Arrogance or Attitude – What have you got?
Over my professional career, I have struggled on balancing confidence, knowing how much to project, how and when. It’s a fine line, especially when you “know” yourself, your product and your company (a mix you can get when you are running your own show). Some of my greatest success and failure early on was through being over confident. One of the biggest projects we won was through my cocky naivety. However, the reputation haunted me for some time after as being young, brash and apolitical.
Live and learn. I’m still viewed as young in some circles, although i now have too much grey hair. I was an only child and only grandchild until I was 8. I got doted on, lots of adult attention, lots of exposure to new things and was encouraged in a positive environment to give it a go. Sure, through adolescence I went through cocky and total lack of confidence phases, but ended up comfortable in my own skin. Often, I didn’t really care what others thought. Business is a slightly different beast. I learnt pretty quickly that having the best product at the best price with the best service actually does not do a whole lot for growth.
I just assumed early on in roomsXML days (easier when cash flow , especially for marketing, was low) that customers would see how great we were and flock…so why market? You need to be out there, you need to tell people what is “best” and how you do it, it needs to be a strong consistent authentic message… in an environment where everyone else is trying to say the same thing. Then it gets tricky! Often, to go the next step, you need to have that next level of confidence, the world beater, self assuredness….and it can come awry.
Going back to a karate lesson, I came across many younger elite fighters in 2013 when I made the Vic team. I was WAY out of my depth, only there because someone was being nice to me and thought I would enjoy the training experience. I had never trained around elite athletes before. It was quite a shock, both pysically and mentally. I was stunned with the arrogance, the posturing, even the way you needed to behave to score points. I learnt from an authentic karate master (6th Dan Master Luc) that to achieve at that level, to be a national or international champ, you need to believe you are the greatest.
You must project it . You need to breathe that rarified air. It shat me right off, until I got to know a few of these guys and girls really well and realized it was a tool they needed in their “profession”, albeit an “amateur” one (in that they sacrificed enormously to reach their peaks). Some of them are great friends now and I understand better and it makes sense. Its just as important to be confident and project it as it is to warm up. But at that level of sport, its fine. Business, I don’t think it works so well. Rather, people I like doing business with are not like this.
Unless you are an investment banker in a testosterone fuelled blokey bank, it does not translate to the world 99% of us live in. Ultra cockiness, taking down the opposition at every chance can have you perceived as a wanker. Unless you are really counting pennies, it may lead to “financial overextension”. In other words, liquidation and unpaid tax bills, which are coming back to haunt you. Same time, Australia is the worst at tall poppy. I forget the source but they said “Buy a porsche in the states and your friends will say well done; buy one here and you might struggle to stop them scratching it.” So where is the balance?
I admire those who are confident, self assured , know themselves and their area of expertise, but only need to tell you once. Maybe they talk more about their team, the product and less about themselves. They seldom take a pot shot at opposition as really, they know talking them down does not build them up. Unless of course its B2C traders on the internet which are fare game. Most importantly I think, they know how to wield power.
There are many perceptions from wiser people than myself on power and how to use it, but ultimately, the most powerful person, with the most confidence in what they do and how they do it, is the one who needs the power to achieve, the least. I just met an amazing woman in Siem Reap called Sally Douglas from the Women’s resource Centre. Amazing stuff, but she does not like being acknowledged for her hard work. its more important for her that the staff are.
So how does this go in action? “Here is our product, we are confident its not only the best, but it is the best value proposition. It does the job. But I understand if you want to look around, its natural. We believe in what we have and we look forward to seeing you back soon. Here, let me help you with that….” As opposed to “Seriously? You are going to use them? Why not try this? They are crap because….look, you are here now, why not….”
I have learnt confidence and how you project it, is very important. It must be authentic, it must be backed by substance, but it must be real.
Be sure of yourself, be real, be confident, but never arrogant.