Don’t confuse skill and worth

It’s a common problem, especially in women.  To not feel worthy or able to do a job, unless we have all the skills.  Lucky for us, the inability to believe our own worth becomes self fulfilling, in that people cannot imagine us successful in a role.

In reflecting on this challenge, I was remembering times in my life where I doubted my ability to be successful.

Two stories come to mind.

The first was in college.  I had been accepted to the Entrepreneurship program and was required to submit a business plan proposal at the beginning of the term.

I had worked on this proposal all summer, but I had never done something like this before,  and I had no idea what I was doing.  I found myself lying on the bathroom floor in a blubbering heap the night before I was to turn in my work.  I had convinced myself  I got it all wrong and was going to be laughed out of the program.  Of course, my proposal was actually chosen as one to pursue (essentially, the top 50% of those submitted).

My second story, was my first promotion to vice president.  I was not yet 30, and was being asked to manage a development group who were building a product with a  CORBA architecture and a MFC based presentation.  I had no idea what either of those things were, and I was completely convinced I was going to fail.

Lucky for me, I had a mentor who stopped me cold with his reply to my claim that I was not capable of doing the job.  He said:

I would rather have you managing this project not knowing the technology Meg, than having a technical expert who doesn’t know how to manage.

That belief  taught me something very powerful, knowing that I needed specific skills was helpful, but my doubting I could do the job, was not.

Armed with this belief, I set about to gain the skills I needed.  I can now  sound very smart (and out of date) talking about how CORBA helped  further the cause of Object Oriented Programming.

The lesson is, that if you need skills, quit stressing and get them.

If you need strengths, find someone who has them and befriend them.

If you are doubting your worth, stop, it’s not helping you!


Got this in the old email while I was on vacation (of course this is an abbreviated copy and the pretty red/bold is my creative license)

TEDActive 2010 Approval – Meg Bear
Dear Meg Bear,

I am pleased to tell you that your TEDActive 2010 Membership request has been approved. This includes the conference being held in Palm Springs, California from February 9-13, 2010.

Thank you so much for being part of TED. We are delighted you will be joining us in Palm Springs.

Very best wishes,

– Chris

Chris Anderson Curator TED “Ideas Worth Spreading” <>

I’d like to take a quick moment to express my thanks and give a little We did it cheer.  To everyone who helped, supported, tolerated or just didn’t laugh.

Thanks so much!

Of course, you can expect the full report on the event after it’s over.

Networking made easy

127757006_94cb578a69As you might recall I made a personal goal this year to do a better job networking

As I do, I have been working on this a lot in a very deliberate and focused way.  Sometimes it’s been great, other times marginal, but I have made progress. 

I know that I’m not alone in struggling with the part of me that likes substance over flash.

I have never been one to have a lot of casual friends.  I guess you could say I’m an acquired taste.  I become more interesting and useful when people know me well, at first glance I’m either just too much or not very interesting. 

I also really enjoy the kind of trust and collaboration that comes from a close relationship, so surface and casual relationships seem a luxury that I don’t have time for (read I’m too lazy to bother).

In my quest to find a way to network that would work for me, I got some great help from Patty’s workshop.  I was very happy to see that she put this down in a blog for others who struggle in a similar fashion.  So for those of you who would prefer to hide in your office instead of going to a networking event I strongly suggest you read this Authentic Networking post.   I promise it will give you a whole new perspective on the idea of networking.

The key message can be found here:

Instead of thinking about networking success in terms of the number of people you meet at networking events, or getting big numbers on LinkedIn or twitter, think about Authentic Networking as making real connections with people that you would actually like to meet


No longer am I stressed to meet a lot of people.  Instead I’m targeting getting to know better people who interest me.  After I accomplish that, I’ll move on to finding new people who interest me and lather-rinse-repeat. 

As a bonus, I have really been enjoying this goal.  Who knew?

What is a reasonable time to competence?

3414141911_b3dc51b252Without a doubt acquiring a new skill is hard.  It takes time, practice and a willingness to fail.  I do not want to suggest that you should only attempt those things that you already know or do well.  That is just silly.

You should challenge yourself every day to try new things and learn new skills, just remember that some skills might not be within reach for you.    You might gain a basic level of competence after a lot of hard work but for some things you will never be outstanding.

This is a universal truth [always remember you are unique, just like everyone else].

So what happens when you are not gaining a job critical competency?  When you find yourself unable to get to an appropriate level of competence in a reasonable amount of time (as evidenced by lackluster performance feedback)  you should probably take a step back and regroup moment.

I’d like to say again, that if you do not have a good job fit you will not be top Talent.

Putting it another way, when you have a bad job fit you are probably getting labeled as a “poor performer”.  If you find yourself in a second performance discussion where the topic is does not meet expectations* I think it’s time to take a serious look at the question of job fit.

Instead of going down the mental path of inadequacy and low self esteem, take a moment and find your strengths (you can get help doing this for approx $14, well worth the investment) and then have a hard look at your job.  Is the job you are doing playing to your strengths (I’m going to take a wild guess that there might be a mismatch)?

Now comes the brave part.

Instead of just having yet another discussion with your boss about your lack of competence, do the adult thing and work with her to see if there is a better way to define your job to play to your strengths.

If this is not possible, you probably need to start thinking about getting a different role somewhere else.

If you don’t take action, you are probably going to live forever in the bottom left box of the Talent 9-box, and I promise you that is not the zip code in which you want to reside.


*Also be on the look out for does not meet feedback hidden under a meets expectations rating, this happens more than I care to acknowledge.

Asking for help


These last two weeks I’ve been asking for a lot of help.  I thought it might be a good idea to give some tips on the subject, for those of you who might find the process troubling or intimidating.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned that can increase the probability of getting the help you need to succeed.

  1. Getting help is a bit of a numbers game.  Be willing to ask for help early and often.  Recognize that people do not often say “no” they just fail to come through.   This is part of the process and is nothing to be discouraged about.  It is also nothing to hold against people.  Best to assume that they would help you if they could and that their lack of help reflects upon the fact that you might have asked the wrong thing to the wrong person.
  2. Target your requests.  Do not ask a large group as your only strategy.  This *might* work but it probably won’t.  Better to split up what you need and distribute it out as specific requests to one or two people at a time.  Make the request specific and direct to an individual and they are much more likely to know what you need from them and are often more able to help you.
  3. It works the best when you ask people to do something they are good at.  This will mean it doesn’t require a lot from them, and it gives you a large benefit.  This is another example of leveraging strengths.
  4. Be thankful.  When you get help remember to let people know you are grateful and that they made a difference in your life.
  5. Be helpful yourself. Giving back helping others with things that you know and are good at, is the best way to have people wanting to help you when you need it most.

The interesting thing about helping others is that it reflects well upon you and it makes you feel good.  On the other hand, getting help from others also feels really great.

So for everyone who has helped me get this TED application completed (and you know who you are) I am so very grateful. Please do allow me to return the favor when you need access to one of my strengths, it’s the least I can do.