There’s no such thing AS A
(BUT PREPARATION, ROUTINE AND RESILIENCE WILL GET YOU FAR)
In her book, The Skills, BBC news presenter Mishal Husain busts the myths surrounding success. Here she shares her top 10 insights into how to develop the qualities you’ll need to achieve your best
When I joined the BBC exactly 20 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined what I do today: my work in radio and television puts me in the privileged position of being able to question the powerful, and I’ve been fortunate to travel across the world covering breaking news and making documentaries. It’s a job I love, but one that also tests me in many ways – the content, the scrutiny and the working hours, which involve a 3am alarm.
What made me want to write about women in the workplace was a desire to cut out some of the myths, particularly the idea of ‘superwomen’ seamlessly combining careers and families. I had three children in two years (my first child was followed by twins) and life was, for a time, a bit of a blur. I remember thinking I’d never go back to the career I’d had before, especially the international travel, but looking back now I am so glad I took it one step at a time and didn’t make any farreaching decisions, because that phase passed.
I also wanted to combat common myths in our perception of successful people, especially when we see their attributes as innate rather than honed over time. When I was told 10 years ago that the key quality needed to get to the top of my field was authority, I had no idea how to go about developing it. What I know now is that it comes from acquiring knowledge and being prepared to demonstrate it, showing those around you the mastery you have of material, whatever your line of work. Similarly with confidence – in my experience, preparation, familiarity and routine are all key elements, as well as resilience. There are ways to work at developing all of these qualities, and I wanted to be open and honest about what has helped me, rather than treating it as a closely guarded secret.
1 NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW YOUR DOUBTS
Being apprehensive about your capabilities is normal, at least for those with a healthy awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. But guard against them becoming part of your outward persona at work. Don’t do yourself down. This doesn’t mean being full of bravado, but simply knowing that not every germ, worry or apprehension needs to be expressed. You may end up placing doubt about your capabilities into the minds of your peers or managers.
2 MAINTAIN A SENSE OF PURPOSE IN YOUR WORKING LIFE
You may not love what you do, but the job may have important benefits that keep you there: whether that be pay, useful experience, CV points that will help you get somewhere else or simply a decent work-life balance. Stay positive about why you are there, or look around for other options.
3 NERVES ARE USEFUL
I am almost always apprehensive before going on air, and I think it helps me deliver. Once you recognise that, it takes away some of the fear and turns the experience into something more manageable. Routine helps: figure out the order in which you tackle a to-do list or set of tasks most effectively and focus on them one after another.
4 YOU CAN PREPARE FOR THE BIG MOMENTS
Take yourself through what is likely to come up, or how you want to set the agenda if it’s a meeting you’ve initiated. I was deeply apprehensive about becoming one of the London 2012 Olympics presenters, but I set aside time to learn as much as I could about each sport and competition. It wasn’t about trying to pass myself off as a sports broadcaster, but about making an effort and getting to grips with the subject matter. From that, the confidence and a greater ease flows.
5 WHEN YOU’RE MAKING A SPEECH, KEEP IT TIGHT
Many people go on for longer than they need to or should, while others are tongue-tied at crucial moments. A good rule of thumb is to divide what you want to say into three areas or three points. These should be the absolutely crucial ones that you want to make sure you deliver, and keeping them to a number that is easy to remember will also help them stay at the forefront of your mind. You don’t want to walk out of a meeting, appraisal or interview and only then remember what you wanted to say – and you also don’t want to make a prepared speech so long that your audience drifts off.
6 IF IN DOUBT, ASK A QUESTION
It’s not only a very useful way to keep any kind of conversation going, but framing a contribution as a question can also mask any uncertainty you might have at work. Those who are prepared to question the status quo are also vital for any organisation’s plans or projects to succeed – you need people who can think through where any gaps might be, point out the issues, anticipate the problems and ultimately make the ideas better, stronger and more likely to come to fruition.
‘Not everyone needs to know your doubts .... but guard against them becoming part of your outward persona at work’