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Navigating Shark Infested Waters
Lessons from the Tank on Honing Your Killer Instincts!
For anyone who's tuned into an episode of Shark Tank, you're familiar with its high-octane theater of business. With a dynamic interplay of strong personalities, aggressive negotiation, and rapid-fire questions, it's a whirlwind. Each Shark brings a distinctive style: Kevin O’Leary's no-nonsense demeanor, Lori Greiner's discerning eye for detail, Mark Cuban's tech-savvy smarts, and Daymond John's licensing prowess. Going in, I couldn’t help but wonder… how would my “nice girl” style match up to the melee?
Let’s just say that stepping into the arena as a Guest Shark required a serious pivot from my usual style of conducting business. While confidence in my expertise was never the issue, what struck me was the arena's aggressive dynamics. Years in the industry have sharpened my instinct for a great investment, yet the crux of the challenge on Shark Tank was more interpersonal than analytical. Jumping in, interrupting, and out-talking both fellow Sharks and eager founders became a necessary tactic.
Growing up, like many women, I was gently nudged towards a 'people-pleasing' paradigm. Keep the peace, be congenial, sidestep direct confrontation – these felt like societal commandments. On Shark Tank, this script is turned upside down, with the clock ticking down and the fight to get a word in edgewise growing by the minute. The real-time demands of the show require a very, let’s just say, direct communication style.
Now, I’m not proposing that you embrace the all out aggro nature of a Shark, but if you’ve been socialized to be more WALLFLOWER than WOW! - here's a toolkit to challenge those tendencies:
Meet the Energy in the Room: Always be attuned to your environment. While you shouldn't bulldoze your way through conversations, ensure your voice is heard. If someone tries to overshadow you, amplify your voice and reclaim your space in the conversation.
Own Your Stand, No Apologies: Your perspectives and boundaries are inherently valuable. Stand by them without wavering. Using definitive statements like "I always prioritize X" or "I have a rule that I never compromise on Y" establishes clear boundaries and commands respect.
People-Pleasing is Self-Compromising: Prioritizing others' contentment at the cost of your well-being is a sure-shot way to devalue yourself. Always aim for kindness, but understand it's not synonymous with concession. While you control your message's delivery, its reception is out of your hands.
Assertion ≠ Aggression: Standing firm in your beliefs and expressing them does not mean being combative. Keep your cool; reacting emotionally can diminish your perceived power. It's about communicating your value confidently without diminishing others.
Know Your Value: Claiming your space in conversations or decisions isn't about overshadowing others. It's recognizing and confidently communicating your worth. It's not a power play; it's self-empowerment.
Navigating the high-pressure cooker that is Shark Tank was a fabulously fun challenge and a revelation. Every assertive move became a tug-of-war between old habits and the show's inherent drama. But one truth stood out: real success isn't about mimicking aggressive archetypes. It's rooted in genuine self-awareness, authenticity, and, sometimes, bucking the status quo.
To all the women out there: remember, real power isn't just in the volume of our voice but in the depth of our experiences, insights, and the authenticity that underscores our words. As we chart our course, confronting and reshaping our people-pleasing tendencies can reshape our journeys.