Social Anxiety and Success

Talking about Self-Awareness and Anxiety (with Hello Monday’s Jessi Hempel)

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m Morra Aarons-Mele, and this is The Anxious Achiever. Each episode, we look at stories from business leaders who have dealt with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, how they fell down, how they pick themselves up, and how they hope workplaces can change in the future. So, here’s a secret. If I ever picked up the phone to call you, I’d probably dread it. In fact, I’d probably have canceled our call and then rescheduled it a million times until you gave up trying to contact me. It’s not personal. It’s my social anxiety, and social anxiety is strange. It makes no sense. Many of us can stand up in front of thousands of people and deliver a killer keynote or stand-up set.

But if we need to mingle with a few people afterwards, we become riddled with anxiety and run to hide in the bathroom. This phenomenon is what the Australian comedian Jordan Raskopoulos calls a “shy loud.” When I heard Jordan deliver her TEDx talk, I just loved this coinage of a shy loud. She explains, “I’m only confident onstage. Off it, I’m a timid mumbly wreck. I don’t answer emails or the phone, and I struggle with deadlines, but shy louds like me produce high quality work because of our high fear of failure. Along the way, though, there can be really negative personality presumptions,” Jordan explains, “that I’m lazy, arrogant, rude, aloof, lazy, unreliable,” but she says, “I actually care so much that I’m often stunned into silence.”

And that’s the lousy irony of operating in a culture that values more smooth, extroverted social interactions over fewer thoughtful ones. Living with social anxiety often means living with the feeling that you’re just about to be discovered as a fraud who doesn’t deserve anything. It means living with the threat of shame, and it manifests in ways from being scared to talk to new people, to avoiding colleagues in the office, to sweating when you pick up the phone.

Now for me, years of practice mean I’ve really overcome a lot of my social anxiety. Although, I still deliberately come late and have an excuse to leave early for almost every social and professional engagement I take on. I know though that if I schedule interactions, I’ll be more prepared than if I network extemporaneously or just pick up the phone. I know that if I feel I have a defined role or a job to do at an event, I’ll be much less anxious, but when you have social anxiety, you can pay a price at work and in networking, even in your personal relationships. At the end of the episode, I’ll share my golden pro tip for building a great professional network when you have social anxiety,

On today’s episode, I talked to two of my favorite guides to negotiating life with social anxiety, Dr. Ellen Hendrikson and Arvind Rajan. Ellen is the author of “How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise above Social Anxiety.” And she’s a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders and helps millions calm their anxiety and be their authentic selves largely through her award-winning Savvy Psychologist podcast, which I really recommend.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: So many of us have anxiety, and it can happen in many different ways, but fundamentally that anxiety is maintained through avoidance, and avoidance can occur in two ways. So, there is overt avoidance where we think nobody at the party is going to talk to us or that the meeting is going to be awkward if we say our idea. We’ll stay home, or we’ll stay silent. That avoidance maintains the anxiety because we never get to learn that the worst-case scenario that we imagined doesn’t always happen.

