LEAD With Confidence
Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – but for who they were as humans. The top 3 leaders of all time – Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK – wrote & gave great speeches, but we remember them for WHO they were and HOW they lived, not just for what they said. Each of them had courageously humble confidence in their ability to change the world. We believed in them because of their belief in themselves.
On Saturday morning, I had the honor of kicking off the #ESPAconference with my opening keynote, LEAD With Confidence. It was my first speaking gig in 2 months and as I got started, I was feeling the energy of the room and flowing with it. Until I realized the clicker for my slides wasn’t working. At all.
I started bantering with the audience, saying NEXT! to the tech team, and watched my sweet husband run to the back of the room to help advance my slides. It was an audience full of meeting planners – a PERFECT audience to understand that this wasn’t a little thing. I mentioned that I teach speakers how to handle situations like this – and that this must be happening so I could prove to them that it really does happen. I worked the mishap into my talk and had the audience cracking up every time I said “NEXT!” I had to keep going with or without my slides because I was the show, so – on with the show!
By the time it got fixed, I was already halfway through my talk, making the audience do awkward (such fun) things like stare at each other in order to see how their energy connected them to each other, and telling lots of stories. I was also noticing parts of the talk I had planned and missed – nuggets I wanted to share that were important. I was frustrated with myself for forgetting them – it was my JOB to remember them. I even forgot to wrap it up the way I planned – bookending it as I train my speakers to.
Except, guess what?! NO ONE KNEW. No one walked up to me at the end and said “you missed a few things.” No one knew I had missed anything. I was the only person who knew I didn’t say what I planned. And that takes courageously humble confidence to keep going despite my inner gremlins yelling at me – telling me what a loser I was for forgetting things. “Great speakers wouldn’t forget that stuff – obviously you’re not that great.” HA! No way… I’m AMAZING! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! AMAZING! Forget you, gremlins!
Am I going to tighten up my talk? You bet. Did everyone in the audience walk away with tons of takeaways? Heck yeah! ESPA even got photos of lots of people with TONS of notes from my talk. Am I proud of myself for kicking off the year with a kickass talk? I sure am. Will I let this little incident deter me from sharing my message with the world? From teaching leaders how to be great? HELL no.
Raise your hand if you’ve had a mishap in front of a group of people. (You just raised your hand, didn’t you?) We’ve ALL had the shit hit the fan in front of others. We’ve all fallen flat on our face, tripped over the imaginary bump in the floor, or stuck our foot in our mouth. If you’ve ever spoken on a stage, you KNOW that it comes with the territory.
Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – it’s for WHO they were as humans and HOW they lead. I’m a human. Everyone in my audience was a human. Humans fail. It comes with the territory. It was HOW I handled the situation that mattered – NOT what I said.
When the shit hits the fan, how will you react? Sometimes you won’t even know until you’re in that situation. When you’re a true leader, you’ll know exactly what to do – even if you are watching yourself failing miserably. It comes from the courageously humble confidence you’ve been cultivating inside yourself – because you’re always learning, always growing.
Big stages can be one of the scariest places to have tough things happen – unless you’re trained to make the best of it. Then you can make bad things into memorable things. Everything I have learned from 10+ years of rocking stages (good and bad) is in SPEAK With Confidence – so you can learn from my failures AND successes along with other Rockstars just like you.
I even created a FREE training: How To Write A Stage-Worthy Talk In Under 45 Minutes for ANYONE to learn how to say what they need to say in front of an audience of one or many. I don’t think it’s fair to keep everything for just the keynote speakers or people who have the time and resources to come to Denver to rock a real stage with me. It’s all yours – free.
When it’s time to stand up and say what you need to say EVEN if you know you’ll fail, you’ll know what to do. You are a courageously humble and confident human. I can see that you are. It’s time you see it, too.
I want you to show up & show off in your next talk.
The SPEAK With Confidence Retreat began because I wanted a safe space to grow as a keynote speaker. Now, we are the ONLY public speaking retreat where you can write your next talk, practice on a real stage with lights & sound, AND go live in front of an audience to show off your newly honed skills.
