On losing opportunities because of too isolated

I remember a time when I attended a leadership training course. The instructor was giving out a question, asked everyone to think about things to improve for our community during the current covid19 situations. It could be anything from reminding people to keep social distancing, wearing masks and doing exercise more often. After five minutes of silent with everybody thinking about the question individually, he invited people to speak up and present their ideas. The result was dead silence. Nobody put up their hands to volunteer. We tried to look away and preventing eye contacts with the instructor as we didn’t want to be called out to present. After several attempts to ask for a speaker, the instructor gave up and started the debrief of the session. It was a moment of self-reflection that students in the class were attending a leadership training course, but nobody decided to speak up to give our presentation. When being asked why they didn’t speak up, some people said because they were worrying if they misunderstood the presentation topic, some people had no ideas on what to say and some people were just being shy. It was an opportunity to step up, speak up and practice my leadership skills, but since I was too isolated myself, I didn’t reach out to ask the instructor to clarify the topic, I didn’t fully utilize all the resource around me such as books and I didn’t put what I learnt about leadership from theory into practice. That’s ironic to want to be a leader, but not stepping up as a leader.

If I might have done differently, I would be proactive to put my hands up, prepared for the speech and step up to do my presentation. I should have realised the truth is all the audience probably won’t remember what I said in that pitch. We may never see each other again anyway no matter what embarrassing thing I said in that seminar. Human beings lost most of their memories everyday. I already forgot more than 80% of what the instructor said, I can’t remember how he looks and I probably won’t be able to recognize those audiences today. That was a bit of a shame as my original intention to attend the leadership training course was to expand my career network by trying to make new connections. However, we didn’t even talk socially for the whole night even though we were just sitting next to each other. If there is a second chance, I would be more serious to prepare the speech, push my hands up, present my ideas like a pro and contribute to the conversation, instead of constantly worrying if I look stupid. I think I have better ideas than others in the room, just that I didn’t speak up and let everyone else to be the first volunteer.

To improve on this fault, there are a couple of things I could improve on. Firstly, I would try to say yes to every opportunity. There are risks associated with every opportunity, for example, if I crack a joke, maybe nobody would laugh since humour may not translate in different cultures. However, what could be the worst thing that could happen? I would not die from this embarrassing situation, and it’s just another memory that I can write about later when thinking back. The upside is limitless, maybe my next career success was based on this random connection with people. It’s a calculated risk that worth to take if I open up for this kind of opportunities. Secondly, I would practice my public speaking, that’s why I’m joining the toastmaster club. It doesn’t come naturally for me to talk in front of a group of people, but it’s better than being silent, as I am trying to provide values to the ongoing conversation, creating an impact on the audience and trying to make my points memorable. They may thanks me later for speaking up. Lastly, I would take a deep breath and calm down. It’s stressful when being put in the spotlight, but just enjoy the moment and not to waste everyone time listening to me. I would become a better leader with lots of different experiences as I say yes to every opportunity, do a wonderful presentation and show my charisma by being calm in this kind of socially awkward situation.

Originally published at https://victorleungtw.com.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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