And that really, we can handle some of these blips and bloops that occur when we interact with our fellow humans. Avoidance can also be covert. We might show up, and we might do the thing, but perhaps we keep our lives really close to the vest. We don’t talk about ourselves, or maybe we just run into the meeting right when it begins and then leave right when it ends, so we don’t have to mingle and do small talk.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Never done that.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Never done that? No? Me neither. That’s the covert avoidance. We might show up again but not fully engaged. We might keep ourselves safe with some metaphorical blinders.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Is there something in particular about social anxiety that makes it, I don’t know what the right way to say this is, more learned maybe than other kinds of anxiety?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Yeah, because social anxiety fundamentally is this belief that there is something wrong with you. And that, unless we conceal and hide that perceived fatal flaw, we will be revealed, and everybody will judge and reject us. And so if we, along the way, mistakenly or through a bully or through critical parents or through a lousy teacher, have learned that we are stupid, or awkward, or nobody wants us here, or a loser, or any of these, terrible things that our brains just latch onto and hold onto for years and decades, then we are going to work very hard to conceal that perception. I want to emphasize that word perception because in social anxiety, whatever the reveal is, it’s fundamentally not true. Or it may be true to a tiny degree but not to the extent that our brain is yelling at us. Perhaps we do tend to go blank in conversation with strangers, but with social anxiety, it is not to the degree or with the feared consequences that we think.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think that’s really important. And I’m always trying to remind myself as someone who sort of lives in the world with social anxiety, that we are not in middle school anymore.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: It feels like it a lot. Yes.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Although, I’m 43 years old, I want to talk through some terminology.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: We touched on this, but let me ask you again, what is social anxiety, and why is it different from regular anxiety or other kinds?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Sure. When people ask me about “regular anxiety,” usually what they are talking about is worry. As a clinical psychologist, I would call that generalized anxiety. It’s when we worry unproductively about everything and may end up jumping from topic to topic. We could wake up and begin with, “Oh, I have a headache,” and then jump to, “Oh my gosh, well maybe that means I have a horrible medical disorder,” and then jump to, “Well then how will my children survive,” and then jump to, “But are my finances in order?” It’s like being in a car that is stuck in the mud, and you’re pressing the gas, and the wheels are turning, but there’s no traction.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And the gas floods the engine.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Right. Exactly. And then my car is going to explode. It’s like my life. Social anxiety is specifically, again, that fear of the reveal, that idea that there is something wrong with us.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: In front of other people.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: In front of other people. Exactly. And that the consequence is being judged or rejected.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: How is social anxiety different from introversion? I mean, one of the things that really blew my mind is that you say the sweet spot of being an inhibited person, maybe, but a fundamentally non-anxious person, is being an introvert. So, a non-anxious introvert could leave that cocktail party without stress, “I’m done.” And you also say that you could be extroverted and socially anxious. So, unpack that.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: So, we often think that social anxiety is a more extreme form of introversion, that they’re a part of a continuum. But really, I like to say that rather than being tomato or tomato, they’re more like an apple and orange. They’re actually really different. And that is because introversion is a personality trait. That is something that is baked in. It’s just who we are and can’t, nor should, be changed. And being an introvert is primarily about the level of stimulation that you are able to handle. Introverts have a lower threshold for overstimulation and so, therefore, often prefer smaller groups or hanging out one-on-one. They might be overwhelmed by loud noises and lots of chaos all around them. Extroverts do need to get their energy from other people. We’re in America in 2019. And this is the extrovert’s paradise, right? Extroverts thrive in our culture. But yes, part of my book How to Be Yourself, and part of my message, is that nothing is wrong with you, that you are enough as you are, even if your social anxiety is telling you otherwise.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Let’s dive into work.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: Because my last sort of terminology question is specifically how social anxiety would affect us in the workplace, which work can be really social. It can be very performative. It also has a lot of sort of coded behavior. You have to know what’s okay and what’s not. And every office culture is different. So, talk us through how social anxiety might manifest at work.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Social anxiety can look very different in different people at work. So, let’s take a presentation. For example, there are many people who would rather die than publicly speak. And so, any kind of standing up in front of a group and speaking might be extremely difficult. Now, other people with social anxiety might really love the structure and the role of presenting. If they have a PowerPoint presentation and have practiced, then they might thrive there because there is no uncertainty. Uncertainty is what drives anxiety. Imposter syndrome is also, I call it imposter syndrome, essentially social anxiety when it goes to work or school, because there is often this fear of the reveal of, they’re going to find out I’m incompetent. They’re going to find out I’m stupid. They’re going to come in and put their hand on my shoulder and say very gently, excuse me, mistakes were made and usher me out.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: And so, that sense of having to hide, and conceal, and overcompensate for a perceived – and I’m always going to say perceived – deficit is social anxiety at work. So, that sense of, “I don’t belong here,” or, “I’m a stranger in a strange land,” or, “I don’t know how this works,” that sense of wearing a professional version of ourselves is a short step away from putting on a mask, which is to conceal those perceived flaws, right? So, it’s like, it’s a quick pivot from professionalism to social anxiety.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You also say though, that there are some upsides in a professional context to having social anxiety. Why would it be a strength at work or in the interpersonal play at work?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Sure. So, social anxiety is a package deal. It comes bundled with some actually really awesome traits like especially conscientiousness. It also comes with increased empathy, ability to listen. I found this odd, but an ability to remember faces goes … comes bundled with social anxiety. I’m not sure why, but I want to go back to conscientiousness. So, conscientiousness is essentially like being responsible, being dutiful, being thorough, everything a boss would want in an employee. So, folks with social anxiety are often superstar employees. They get stuff done, they do it well. They really know their stuff and what can happen, what can make it kind of spill over or go over the edge into not working so well is when we just put our heads down and get our work done and forget to invest the time in building relationships with our colleagues.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think that’s really important considering the leadership culture we live in. And I just wanted to throw in a personal tip, which for me was unexpected. When I first began giving sales pitches and presentations, I was terrified. I was, oh gosh, but when I nailed my first one, the love and the respect that I got was like a drug.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: That’s super reinforcing.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And I am extremely introverted. I am very anxious. But what I have learned is that when you put the work in plus practice, the love that you get and the respect from being out there feels almost good enough to compensate for the anxiety.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: Do you agree?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: It’s well, it’s what, whether it’s external or internal, whether you get the actual-


