive business in your own organization and offer some ways to consider applying these practices across various functional areas and business processes.

An Invitation to Reimagine People Processes

Can you think of a particularly positive organization? Positive organizations, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. Maybe you are picturing a larger company like Whole Foods Market Inc., renowned for the empowering practices it employs for its “team members” (workers are not called “employees” here). Maybe you are picturing a local, “small giant,” like Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. On a recent visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan, President Barack Obama lauded the approach to management and leadership that has grown up at what Inc. magazine called the “coolest deli in America.”

What are some of the characteristics of these workplaces? Maybe it’s that leaders focus mostly on the things their people do well, rather than just correcting the things they do badly. Maybe it’s that employees connect a deep sense of meaning to their work. You probably came up with many other connotations in that mental exercise. The same thought process can be applied to the entire organization.

The industry standard recruiting process is to receive many résumés and cover letters, and then filter them to a candidate pool. Companies then conduct one or more rounds of interviews, and a reference and background check is conducted on the lucky candidates. Yet, as many of us know from painful experience, no matter how great a candidate seems through the interview process, we never really know how that person will work out in the job for weeks or even months.

By contrast, at companies like Menlo Innovations, which builds custom software, a large group is offered the chance to learn about the company through a paid trial. In multiple steps, people are paired with existing team members for a short, intense burst of collaborative work. Those who make the cut are paid to work as contractors on real projects for the company.

Beyond just technical skills, candidates Menlo are exploring whether they have a good cultural fit with each other. Eventually, once a candidate and team have had a chance to decide whether they choose each other, the new employee is selected. As Menlo’s CEO Richard Sheridan writes in his book “Joy, Inc.,” all of this is done in a way that is designed to create positive experiences for the candidates and do valuable work for the company, irrespective of whether a full-time job offer is ultimately forthcoming.

What about creating job descriptions? The industry standard is to describe in a long set of bullet points the responsibilities to be fulfilled in this role, as well as desired qualifications. While it is now almost 15 years since Gallup Inc.’s Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman showed the importance of managers adapting their approaches to each individual employeecorporate America (and the corporate world, in fact) has still not evolved past a one-size-fits-all approach to job descriptions.

A recent multiyear study, however, has shown that job crafting — processes for shaping one’s own role to align with personal values, interests and strengths — can facilitate a significant uptick in performance and engagement that remains over six months after the initial intervention.

As Brian Welle, Google Inc.’s people analytics director, said, “The job-crafting exercisehas enabled team members to more clearly define how their values, strengths and passions connect to what they do on a day-to-day basis. This insight has really helped people identify who they are and tap into what is most important to them at work, which has made a tremendous difference for us.”

This same approach can be extended to just about every organizational process, not just people development.

An Invitation to Reimagine Organizational Functions 

Another way to think of the corporation is as a collection of functions. Each of the functions can be considered individually as a way to take a closer look at how positive business practices play out in organizations.

As those of us who have undertaken a strict diet in our own lives know, lean living can be a stressful experience. Cue crankiness, fatigue, irritability — these are all symptoms that often have personal and systemic parallels in organizations put under stress.

Implementing lean production practices has been the industry standard for improving operations processes for over a generation now. The goals of reducing waste and variance in the system are systematically and rigorously pursued. Yet, implementing lean principles and practices can often be a draining experience for those involved. What if the approach to implementing lean were re-imagined to achieve its desired outcomes of reducing waste and variance, while not just maintaining the energy and engagement of those involved, but actually enhancing it?

Wallace Hopp, a business professor at the University of Michigan, has written extensively about how “managing the stress on the system” was one of the original tenets of lean production, but somehow got lost in the rush to reduce waste and variance. What adjustments might need to be made to make lean conducive to thriving, not just efficiency?

When we think of the law in organizations, we think mostly of risk mitigation, not value creation. To work optimally, though, the equation needs to be balanced.

“Efficient work systems can make jobs stressful, tedious and dehumanizing. They can also make jobs enjoyable, stimulating and rewarding,” Hopp said. “It all depends on how they are implemented. Positive lean achieves efficiency via work systems that energize and motivate workers, which in turn amplifies the productivity gains of traditional lean methods.”

