This is the first of a new series of posts called “Do Things That Scare You”. The goal of this series is to challenge me out of my comfort zone and push me to do things that otherwise I would dread doing. The challenges will take be both personal and professional. So, here it goes!
My first challenge in this quest was to run a Training Session for Ubiqua’s new users.
Why was this scary?
To be honest. It shouldn’t have been scary at all. I had already sat in 4 user training sessions before. I had taken notes and had a good idea of the general delivery of the session. During my time as Nspire President, I ran multiple onboarding sessions to new members of the team. So why was this time scary?
This time i’d be in the driver’s seat. I wouldn’t be passively listening in the back, but I’d be actually on the spot training new sessions. Additionally, training new users how to use Ubiqua’s product is core to our success. Happy Users = Happy Customers. Suddenly I felt I huge weight (responsibility) and a pressure to perform. But nonetheless, it was my turn to deliver the session so I went ahead and did it.
How did it go?
I reviewed the Training Outline and rehearsed a couple times. I tried visualizing the experience and mentally preparing for it. I had my guidelines printed with me, as a reference. And I arrived early to make sure everything was set up and ready to go. Nevertheless…
My first time was horrible. Ha! After all that prep I was still a nervous wreck. I lost “flow” and lost track a couple times. I fumbled with the audience’s questions and rambled on at times with extra long explanations. You can imagine how I felt. My first training session was a C- effort at best. And worst part, the next day I had to deliver another one.
What did I do about it?
Times like these make it easy for us to back out and say “This isn’t for me”, “I’m not good at it”, and whatever other mental block we can come up with. Luckily for me, this wasn’t the case. I wasn’t going to call it quits after my first try. So I did what anyone who wants to get better at something would do:
1. I asked my colleague for feedback. His feedback was spot-on and I set aside time to internalize it.
2. I thought about what I could do better. I changed up the flow of the content so that it was more natural to me and ‘easier’ to digest for our new users.
3. I practiced and rehearsed again before my next session. ‘Cuz practice makes perfect, right?
And how did the next one go?
The next session was kick-ass. It was a completely different story. I was confident in delivering the training session. I engaged the audience with jokes and short stories. I challenged them to “learn with me”. It was interactive and hands-on, as opposed to a 1-way presentation from me. Truly, imho, an A+ effort.
I felt really proud walking out of that session. I had been able to take a setback, ask for feedback, reflect on what I could do better, and put it to action to achieve a great performance.
Where am I today?
What was clear to me, is it wasn’t over. This was an opportunity to keep honing a new skill, getting better and better through multiple iterations of practice and feedback. Two weeks later, I’ve single-handedly delivered over 5+ training session for users, getting better and better at it with each session. Now I’m fully capable of coordinating and delivering a training session for new users. Most importantly, the team can trust with me this responsibility and I can contribute to Ubiqua in more meaningful ways than before.
So… What did I learn from this experience?
What scared me the most was uncertainty.
What would it be like being the presenter and not the audience? Would I be able to do it as well as my colleagues had done it in the past? Or would I freeze up and do it poorly? I was stressing myself out with unnecessary worries, where I should have been working on overcoming this challenge.
Uncertainty is something difficult to deal with. It makes us doubt our own abilities to perform. It occupies our minds with concerns of future outcomes. But the interesting thing of uncertainty, is that it can be overcome. In my specific case, the uncertainty of how to deliver a training session was overcome by simply going out there and doing it. After my first session, it was no longer unfamiliar, scary or some sort of black-box experience. I walked out with a clear idea in mind, understood the expectations and what was required of me to do it well next time.
If there’s anything to take away…
This is my recommendation to you. The next time you deal with the stress and uncertainty of a new challenge, tackle it head on. Avoid countless hours wasted dreading an unknown future. Uncertainty doesn’t deserve so much of your time and energy.
Practice and prepare as well as you can; so that your when you do face your challenge, you’re ready for it.
Finally, don’t focus on acing it the first time. This sets ridiculously difficult expectations to manage. Focus on doing the best you can, and on receiving the necessary feedback to improve for next time.
This is what makes the difference in the end; seeing it as an opportunity to grow.
As for me, I’ll keep identifying tasks that scare me the most, that challenge the very fibre of my confidence, and tackle these head on. For these are the challenges that push us out of our comfort zones, and into the zone where the magic happens.