ELLEN HENDRIKSON: -you get the love, or you get the respect, or you get the professional advancement, I think yes, absolutely. You can ride that wave and be like, “Okay, that’s why I did this.” And there’s also, I’m sure it existed for you, this little voice inside you was like, “Oh, I did it.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I could do it.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: I pulled it off.


ELLEN HENDRIKSON: That was amazing. And so, there’s this satisfaction as well. And this growing confidence that makes it worth it. So, for instance, we, we often feel like we have to feel like doing something before we do it.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Feel like going to the gym.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Yeah. We have to feel like we really want to do this workout before we do the workout. We have to feel like we are inspired before we sit down and work on our great American novel. And in fact, what really happens that we need to reverse those things. We can lace up our shoes and go to the gym and say I’m just going to be here for 10 minutes. And then, once we get started, often the momentum takes over, and our motivation and our mood catch up, and there we go. “Okay. Well, now that I’m here, I might as well stay for the rest of this class.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: But how does that translate into a leadership situation where, I mean, I don’t think anyone ever says, I’m ready to be a leader today.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m going to be a leader, but you have to run a staff meeting.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: You are terrified at triggers, every little bit of social anxiety. What do you do? How do you get prepared?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Fake it till you make it right? So, okay, well, I don’t want to be glib about it. So, part of it is “fake it till you make it,” so to know that you don’t have to feel confident before you do something.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And is preparation key to that?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: I think there’s two mechanisms working here. So, I think one is, we often feel like we have to feel confident. We have to be ready before we can go in and give that presentation. And I think the point at which that becomes counterproductive is where we are preparing. Or over-preparing only to tamp down our anxiety. It’s the equivalent of those spinning wheels in the mud. Right? So, I think there’s two things. One is yes, absolutely prep until it feels right, until you feel “ready,” but you don’t have to not be anxious.

You can still pull out a stellar performance with some anxiety. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: But I want to talk about shame.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: And the reveal because in my experience, shame is at the root-


MORRA AARONS-MELE: -of so much anxiety.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Shame is, “Something is wrong with me.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” Shame is, “I am something bad.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So, I think many of us out here will have experiences at work where we did mess up.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Of course, because we are human.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You walk into the staff meeting, and it’s a disaster. And guess what? Some people do think you’re not ready.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Yeah, and people do judge you.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s right. I mean, I will never forget. In one of my first leadership roles, I was woefully underprepared. I had the technical knowhow. I had none of the management or life experience. And literally, I was so I was ashamed because people told me or told my boss, “She’s not up to the job. Why did you give her the job?” And he told me. Okay, so how do you recover from that when the reveal is … people don’t think you’re worth it. You aren’t ready. You shouldn’t be there. You are bad.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: So clearly you recovered.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I had to take several years.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Sure, sure. One, one way you can look at that is, and yes, it hurts, I want to validate that that is painful. And at the same time, you can look for the opportunity in that and examine where you have room to grow. What do you need to work on?