Applying positivity can be effective in externally facing roles, too. Consider Sales: Procter & Gamble Co.’s chief customer officer, Bob Fregolle, has reoriented his $82 billion/year organization around principles of radical transparency, as well as relationship- and trust-building between his salespeople and their customers. The principles underlying Fregolle’s strategic bet are, on face value, consistent with research. In his book “Give and Take,” Adam Grant, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania, cites research across a wide range of industries that shows openness and advice-seeking are much more persuasive in influencing scenarios, such as sales, than are pressuring tactics, flattery or trading favors.

But surely positive business cannot apply to support functions, right?


When we think of the law in organizations, we think mostly of risk mitigation, not value creation. To work optimally, though, the equation needs to be balanced. “Preventive law and positive law are two key elements in strategic planning. Unlike preventive law, which focuses on preventing or, at least, controlling legal risks, positive law emphasizes the value creation function of law,” explains George Siedel, a business professor at the University of Michigan. “In combination, these two elements offer businesses an opportunity to seize competitive advantage.”

We have seen the same principles apply to other functions — accounting, marketing, strategy and finance— to great effect. Is your department an exemplar of positive business?

Both organizational functions and their people processes can be reimagined in ways that are good for business and encourage people to thrive as human beings. No more of what Cascade Engineering founder and CEO Fred Keller calls “lazy thinking.” It is not good enough to just stop once you figure out how to meet the needs of just one stakeholder. Positive business requires you to keep going until you find integrative solutions that create great outcomes for all.

Positive business is an invitation to participate in creating something better for all. Change is not easy. Achieving this will require reimagining the functions and processes of organizations. Although referring mostly to product development, the late Steve Jobs famously said, “Everything around you was made up by people no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

So, too, with organizations. You can change them and influence them, and you can build your own business that makes a positive difference in the world.

Chris White is the managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.


Behind the scenes of Joy, Inc: Ann Arbor’s Menlo Innovations

Rich Sheridan and James Goebel have built a software company on the philosophy that work and workplaces can and should be joyful. And a large part of that involves getting the technology out of the way of real human interaction.

Full video here!

Rich Sheridan’s delightful book, Joy, Inc., can be bought here.

positive emotions

Six Essential Ways to Build a Positive Organization

Excerpted from original article by Kathy Caprino at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2013/12/13/6-essential-ways-to-build-a-positive-organization/

When you look around your office, do you see a positive organization that fosters growth, expansion, and engagement, or the opposite?

Recently, I connected with Chris White, Managing Director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, and Adjunct Faculty at the Ross School of Business, for his take on how we can create positive organizations that make the utmost of their human resources.

Chris shared his thoughts, based on research from the Center:

“There are abundant resources, talents, abilities and strengths within and around you in your organization, if you are attuned to them, and know how to bring them to the forefront. Too often these powerful resources are trapped within the rigid processes, structures and systems. These resources, if tapped, can lead to vibrant, energized people contributing at the highest levels in thriving workplaces. These are assets that can generate extraordinary performance, both individually and collectively — resources like commitment, creativity, inspiration, generosity, and integrity — authentic leadership at all levels of the organization. We call those workplaces that have learned to unlock these exceptional human resources “Positive Organizations.”

Research from The Center for Positive Organizations as well as its community of scholars at other top academic institutions around the world, tells us that in following an overarching approach of drawing on and nurturing key human resources, there are specific ways to harness the power of people that is currently trapped within the matrix. Doing so can ultimately build a truly positive, thriving organization.

Here are Chris’s suggestions for six ways to get started to build a positive organization:

Focus Behavior on the Do’s, Not Just the Don’ts

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Professor Kim Cameron, a leading researcher in organizational effectiveness, has convincingly linked “virtuousness” in organizations – the presence of attributes like generosity, forgiveness and compassion – to enterprise performance. Similarly, Ross Professor David Mayer, a researcher in field of social and ethical issues in organizations, is helping to grow awareness of Positive Ethics: understanding how to move cultures beyond preventing unethical behavior, toward the abundance of high-integrity actions. As a leader dedicated to building a positive organization, ask yourself, “How many of our corporate policies actually encourage virtuousness vs. only mitigate the risks of unethical behavior?”

