Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Place of Better Performance

I'm short.  I'm female.  I am naturally a reserved person and an introvert,  thus to me listening, observing, and thinking about a situation involving other people are important activities to undergo before reacting. 

As someone short and female and also as someone who seems to look younger than I really am, I'm not the first person to receive notice in a group unless I step forward and demand attention. As an introspective and reserved person, stepping forward and demanding attention or taking control of a conversation is not my first inclination.

I have found that I can do it when I choose to; however. I'm not entirely sure what changes, except that I understand my objective and I communicate what I need to clearly, I know how to project my voice so that people hear me without me having to yell.  I even find I react to things differently while in this "zone:"  while my normal inclination would be to ponder and think through the best choice when encountering the unexpected, I find I am reasonably able to make quick decisions. 

The biggest difference though, is that in this zone I feel fully present in the role, and am truly confident.  No background worrying or fretting or considering my performance or my competence or just how I am coming off.  I am evaluating those things for effectiveness in the moment, but not in the apprehensive kind of way that I normally do, and not even particularly consciously at all.

I have learned to do this in situations when I need to command attention, which has mostly been in front of a group, through a combination of theater training, occasionally-brutal summer camp counselor experience, ropes course facilitator experience and my experience giving interpretive programs as a park ranger intern.

Still, all those natural factors make me an absolutely non-ideal candidate for a sales assignment, especially considering I am a young woman selling a product/service in a traditionally "good ole boys'" world, especially considering I am not particular motivated by the prospect of just trying to convince people to give me their money.  I care much more about the theoretical geeky details of the insulation than whether this person buys their insulation from company A or company B but oh wait I work for company A so I'd better represent them.

When I re-cast the experience as a personal challenge:  I know this is not what I care about nor is it my skill set, but I want to do the best I can and learn about how this unfamiliar set of skills is used, then I at least don't mind trying.  Usually afterward I find I did about a zillion things wrong and still came off as someone with little experience, because I am a person with little experience, for now.  I'm getting better about looking at each building like a problem to be solved, trying to provide the best solution based on the needs of the building and on the needs of the customer, and summoning "the zone" to give me the power to go forward and ask questions and command respect through feeling competent. This is not the largest part of my job and it is hopefully not a permanent part, but for now I absorb the experience from an extremely intellectual standpoint, and being able to do that is in some ways a product of being able to make a choice to be in a more confident state.

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