Introducing Carina and Cecilia, two extraordinary young women I had the opportunity to meet just a few weeks ago in China.
I got to know Carina and Cecilia at the 2014 International Women’s Symposium of the World Academy For The Future Of Women. Carina and Cecilia were the student ambassadors assigned to help me navigate my stay in a new country, my keynote speech before 5,000 people and teaching breakout sessions.
I was fortunate. Over three days they introduced me to Chinese culture and shared their stories.
Both revealed that they were painfully shy when they began their leadership training with the World Academy For The Future Of Women. They did not believe anyone would care about their story and were afraid to speak publicly.
I found this fear to be common in my breakout sessions as I saw that the students didn’t typically speak up without being specifically addressed.
While there are cultural differences, worrying about whether anyone will be interested in what you have to say is universal. There I was on the other side of the world listening to the same fears I’ve heard for years in the U.S. as a producer and now as a coach. It’s normal.
However, by the time I met Carina and Cecilia they had transformed. Carina now speaks with ease and glows. She just finished an internship in Shanghai and soon will be leaving for grad school in England. Cecilia, a mere sophomore, is running a million miles a minute juggling her finance major, charity work and public speaking competitions. That’s right, public speaking competitions.
All that success became possible when the World Academy For The Future of Women allowed these two young women to find their voice as leaders.
It’s the same principle whether you are a university student in China or a professional anywhere in the world. No matter who or where you are, great communication allows you to be a leader.
Here are three main strategies that Carina and Cecilia applied and you can too. Whether you are painfully shy or speaking to millions, they are important to remember.
1. Your message matters. Everyone has a message that’s important…including you. You must own it. Even though it was terrifying, Carina and Cecilia took a leap of faith and believed in themselves.
2. The work you put in pays off. Carina and Cecilia took on 10 hours of extra training a week for which they received no school credit. That’s because the lifelong benefits of training were their credit! If you want to reap the rewards of superior communication, you need to practice.
Those opportunities are all around you. For these young women, one outlet was by finding the courage to speak up in class. For you it could be practicing with clients, patients or even at the dry cleaner. As soon as you start to look for places to practice your communication, you will realize that if you are alive you already have opportunities.
Remember that it does not matter where you begin. If looking someone in the eye is scary, start there. Once you succeed at that you will feel a little more confident to take the next step.
3. Speak from your heart. Carina loves fashion and I wish you could have seen her face light up when she talked about how she wants to bring a particular style of Chinese dress to the international mainstream. Cecilia is determined to help HIV impacted orphans get higher education. I felt their mission and it was contagious.
What is your passion? When you learn to speak your truth effectively, you are unstoppable.
In a short time these young women went from shy to shining. It was not surprising. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. I have no doubt that you can do the same if you make the commitment.
If you found this blog helpful, please email it to a friend or share it on Facebook and Twitter. Please tell me about how you plan to shine in the comments below. I look forward to reading what you share!