MORRA AARONS-MELE: But if you don’t have inherent confidence, this is where I struggle because I believe in the methodology of “do it and the confidence may follow.” But I think also what can be really hard, especially if you’re younger in your career, if you are the only in a room, which we’ll talk about in another episode, “I am the only African American,” “I’m the only woman,” I’m the only “whatever”, and you get hit with the shame bomb, where do you get the reserves from to brush yourself off and do it again? That’s a big question.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: That is a big question.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And listeners, I’d love to hear your stories.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: So, I can guarantee that you are not the first or only person in that room to have bombed. And that this is where connection to other people, connection to your coworkers, can come in. You can, after that meeting, search out your work friends perhaps together and perhaps one at a time and talk about that. And I guarantee you, you’re going to get stories that are extremely validating and extremely normalizing that are like, “Oh my gosh, that happened to me last year. And this is what I did,” or, “Oh, with this particular project team, what you can do next time is XYZ.” And so, you can get this, the combination of validation and normalization, and support and strategy from just talking with the people who are in the same boat as you or the people above you who have been in the same boat.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Absolutely. And I’m quite often poo-pooing mentorship because I just think it’s overblown. But I think that a situation like this is a situation where someone in a mentorship role can really step in and say, “It’s okay. The world will not end,” and give you some perspective. I also will say that 15 years on from some of the most powerful shaming in my career, I still think that I overcompensate.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: And I also want to normalize that. I think everybody overcompensates in some way, I think, like I’ve had to let go of over-preparing, like having those word for word answers spelled out. I think we all overcompensate in some-


ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: One of the things that I really love about your approach, Ellen, is that you’re super, super practical. So, can you talk us through, you have sort of a four-part process of sort of coming to grips with your social anxiety and living through the fear.

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: So, fundamentally you have two buckets of tools when it comes to social anxiety. The first bucket is change. And so, to mix my metaphors, that is when you climb into the ring with your social anxiety, and you go a few rounds. The second bucket of tools is acceptance. And that is when, rather than climbing into the ring, you watch calmly from outside the ring, as your social anxiety throws haymakers at you. If you’re going to go the change route, that is when you need to figure out what’s going through your head. What do you say to yourself? How do you talk to yourself when you’re feeling socially anxious? So, if you are in a, I don’t know, say a reception, and you’re feeling anxious. What are you afraid people are going to see? Or like, what’s, what’s the feared outcome. Are you afraid people are going to laugh at you, or are you afraid that you’re going to go blank when you’re talking?

Like what’s going on? Fill in the blank. Anxiety is vague. Something bad is going to happen. Everybody’s going to hate me. But when we narrow it down, when we try to specify it and say, “Well, everyone’s going to point and laugh,” then we realize, “Oh wait that’s actually not even realistic.” When we specify, we can argue back to our thoughts much more easily. Another way to try to change the thought is to think, what are the odds, like really what are the odds, that this horrible thing that I’m imagining is going to happen? What are the odds that I’m really going to vomit in front of the board of directors? That would be catastrophic. That would be bad, but the odds are probably low. A third step is to say, what would I do? How would I cope? And when we have a plan, because anxiety often comes in like, “Well, what if, what if, what if, what if,” and so I will say to clients or to readers, let’s answer that question.

What if? What would you do? How would you cope? Who would you talk to? What resources would you gather? And so, if you have a plan for dealing with that worst-case scenario, that can make you feel better as well. Okay. So, all those three steps are in the change bucket. So, within the acceptance bucket, that’s, I think what you mean, self-compassion. And that is speaking to yourself in a way that is firm but kind, in a way that you would talk to a friend who was anxious about this presentation, or this networking event, or this job interview and not letting them off the hook. You’re not letting them … Avoid saying, “Oh, you’re nervous.”