Help People Connect Positive Meaning to Their Tasks and Projects

Did your team just spend the day “doing email” or were they actually engaged in something more important and meaningful that makes a profound difference in peoples’ lives?

Studies by social science Professor Adam Grant showed that telesales teams who were exposed to short, appreciative testimonials from the beneficiaries of their work before beginning their shifts performed markedly better than control groups who did not. The kicker: both groups used exactly the same scripts. The difference was all in the meaning and positive emotions that the callers took into their work. Illustrating how teams’ tasks and responsibilities actual make a difference in people’s lives can significantly improve their effectiveness.

Offer People Structured Freedom to Shape Their Own Roles

Research by Adam Grant, organizational behavior Professor Amy Wrzesniewski, and doctoral student Justin Berg shows that giving people a way to shape their own roles in line with their values, passions and strengths leads to measurably better engagement and performance. Google GOOG -2.51%’s People Analytics Director Brian Welle credits The Job Crafting Exercise™ in helping to build performance by helping his people identify who they are authentically and tap into what is most important to them at work. The exercise is designed to help employees make their job more engaging and fulfilling by looking at it in a new way — as a flexible set of building blocks rather than a fixed list of duties.

Find the Energy in Your Organization

Every organization has energizers—those who enliven others with their positive energy. Energizers are positive influencers, effective leaders, and value creators. They are ideal champions of organizational change and innovation. Ross Professor Wayne Baker maps energy networks in groups, teams, or organizations. His energy maps help to spot the organization’s energizers, including those who are in positions of formal authority or who are quiet energizers who don’t seek the limelight. These energizers often make excellent leaders of organizational change initiatives, yet are frequently overlooked when these teams are pulled together through traditional approaches.

Build Positive Self-Identities at Work

You may well know your strengths. But who are you when you are at your best? How would your closest friends, family and colleagues describe you when you’re at your best?

Often, by eliciting stories from others about when they have seen you at your best, you gain a more complete picture of your potential as a leader. How you see yourself profoundly impacts how you behave. The Reflected Best Self Exercise™ is one example of a personal development tool that enables people to identify their unique strengths and talents. Each participant requests positive feedback from significant people in his or her life and then synthesizes it into a cumulative portrait of his or her “best self.” People more aware of who they are when they are at their unique best, are more likely to be at their best more often.

Draw Strength from High Quality Connections

It only takes a moment to make a truly human connection, a connection that can generate good will, energy, and positive bonds.

We have dozens of opportunities to do so each day. These micro-moments are what positive organizational expert, Ross Professor Jane Dutton, calls High-Quality Connections, and what social psychologist Barbara Frederickson calls Positivity Resonance. For example, in the Center for Positive Organizations, they routinely start meetings by each sharing a recent piece of good news. Empirical evidence suggests that these moments of connection can lead to great benefits in happiness, creativity, and health.


An emphasis on building positivity and strengthening positive practices in organizations is not just a “nice to have,” empty leadership mantra, but a critical business imperative for leaders and managers who wish to ensure the long-term success, growth, stability and competitive advantage of their organizations.

Take a long, hard look at your organization and evaluate concretely its emphasis on positivity. What step can you take today as a leader to unlock the vast potential of your human resources?

(For more information, visit the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and its Center for Positive Organizations.)

(For more on accelerating individual career success and growth, visit www.elliacommunications.com and The Amazing Career Project.)


Navigating the Future, with Ford’s Futurist Sheryl Connelly

What are some of the biggest trends affecting the role and nature of business in the world? How can we track them and adapt along with them? At the 2014 Positive Business Conference, I hosted Sheryl Connelly – Chief Futurist at Ford Motor Company – for a funny and insightful conversation on these topics and much more.

Full video here!



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