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Redmond, Washington. October 27, 2009. Thousands of mostly female Microsoft employees from all over the world gathered for the 3 day Microsoft Women’s Leadership and Development Conference. One of the many charismatic and talent speakers is Bonnie St. John, who shares with us some tips on how to be a super star.
Bonnie is certainly qualified to deliver this talk, as she is the author of numerous books, a magna cum laude Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, served as White House Director of the National Economic Council for President Clinton, and oh yes – she is a Olympic medalist as an amputee.
Bonnie taught herself to program at age 12 and worked for IBM. Her accomplishments are too numerous to mention, so read November’s Oprah’s O magazine, where she most recently featured (page 84). In her talk today, Achieving Peak Performance, Bonnie offers her special uber tips for being a world class game changer.
Be a helpable person
Bonnie speaks of advice given to her by Ken Kragen, Hollywood’s premier agent who secured the talent for the We are the World event.
Kragen says that in order to be a superstar, “it’s not about how good your voice is, how hard you work, or your positive attitude. The key characteristic of whether I can take you to superstar status – is how much of a helpable person you are.” Helpable versus being independent, with the “I can do it on my own” attitude. Not showing weakness.
How to be more helpable? Ask for help! Send more thank you notes – and rely on more people. Reach out and ask for help. People can’t help you if they don’t know you who you are. In the Linda Babcock – Women Don’t Ask (book), it states some interesting facts. Men initiate negotiations 4x more often than women. Women will avoid asking for a better car deal – women in fact will pay $1300 just to avoid negotiating a car deal. 63% of Saturn buyers were women. Women ask for less and settle for less 30% more often than men.
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Vocalize the help you need. To demonstrate this point, Bonnie tosses a blue balloon and into the audience and asks people to bat it around. The room is silent except for the thumping sounds of the balloon being hit randomly across the room. Bonnie intently focuses on the path of the balloon for a long 2 minutes. Suddenly she says “you, with the red shirt, please stand up” . This woman was quite far from the path of the balloon and asks the room if we could hit the balloon to her. The balloon immediately changes course and in moments crosses the 400 people in the room to the woman in red, who stands holding the blue balloon. Bonnie then asks anyone who has touched the balloon on the course to the woman, “please stand up”. There were 8 women in total of 400. “When you ask for help, look how fast something gets done. Everyone was willing to help” . Think of something that you are willing to do to make yourself more helpable. Some examples from our audience:
- “Ask for help”
Confidence is a Muscle
· She speaks of ıntervıewıng the Presıdent of Lıberıa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. President Sirleaf speaks of how she took risk after risk in the face of adversary and she said, with each risk she became stronger, and then she took another risk. And then finally she said she got to a place “where fear had no power over me”. Bonnie speaks of how confidence is a muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger you get. Think of one thing that you will do that will build this confidence muscle.
- “Deliver a presentation to my upper management on a topic I don’t know… yet.”
- “Every day write in my journal what I have done to take care of myself that day.”
Balance, Joy and Education
Education is the most important game changer of today. Wendy Kopp was a game changer by creating a program, Teach for America, which is the equivalent of the peace corp for teaching. At one point she had said to herself that she had so much to do that she will just sleep every other night. Balance was one thing she had to learn and this was achieved by having a touchstone “Stop and think. What is it that brings you joy?” Ask yourself “What is that thing that gives you joy? Now make time for it”. Some of the audience answers were:
- “My niece”
- “Buying a new book”
- “My dog”
With these tips, or “gifts” as Bonnie calls them, you can take your top performance capabilities and rocket them into super stardom.