Now, it’s your turn. Whether you want stop being afraid of the stage OR get paid bigger fees for speaking, we’re ready for you.
In-Person Retreat: ispeakwithconfidence.com
Online Course: ispeakwithconfidence.com/online-only
“Stand silently in front of your partner and just look them in the eyes.”
Everyone in the room starts fidgeting. Someone starts laughing. A tear rolls down the cheek of a woman trying to hold in her emotions. A few glance at me as if to say “are you sure?”
As they stare at each other getting more uncomfortable, the energy starts shifting. Someone reaches out and touches the arm of the person in front of them as they start crying silently. All of them strangers. Connecting in a way they’ve never connected before. Staring – without words.
I walk them through a series of thoughts and wishes – hard stuff, easy stuff. When they’re done, I ask them to thank the person in front of them for sharing in their experience. Everyone’s hugging and crying and laughing – with a human who was a stranger just two minutes before. It’s only been two minutes and it feels like it’s been an eternity. They didn’t touch or speak or share anything else – they gave each other space and just looked.
No matter where in the world I do this, everyone says how much they hated feeling uncomfortable, and yet were so glad they did it. Most want to take it back to the office and freak out their coworkers. The Norwegians were my favorite – all of them holding up their steely cultural boundaries as they began and breaking them down quickly over the course of two minutes. Two guys approached me afterward & said, “I really like this guy! We’re going to be friends now & grab beers after this.” Another woman said, “I realized I haven’t looked at my husband in a really long time. I’m going to go home and really look at him.”
Communication isn’t just about the words we say. Leadership is not just about how persuasive we are. The conversations we’re having on a daily basis aren’t just made up of sentences. Yes, it matters what we say, but it also matters who we are and how we approach others. Just standing in front of another human being staring at them reminds us that we’re all connected on a deeper level than we realize.
Some call it energy. Others call it aura. I like to call it human-to-human connection.
“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
We’re all connected to each other. We’re all the same and different at the same time. We get hurt and feel pain. We feel sadness and cry. We hid in our shame. We get scared by our fears. We fall in love and get butterflies. We laugh out loud and feel joy. We choose how we want to feel on a daily basis – and yet, most of us are so stuck in our own “stuff” that we forget to notice how others are feeling. We’re so entrenched in our own shit that we end up closing off the space for others to share.
When we really ask, “How are you?” and use “active listening” skills, we hear more than the typical “good.” When we ask why and then look the person in the eye, we may get deeper answers. When we just give space for the other person to share – even if they need a moment – we connect on a level that’s uncomfortable for most. We connect in a way that allows each of us not to feel so alone.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James
At your last networking event, if I asked you to tell me about the most interesting person in the room, you’d most likely choose someone who asked questions and listened – NOT the person who talked about themselves the most. That’s because we all want to be that person – the person who asks insightful questions and listens. Yet, how often do we practice this?
Giving another person the space to share – even if they can’t find the words – that’s powerful. Asking questions that go deeper than the surface – that’s potent. Truly listening to what’s going on – that’s alluring.
TRY THIS: In your next conversation with your spouse, kids, coworkers, friends, new acquaintance – notice where your eyes are focused. Are you looking at their eyes? Are you studying the lines in their face or their earrings or their hair? Are you looking off in the distance? Are you gathering your words by looking around? Are you uncomfortable staring at them? Or uncomfortable with them staring at you?
Why are you uncomfortable? Why are you disconnecting? Why aren’t you listening? What are you thinking about? Get to the bottom of it and then figure out what you need to do to connect deeper.
Want an exercise that will help before you try to really look at someone else? It’ll be uncomfortable. Brace yourself.
Let’s start with looking at you. And I mean REALLY looking at you. It all begins with you – and if you’re having a tough time with others, go deep into yourself and find out why this is.
Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes & ask yourself these 3 questions.
1. What causes me stress?
2. When do I feel joy?
3. What needs to go?
Listen to yourself when you answer & then ask “why?”
