Tonight, I went to the Purim schpiel, and realized that I’ve got a problem.
Perhaps I should explain. For the last two years, I’ve been a vice president of $mens_club, and as such I’ve been working behind the scenes to reposition the organization to emphasize our place and importance in building relationships within and with the congregation at large. I’ve tried to do that at some smaller events this year. Naturally, being active has its own rewards, … , one of which is likely getting increased leadership opportunities. In this case, that means I am likely going to have increased responsibility to promote the group to members of the congregation.
Here’s where the problem comes in. Although I may seem outgoing, I’m really only outgoing with a supporting Powerpoint presentation :-). By that, I mean that my normal nature is to sit back quietly and do my job, and help make sure the event is a success. I can get up and speak when I know the subject well (which is what preparing the Powerpoint does for me). Whereas my father had the personality to go up to strangers and introduce himself and become friends, doing that cold is a very very difficult mountain for me to climb (if I know something about the person to start the conversion, it is much much easier).
Tonight I thought I might give it a try. I thought I would have the gumption to go up to congregational men — who were there with their families and are precisely the men we need to draw into the organization — and introduce myself to them. I thought I would be able to sell $mens_club to them. But I couldn’t even get started up the cliff. I realized I’m the engineer, not the salesman. I don’t have that salesman persona.
I’ll note this isn’t new. I never was one to go out for drama classes or run for offices. I never sold cookies or candy bars for schools successfully. At Halloween, I was never the one creating the superinventive costume — I was either behind the door with the sound effects, or wearing a costume that made me look like everyone else. At camp, I wasn’t the one in drama or the one being out in front; I was in arts & crafts and squarely in the middle. I was fine being a committee chair or running an activity, but never the outgoing face. Even in the UCLA Computer Club, when we played Superhero 2044, my character was “Mr. Cellophane” — the one no-one every noticed because he blended in.
Realizing this is the first step to solving the problem. Practice and acting “as if” will be a second step. I’ve viewing this opportunity in the organization as a chance to improve myself; to gain a skillset that will prove me useful. It also making me realize that I need to think about doing what any good organizational head would do: if you don’t have a skill your organization needs, you find someone who can excel at that skill to make your organization complete. You bring them on board, and while they are exercising that skill, learn from them how to do it better.
That’s one reason I’m writing this post. To those who read this who are the “born salesmen” (or should I say “born salescritters”): what tips do you have, and how do I learn the skill.