Sharing Ideas - How to get Comfortable Outside your Comfort Zone

Posted by martin.parnell |

I was recently presenting a workshop on how to implement a Strategic Plan. As part of an exercise, I asked the participants to come up with discussion ideas for goal setting and action plans. Some of the attendees were very forthcoming, but others less so. I think there were two reasons for this. Firstly, they may simply have not had any ideas come to them, at that moment in time, but, secondly, I realise that some people are not comfortable articulating ideas aloud. 

I’ve been thinking about, why some people might find this type of exercise intimidating or perhaps think their ideas are not worth a mention. Contributor, Gabi Mostert, addresses this issue in a post Too Many Creatives Still FeelScared To Share Their Ideas, on thecampaign US website, March, 2018. and suggests these reasons as to why:

“We’re scared that they’re not good enough. We’re scared that if someone else adds to the idea, it’s not 100% ours anymore. We’re scared of negative feedback and sometimes we’re scared of those people stealing our ideas.”

In her article, Mostert is addressing the “creatives” in industry. But, reading it, I feel the content applies to many areas of business. Whether you are working in marketing, sales, IT or any branch of business, changes are constantly being made, with the aim of improving production and, therefore someone has to come up with ideas in order to make progress happen. So, what to do if you have an idea? Mostert speaks to this question and offers this advice:

“Every time you discuss your work with people, you get better at your job. You get better at articulating your ideas and selling them. In that way, when you present them you’ve had a bit of practice along the way.

Sharing ideas leads to a natural exchange, which makes people feel valued and opens a door for them to share their ideas with you. The more minds that come together from all different backgrounds, the better the chances of coming up with new and exciting work.”

This is why it’s important to get your ideas out in the open. Test your ideas on different people outside the workplace, they can often give a different perspective. They may be able to see the pitfalls and positives in a different way to the people you work with. No matter whom you share your ideas with, listen to all their feedback. Well- considered feedback can be invaluable and remember that if someone pitches an idea to you, it’s important you give genuine, thoughtful, constructive feedback to them.

As far as being confident in business is concerned, I did some further research and found some tips on the Entrepeneur website, from guest contributor, Anka Wittenberg. In her piece entitled:  7 Ways to Help Boost Your Confidence at Work,   August, 2015, Wittenberg tells us:

 “Building confidence does not require a complete personality overhaul. Instead, you can take smaller steps to become more self-assured and boost your confidence.” She then recommends some key actions you can take, in order to address the issue:

Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Volunteer for a project that will help you build new skills. Apply for a job that feels like a stretch but matches your interests. Sign up to present or speak at an event and tackle your fear of public speaking head-on. 

Visualize what you want as a first step to meeting a new challenge.

For example, see yourself in the role you want to achieve. Golfers are routinely advised to picture where the ball should travel as part of their swing. By imagining yourself in the job you want, you can create that vision for those around you, too. Give yourself a head start by getting into character. Want to take an executive role? Be sure to dress, talk, and act like an executive.

Assess your competencies.

Write down all of the skills you bring to the table right now. Don’t forget to include broader talents that can help your organization succeed -- now and in the future.

Create your own environment.

Instead of moving on when a workplace doesn’t meet your needs, reshape it through your actions. Work with your team in a way that feels true and honest, sharing your competencies with complete confidence. In doing so, you will brand yourself within your organization and begin to attract people with similar values to your team. As your team expands to include more people with your mindset, your environment will evolve to one where you want to work.

Have others instil confidence in you.

People who are able to cut through bureaucracy and make decisions quickly are rewarded for having the confidence to get the job done. According to a study from Knowledge@Wharton and SAP, 62 percent of business leaders say they are overburdened with complicated process and this inhibits productivity and performance. Raise your hand to tackle a few of these projects. Once your peers recognize that you are a problem solver, they will instil confidence within you. Having others reinforce this belief will help you realize your potential. 

 Be the change you wish to see.

Once you’ve taken steps to build your own confidence, don’t forget to give someone else a hand up. Through peer coaching, you can partner with others to create a positive change.

Choose someone who works closely enough to see you in action. Each week, give positive feedback to one another on the strengths that you have each displayed. By refusing to accept self-critical behavior and helping one another to erase blind spots, you can enhance one another’s confidence. Better yet, you’ll be helping your peer advance her prospects while liberating talent that will benefit your organization. 

Of course, the reluctance to share your ideas may come down to a matter of personal confidence, or low self-esteem, rather than the ideas themselves. Here are selected extracts from an item Chris W. Dunn in Entrepeneur Magazine September 2016, “10 Things You Can Do to Boost Self-Confidence”, that may help:

“Visualization is the technique of seeing an image of yourself that you are proud of, in your own mind. When we struggle with low self-confidence, we have a poor perception of ourselves that is often inaccurate. Practice visualizing a fantastic version of yourself, achieving your goals.

Affirmations are positive and uplifting statements that we say to ourselves. These are normally more effective if said out loud so that you can hear yourself say it. We tend to believe whatever we tell ourselves constantly. For example, if you hate your own physical appearance, practice saying something that you appreciate or like about yourself when you next look in the mirror.

To get your brain to accept your positive statements more quickly, phrase your affirmations as questions like, “Why am I so good in making deals?” instead of “I am so good at making deals.” Our brains are biologically wired to seek answers to questions, without analyzing whether the question is valid or not.

Some of the harshest comments that we get come from ourselves, via the "voice of the inner critic." If you struggle with low self-confidence, there is a possibility that your inner critic has become overactive and inaccurate.

Strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy help you to question your inner critic, and look for evidence to support or deny the things that your inner critic is saying to you. For example, if you think that you are a failure, ask yourself, “What evidence is there to support the thought that I am a failure?” and “What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I am a failure?”

Find opportunities to congratulate, compliment and reward yourself, even for the smallest successes. As Mark Twain said, “[A] man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

Too many people are discouraged about their abilities because they set themselves goals that are too difficult to achieve. Start by setting yourself small goals that you can win easily.

Once you have built a stream of successes that make you feel good about yourself, you can then move on to harder goals. Make sure that you also keep a list of all your achievements, both large and small, to remind yourself of the times that you have done well.

Instead of focusing only on “to-do" lists, I like to spend time reflecting on “did-it" lists. Reflecting on the major milestones, projects and goals you’ve achieved is a great way to reinforce confidence in your skills.

Helping someone else often enables us to forget about ourselves and to feel grateful for what we have. It also feels good when you are able to make a difference for someone else.

Instead of focusing on your own weaknesses, volunteer to mentor, practically assist or teach another, and you'll see your self-confidence grow automatically in the process.

Self-confidence depends on a combination of good physical health, emotional health and social health. It is hard to feel good about yourself if you hate your physique or constantly have low energy.

Make time to cultivate great exercise, eating and sleep habits. In addition, dress the way you want to feel. You have heard the saying that “clothes make the man.” Build your self-confidence by making the effort to look after your own needs.

Learn to say no. Teach others to respect your personal boundaries. If necessary, take classes on how to be more assertive and learn to ask for what you want. The more control and say that you have over your own life, the greater will be your self-confidence.

People with low self-confidence see others as better or more deserving than themselves. Instead of carrying this perception, see yourself as being equal to everyone. They are no better or more deserving than you. Make a mental shift to an equality mentality and you will automatically see an improvement in your self-confidence.”

Hopefully some of these strategies will help. We all have experience and knowledge which we can apply to formulating ideas and we should not be afraid to use these skills in order to share them.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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