See what comes up. When we’re being true to ourselves, we can be true with the world.
Take some time to journal the answers and then jump into the kickasshumansclub.com to share them. Open up a little, be vulnerable – let’s connect on a deeper level.
“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo
If you asked me to picture a female powerhouse, I picture PJ. PJ is a fierce horse-trainer married to one of the most prestigious chiropractors in the US. She was brought up by a strong woman and has raised her own strong daughter. She has style, sensibility, and a drive like no other. There’s a reason she runs her husband’s practice – no one else could do it with the patience and ease she can.
She walked into our last SPEAK With Confidence with a gorgeous chip on her shoulder. Her hair was pulled severely back into a rider’s ponytail with her knee-high boots & sharp gaze. She was ready, yet, at the same time, not willing to go where she needed to go.
After her first full day, I found her sitting in a dark corner almost in tears. She was struggling with what to say. She felt in her soul that she was about to hit something, but couldn’t figure out what it was. I asked what she was wanting to say and she blathered on about putting on blinders and just doing what needed to be done. From caring for her dying mother to running her husband’s busy practice, she just did the thing. When she was done, I looked her in the eye and said “would you tell your daughter to put blinders on and do what needs to be done?” Incredulously: “NO!” “Then WHY would you get on a stage and say that?”
I told her to write down what was standing in her way. She did and looked up to say, “Me!” Nah… that was a cop-out for the woman who put herself last. There was something bigger in her way.
Next, I told her to go for a walk. She did – and she shouted at the sky, at God, and at the Universe asking for an answer. When she was done and thoroughly frustrated, she walked back into the venue on the verge of more tears. My Momma Julie stepped in front of her and asked if she was ok. She didn’t say a word out loud and just stared.
Without hesitating, my mom told her a story about how her own step-father told her – the day after she married my dad – that she would never amount to anything. My mom spent the next 40 years proving him wrong. All that energy going into someone who would die without ever knowing how much he hurt her.
In that moment, PJ saw exactly what was in her way. Mrs. Wells stepped in front of her and said, “You’ll never do anything with your life.”
You see, when PJ was in grade school, she was asked by her teacher, Mrs. Wells, to read in front of class. PJ had a tough time reading (like some kids do) and was told she wasn’t enough. This invisible barrier stood between her and what she wanted for over four decades without PJ realizing where it came from.
UNTIL THAT DAY!
That day, she picked up tiny Mrs. Wells (in her ugly shoes) and moved her out of her way. PJ hadn’t been standing in her own way. She’d been telling herself a story that someone else told her – one that wasn’t true. Someone who didn’t matter to her. That story stuck with her and shaped who she became. She was grateful for her fierce drive to prove her wrong, yet sad to realize that she didn’t have to push so hard. Now this story has no weight. PJ CHOSE to remove it from her reality.
She walked out of SPEAK With Confidence with a softer outlook on life. No more blinders. No more severe ponytail. No more chip. She had stepped fully into the fierce powerhouse role with a softened heart and a gentle touch. PJ was finally here to show up & show off for the world. These photos below – they’re proof that the woman who walked in wasn’t the same as the one who walked back out into the world.
photos by Mary Gardella
If I asked you what was standing in your way right now, could you identify it? Maybe you’re like PJ & you think it’s you, until the right person reminds you of something you’ve pushed down for so long.
For a lot of us, the biggest thing that stands in our way is imposter syndrome.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
In simple terms, imposter syndrome is the thing that keeps you from saying things because someone else in the room knows more about that thing than you. And it’s all in your head.
Imposter syndrome can stem from a sentence that cut us to our core in our formative years, or the real belief that we’re not good enough. It could be our nature or the nurturing we received. It could be that we just don’t trust ourselves. Or that we’re terrified of being wrong.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. …And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson
You have something to say & if you don’t move whatever’s in your way, you’ll never make the impact you’re put here to make. You are powerful beyond your wildest imagination. It’s all within you right now. All it takes is a little bit of courage to take the next step and find your confidence.
