When it came to programming complicated scripts, Anita’s manager, David, knew that she understood Java like the back of her hand. Anita was a hard-working, diligent worker but she was awfully quiet. She would sit in meetings and not say a word. It almost seemed as if she wasn’t engaged at all, yet her work was at par or above her peers who beamed confidence and shared their ideas for new scripts and software improvements with passion and assertiveness.
David recognized Anita’s potential and knew that if Anita spoke up in meetings, her ideas and contributions could be very valuable to the rest of the team.
Here are three things you can learn from how David helped Anita feel comfortable and confident enough to contribute, share her ideas, speak up in meetings, and eventually overcome her shyness:
- Use their names. Calling on an employee by name is a great way to get them to participate. Make the employee feel comfortable by asking a simple question. Asking them to share their opinion rather than come up with an idea is a great start. For example, David encouraged Anita’s involvement by asking, “Anita, we’ve discussed two possible options; is there one you’re more inclined toward and why?”
- Take the employee aside. David quietly took Anita aside after one meeting and expressed his desire for group participation. He then casually inquired about what was holding her back from speaking up in meetings. David discovered that Anita lacked self-confidence and felt she didn’t really have anything important worth sharing. David reinforced Anita’s self-esteem by telling her that she was smart and had excellent insight and was doing herself and her team a disservice by not participating.
- Encourage mentorship. Pairing a shy employee with a fellow co-worker or mentor can help them to build positive relationships at work and actually elevate their confidence and comfort levels at meetings. But David decided to try something a little more outside the box. In an attempt to push Anita out of her comfort zone, David paired Anita with a new employee to train him and get him up to speed with everything the current project entailed.
In a few short months David noticed Anita getting more involved in meetings. In a private consultation, David asked Anita to share what had made a difference. Anita pointed out that training another employee had helped her to discover her own strengths and abilities, many of which she had taken for granted or never even known she had. This helped develop and build her confidence.
This boost of confidence in turn helped her to proactively offer her input at meetings. When she observed that her ideas were getting noticed and praised, she built up even more confidence to share more. This eventually led to taking initiative and assuming more responsibilities.
A year later, Anita became the new team leader for a million-dollar software program. David has advanced to another firm but Anita still remembers him for helping her to develop her true potential and thinks of him fondly as the manager who taught her how to speak up in meetings.
Do you want to get ahead at work but don’t know how and your manager’s not helping? Enlist the services of an executive coach or read my book to build perception, increase your visibility and exert influence in the workplace today.
Talkback: How have you learned to overcome shyness to be an active and engaged participant at meetings? Share your ideas and stories below.