Business development -- the attraction and maintenance of clients -- is a confidence game: confidence in your talent, confidence in your management of time, confidence in your management of others, confidence in your ability to achieve success. On balance, confidence is as equally important as competence, though women, in particular, often think otherwise. Women work and work and wonder why someone else hasn't recognized their sacrifice. Despite our recognition that confidence within the business world is essential for success, women often times attribute that confidence that they see in others to external rather than internal factors. Women believe that if only we had more education, more experience, a more supportive spouse or family, a better work environment, more opportunities provided by the firm, then women too could become more confident and reap the rewards of success.
True confidence, however, is an inside job, regardless of gender.
The Harvard Business Review recently featured an article written by two authors, Adam Waytz and Malia Mason, which described a part of the brain known as the default network. Our brain mostly reacts to external stimulations that then trigger our senses. The default network, however, is a part of the brain that is internally stimulated. The muscle of this part of the brain is built by detaching from external stimuli. More importantly, by detaching from the external world and fortifying the function of the default network, we build the deeper foundation that enhances emotional intelligence, a proven confidence builder and huge advantage in the business attraction world.
Industries such as the legal profession are slow to embrace these mind-body concepts, though iconic business leaders are extolling the virtues of this inner work. They include Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Dan Harris and Russell Simmons, to name a few. In Ms. Huffington's recent book, Thrive, she explained that despite her material wealth and significant profile, she sacrificed her health, family and peace of mind by ignoring her authentic self.
So, how does all of this relate to business development?
Well, for one, if you develop and expand the default network, you become more comfortable with yourself. You become more comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses. If you become more comfortable with yourself, you allow others to feel more comfortable with themselves. Giving people the opportunity to feel good is a rare gift and if you can do that authentically, you raise your value as someone with whom they can connect. Further, building your confidence internally helps you deal with rejection, which inevitably you are going to receive if you are asking for business (and you must ask for the business eventually). Being able to stay in the moment, as trite as that sounds, without expectation is an art form; an art form that is built within yourself. The art of asking without expectation is key to attraction between anything including businesses.
Okay, so what does it mean to build up confidence? Does this mean I say a bunch of those affirmation things and hope that something happens? Is it like that book 'The Secret?'
No, building your inner self, confidence and default network is based on science. Your decision to spend time meditating, practicing yoga, being silent, praying, being in nature, being with children, listening to music, painting, exercising -- all of these things build up the default network, resulting in you being more resilient. This inner work helps one sleep deeply. There are numerous studies that prove meditation lowers blood pressure by giving your very busy brain a break. These tools allow you to develop the skill of truly listening to another human being without thinking of what you are going to say next, which is damn near impossible for a lawyer such as myself. They allow you to give someone room to complete their sentence without interrupting (one of my biggest challenges). And the research tells us that interrupting is interpreted, at least by men, as disrespectful. So, how are you going to connect with someone and earn their trust if they think you are being disrespectful?
The proper mindset is just one component of becoming a successful business person, but it is by far the most important. It starts with the understanding that confidence is infectious. It allows you to fortify yourself and inspire others. From there, you can employ a system to keep track of your relationships but the mindset comes first. It always does.