You really don’t have to do this. It’s okay. But to say, “The first few minutes are the hardest. Last time you did this, you felt great afterwards. Just give it a try, see how it goes.” And so, those comments where you talk yourself through in an understanding way can be very powerful. You can’t grow and heal in a punitive environment. And so many people will talk to themselves with tough love, but really that holds us back. That harsh criticism doesn’t let us move forward. But if we talk to ourselves with kindness and compassion, not let ourselves off the hook, but encouraging ourselves to try hard things, that can be where the magic happens.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Dr. Ellen Hendriksen. Thank you so much. Where can we find you?

ELLEN HENDRIKSON: Absolutely. You can find me at, and you can find my book, “How To Be Yourself: Quiet your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Thank you very much.


MORRA AARONS-MELE: I wanted to talk to Arvind Rajan, who I’ve known for many years. Arvind spent six years at LinkedIn in a variety of senior leadership roles. He led LinkedIn’s entry into new markets all over the world and developed the company’s China strategy. So, he knows how to network. Arvind now runs Cricket Health, which is a healthcare company that provides comprehensive care for people with advanced chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. He’s a Silicon Valley pro. And I remember being a little shocked when he told me he had social anxiety. So, I wanted to revisit the topic with him, both to learn where he’s at now with his anxiety and also to examine a leader’s role in creating or managing a sales culture that either foments social anxiety or lessens it. Arvind, I’m so happy to talk to you, and thanks for coming on The Anxious Achiever. I appreciate it.

ARVIND RAJAN: Absolutely. Well, I always enjoy talking to you more. It happens far too infrequently.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s what a coast will do to you. Well, so tell us, when did you realize that you had social anxiety?

ARVIND RAJAN: It probably was pretty late in my life. I never really thought much about it until my, I guess my late, my mid 30s was when I finally realized that the level of anxiety I was feeling in certain situations just wasn’t what most people experienced. I mean, it’s not like I always didn’t know I was uncomfortable in certain kinds of situations, but I’d never really thought much about it beyond that makes me uncomfortable. And I think it was probably in my … sometime in my early-mid 30s maybe, when it finally occurred to me that it was anxiety that I was experiencing.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Was there a specific situation that pushed you over the edge or a feeling that pushed you over the edge?

ARVIND RAJAN: Well, I distinctly remember an event that made me realize, “Wait a minute, what I’m doing is not the norm,” which is, I remember going out to a conference. This was, I think, yeah, sometime in my early 30s, maybe. So, I flew from D.C. to Phoenix, and it wasn’t a speaking opportunity. It was more like an industry networking event. I drove to the event. I walked in, I stayed for like 10 minutes, and I just left and went back to the airport and flew home. So I realized, okay, wait a minute. This is not really productive.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: This is not a good use of my time as a CEO.

ARVIND RAJAN: Yeah. Well, not a good use of my time or my company’s money either.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I have so done that.

ARVIND RAJAN: In fact, I remember that very distinctly because I remember after getting back saying I’m not even going to submit an expense report for this. I’m just going to eat the cost for this myself. Because I just can’t justify spending company money on essentially wasting two days.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So what did you do then? You thought, okay, this is a pretty extreme example, now what?

ARVIND RAJAN: Well at the time, what I did was I just said, you know what? I just have to force my way through it. I would still go to these kinds of events and essentially try to muddle my way through feeling uncomfortable, feeling I wasn’t doing a good job and feeling bad myself and that I was failing as a leader. And I think it was only a few years later, actually in my early 40s, when it finally hit me that wait a minute, I could do my job without doing these things. I guess at that point, I’d finally realized I was still reasonably successful professionally. So clearly, there was something that was allowing me to succeed, and I made the decision that you know what? I’m going to optimize at what I’m good at.

And just the things that my job that I’m not particularly good at, I’m just not going to do them because I don’t think they make that big a difference. I had no problem going out there and speaking in front of a conference of like thousands of people. I had no problem in business meetings, but if it was going to a reception of people, I didn’t know, after one of those conferences, that’s the situation that I would freeze up in.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, you didn’t, it sounds like if you had a specific role at one of these, it was okay because you were working. Yeah?