When our lights are shining bright, we stand out. Which can be SUCH a scary thing for those of us who love to live in the shadows. And yet our light shines in the darkness where others have been hiding – worried they’ll be exposed as frauds.
“You are one decision away from a totally different life.” – Mark Batterson
What if I told you that THIS was your moment? Well, it is. THIS – RIGHT HERE – is your moment. If you’re reading this right now, say that out loud “THIS IS MY MOMENT.”
Make the decision to come play with us at a live event. Don’t be what’s stopping you.You have a light to shine.
Step up, be brave – I can’t wait to see you shining.
When we show up for ourselves, we show up for others.
When I was 24, I had a boss who changed who I would become as a leader. She was unlike any human being I had ever met.
When I walked into Talis’s office in my interview suit, I saw a glint of magic in her eye and knew I had to work for her. It was a Fortune 500 recruiting firm and they were bringing in a new kind of recruiter. I was in their first 10 hires. It was an entrepreneurial group of us all over the country who got a chance to create our own program together. The only problem: corporate REALLY liked to micromanage us – they liked to stick their pudgy fingers in our business & make it harder to make commission. Talis wasn’t interested in letting them.
Talis bled green – the color of the firm. She had started as a temp and worked her way up to District Director by the time I met her. She lived and breathed the company with more emails flooding her inbox than the entire district combined. She worked day in and day out – and yet, she showed me what balance looked like. She had learned early on that her team watched her every move and emulated her. She worked hard, but didn’t want her team to think they had to work long hours. So, she came into the office when it opened and left when it closed – and expected the same from us. The company cut their budget one year, including some holidays, so she secretly let everyone take their birthday off to make up for it – and kept that even after budgets were reinstated.
I was having a terrible day one day and told Talis I needed to call my mom. It wasn’t something I did at work, but crying at my desk was definitely not on my to-do list. Afterward, she popped her head in & asked how it went. I told her my mom had made me laugh by singing me a cheer based on BE AGGRESSIVE. She had substituted the words YOU’RE AMAZING singing “You’re amazing! You are amazing! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G AMAZING AMAZING!” From that point forward, every time I needed a little motivation, Talis would sing it to me (and still sends me notes on Facebook with that 15 years later.)
Talis would take time away from her piles of emails to remind us we were loved and that she believed in us by sending us Powerpoint slides she put together with gifs. She left us print-outs of her creations on our desks and remembered to celebrate our wins with us. She was 100% authentic and valued her team. She even hosted the annual district Christmas party at her house every year.
Talis is a leader of leaders. She set us up for success and gave us every tool we could need while never asking anything from us. And we showed up for her. She won awards because of her team and continues to work there to this day.
Of the many things I learned from Talis, the biggest was to maintain a courageous, yet humble confidence. She believed in herself and her team. She worked her tail off for us and we worked our tails off for her. She never took credit for anything we did & sang our praises to her leadership team – even when she was the one who did something amazing. She knew we were a reflection of her. She was (and still is) a force to be reckoned with, and yet gave the best hugs when they were needed.
Courageously humble confidence = leadership.
Today I googled “qualities of a leader” and found 177 MILLION results. After perusing a bunch of the articles, I found that almost everyone has a different way of describing leaders, yet they’re all the same. Continued growth, a vision, a plan, empathy, and being a good listener.
When most of us think of a leader, we think of the boss. The person above us at work. The person running the company. And much of the time, those people aren’t always the best role models for leadership. We hear more horror stories about bosses than good ones. Have you seen the movie Bad Bosses? That isn’t a movie because someone just thought it would be funny – it’s reality for lots of people.
Bosses climb the ladder of a company, while leaders spend the time working on themselves. They become the person their team needs as a leader. They show up for themselves so they can show up for their team.