ARVIND RAJAN: Exactly. If I had a role in, there was, it was clear what the expectations were of me, then I’d be fine. But if it was anything other than that, where it was just sort of milling around, trying to go up to people and talk to them, or trying to insert my way into a group of people who were already talking, that’s the situation that would fill me with sort of extreme anxiety, sweaty palms, just feeling really just awful.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m sure there’s many listeners out there nodding their heads. It strikes me that probably this was the same time that you were working at LinkedIn, a company based on networking, and literally you were physically probably traveling and going into new markets abroad, having to meet new people. What was your trick, if networking events weren’t your thing, when you literally had to go into a new market?

ARVIND RAJAN:  Well, what I realized was, in fact, networking events were not really necessary for me to do my job. I was flying all over the world. I flew hundreds of thousands of miles a year, meeting thousands of people in different countries. And both of those were going to meetings with companies, with individuals, doing interviews. Again, those were fine. And there were some situations where I could have gone to networking events, but I finally realized that I don’t really need to go to those. I mean, at the end of the day, I don’t think it was necessary for me to be there to make myself successful or make LinkedIn more successful.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What would your advice be though to that person who’s maybe 10, 15 years behind where you are at and really feels the pressure to get out there? But also the anxiety, how do they decide what’s worth sucking it up and saying yes to or when they can say no?

ARVIND RAJAN: I do think it really does come down to really understanding any job that you’re in. What are the real keys to be successful and finding ways of getting there without putting yourself in situations where, you know, where you’re going to fail. And maybe it may mean that certain jobs are not right for you. I mean, if you hate public speaking, you’re not going to get a job as a public speaker. I mean, that’d be a bad choice to make. And so, what I would say is it really comes down to better understanding the role and in the end … like all of us in any business kind of role are always pulled in a million directions. There are always more things you can do to drive your company forward or drive your career forward.

And it really helps to pause and think thoughtfully about what’s really going to be important for you. And how do you put yourself in situations where you’re going to succeed? Often when people are in junior roles, in a larger organization, I always tell people, one of the great things to do is to get an understanding from your boss on what his or her hardest problem is and self-talk through that problem.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And you’re saying, just ask? Be honest about it?

ARVIND RAJAN: I mean, that’s one of the other things too. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been much more comfortable in both acknowledging and being transparent about where my weaknesses are. I think often when people are young, at the end of the day, you’re always going to, especially if you’re new in the workforce, just try to present yourself as something other than who you are deep down. Like, your internal sense of identity is often very different from what you try to project in the world because you think you’ve got to present yourself as all-knowing, smarter, and more confident, blah, blah, blah, whatever it is. What’s happened as I’ve gotten older is my internal identity has become the same as my external professional identity.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Oh, that’s amazing.

ARVIND RAJAN: Well, and I think that’s helped me be more productive and has helped build me to be more successful in the end. Because I think when people in organizations follow leaders, I think one of the things that makes leaders most effective is if the people below them feel they’re being authentic. And it’s hard to be an authentic leader if your identity that you’re presenting to the world is different from who you are.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s funny because you, when we spoke a few years ago, when I was doing my book, you sort of changed my life because you touched on what we’re talking about now, but you also said two things. One is you quoted someone you had worked with at LinkedIn. I think it was maybe a Marcus Buckingham quote, which said “We spend far too much time trying to make our weaknesses stronger rather than perfecting our skills and really focusing on the things that we’re good at and like to do,” which I thought was absolutely clear and great advice. And then the other thing is you said no one’s born knowing how to do Excel or PowerPoint. You learn the same way that you might learn how to schmooze a room or how to give a great speech. Anything you want to add onto that to update it?