YOU can be a great leader. You may be a leader already – and yet you feel like you’re missing something. You don’t have to have the vision or the plan for the organization to be a leader. You DO have to be willing to be courageous, humble, and confident.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” – Warren Bennis
When Sarai & I were working out how we wanted to bring our SPEAK With Confidence course to the corporate sector, we went back to The DISH Method. We looked at the DATA, our IMPACT, the STORIES, and the HUMANS. Every road kept bringing us back to leadership. The data showed there were plenty of executive coaches and leadership training programs, yet the presentation training and personal development training were separated. We looked back at the testimonials of our corporate Rockstars to see the real impact & the stories they told us on what they were getting out of the experience so we could shine more light on our purpose in that space.
One corporate Rockstar told me that as much as she was learning speaking at SPEAK With Confidence, she was really learning how to show up and show off for herself so she could have the confidence to teach her company. She was teaching core values internally to her organization and wanted to make sure it was compelling enough for them to implement across the board. She went back and pitched – and got the go-ahead to implement it all.
Another corporate Rockstar almost didn’t end up coming. She called that week and said she was overwhelmed and unprepared. She didn’t care about writing the talk as much as she didn’t want to embarrass herself presenting. Her boss had told her numerous times that she had to stop looking like his secretary and more like a leader. She got on stage the final day and gave us the most compelling speech about how she deserved to be his second in command. We were blown away by how much she had physically changed in 3 days because she was ready to show up and show off.
A returning Rockstar (she’d come three times!) told us she had a conversation with a leader she really looks up to about her presentations and the woman looked at her incredulously and said, “what took you so long?” She had been watching this particular Rockstar get on stages and was impressed by how far she had come with her confidence and presence since coming to SPEAK With Confidence.
Every Rockstar took tons from the speaker training, yet each & every one of them walked away with the confidence they needed to ask for what they wanted. It was almost impossible to describe how different they were – even physically – by the end. Some were almost unrecognizable. It was exactly what they needed to succeed in life and in their work.
Once we knew we had SPEAK With Confidence rolling on a solid process, it was time to do something for those who do presentations on the daily. Those humans who sat in uninspiring cubicles and were asked to give inspiring pitches to their board of directors or leadership team. Those humans who wanted to move up in their companies by making more money as salespeople or taking care of their clients as project managers. Those humans who were asked to give a sponsorship talk at an event and just hoped they could be interesting enough to keep the audiences attention.
When we got to the end of The DISH Method steps, the final (and my favorite step) is HUMAN. We had to know exactly who we wanted in this program. It wasn’t just anyone, it was the leaders of the future. The leaders who wanted to be better leaders and wanted to show up for their teams in ways they’d never dreamed of. The kickass humans who wanted to create more kickass humans. The courageous leaders who were ready to take on the humble confidence they needed by taking one big step with us.
So, we took everything we loved about SPEAK With Confidence when it came to pitching & presenting along with all the personal development stuff and married it with a corporate theme. That’s how we created Rock Your Pitch.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – ee cummings
Melanie Spring Productions has created a place for you to show up and show off so you can lead with that courageously humble confidence Talis had. The kind that people won’t be able to describe as much as they’ll want to emulate.
Great leaders have two things in common: presence & courage. Rock Your Pitch Retreat is a 2-day live pitch training to craft a presentation that convinces and inspires others to give you what you want – with presence and courage.
Before you get to the live in-person event, you get 4 weeks of group calls, a printed workbook delivered directly to your door, and a community of rockstars to start you off on the right foot. When you arrive, you get to bring your friends for some pre-event inspiration at a happy hour where I’ll be giving a talk about why this is so important. Then we kick off the next two days with breakfast, courageous activities, and more new friends than you will ever be able to handle.
By the end of your time with us, you’ll go back to work a a better leader. It’s not just another conference. It’s not just another workshop. It’s not something you can come to and walk away the same. You’ll have a light shining from the inside out. The courageously humble confidence you need to get everything you ask for and to lead the leaders on your team.
It’s time to be YOU. The YOU you’ve been waiting to become. The YOU you really are. The leader you’ve been looking for. It’s time to show up for yourself so you can show up for others. If you’ve been waiting for something like this, this is your sign.
Grab your spot at irockmypitch.com
(or send me a note with your questions so we can make sure it’s a great fit for you)
I can’t wait to see you leading with confidence.