ARVIND RAJAN: No, I definitely feel the same way. I think in the end, when you look at people and their success, I think that you find yourself getting much further along as you figure out what you’re good at, and really focus there as opposed to trying to focus on fixing your faults. And I think that’s generally a good rule in life, and it’s a good rule also for managers with people on their team to really put them in situations where they’re going to work to their strengths, as opposed to accentuating their weaknesses. I mean, in terms of the other stuff, my guess, you can learn how to become better at certain things. But to be honest, if you put me in a cocktail reception of 1000 people, I’m going to feel miserable. I mean, I can smile.

I can learn how to not be visibly miserable, but I’m going to feel miserable, and I’m not going to enjoy it. I’m going to want to get out of there as fast as I can. So for me, maybe what it is, I guess maybe the answer to how, like my equivalent of learning Excel will be, how do I do enough things there that at least tick a few boxes that I wanted to accomplish while not spending as much time there? So it might be in fact that there’s maybe one person I want to, I want to meet there well, I’m going to go meet that one person. Or maybe it is that I’m going to make an appearance because it’s important for me to show my face there, but I’m still going to try to get out.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, okay. So last question. Now you’re in charge. I mean, you’ve always been in charge, but you have Cricket. As a CEO who feels this stuff, I’m curious how you manage your culture or your sales team, or if there are certain practices you’ve put into place that acknowledge these strengths, weaknesses, and anxieties that people on your team might have.

ARVIND RAJAN: Well, I think it begins with being honest and transparent with everyone.


ARVIND RAJAN: So I don’t think anyone … my leadership team doesn’t know this about me because I’ll be very direct with them. And I’ll say, for example, I get often asked to join on sales calls or sales opportunities meeting with customers. And I’m always happy to do them, but if it’s something purely social afterwards, I’ll say I don’t want to do that. Go find someone else to do it. And we’ll talk about who is the best person for it because certain people, and I’ve worked with them, get energy from the situation. It’s the exact opposite thing. Let’s put them in those positions where they can do that. Like there is a guy in our sales team, Jeb. Jeb is great at that kind of thing. He’s gregarious. He’s charming – all those things that, when I was younger, thinking I wanted to be like, and I’m not. And I guess the honest answer is in our organization, I’m comfortable with that.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I want to thank you so much for your time and your fantastic advice. And where can listeners learn about you and your work online?

ARVIND RAJAN: Probably the easiest place is to go to my company’s website, or follow me on Twitter @ARajan or LinkedIn, a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. I always like to put in a plug for LinkedIn at the end. I’ve been gone five years, but it’s always going to be part of my DNA.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m sure they’re appreciative. Well, thank you so much Arvind.

ARVIND RAJAN: Thank you.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Okay. So I promised a golden tip, and here it is. It’s the “Ten Touches” rule. Every week, reach out to ten people in your extended professional network with a quick touch, just ten. You can make a list if it helps and check each touch off. My husband, an experienced entrepreneur, taught me this. One every week, reach out and connect with ten people in your network. Past clients, colleagues, friends, mentors, it can be virtual. If you’re not a pick-up-the-phone kind of person, it can be WhatsApp, a text, an email, a lunch, a coffee, even a quick Facebook message. It’s another way to drive business, make contact, stay in the loop, and network all without leaving your house. You may want to write an endorsement of someone you worked with on LinkedIn.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s a great touch. Or you can like someone’s baby photo on Facebook because the secret with online networking is that by engaging with contacts, you get into their feed, which means getting into their heads and their consciousness. And being front-of-mind in people’s heads in business is good. You wouldn’t believe how many clients I’ve gotten just by reminding people I’m around and refreshing their memories about what I do.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s it for this week’s show. If you like what you’ve heard, be sure to subscribe and submit a review in Apple podcasts or wherever you get your shows. And if you have an idea for the show or you want to tell us your story, drop me a note at, or you can tweet me @morraam that’s M-O-R-R-A-A-M. Special thanks to the team at Harvard Business Review, my producer Mary Dooe, the team at Podcast Garage, and all of our guests who are telling us their stories from the heart. From the HBR presents network, I’m Morra Aaarons-Mele and this is The Anxious Achiever.

Source link

You May Also Like