5 Tips for Coming Out of Your Shell at Work

Business Coaching

Beth Comstock is one of the most influential female business executives in the world. So, it’s hard to believe that the former vice chair of General Electric is a self-proclaimed introvert.

In fact, Comstock, author of Imagine It Forward, in a recent interview at the Ascend Summit in New York City, said that it took a lot of time and practice to gain the confidence she needed to succeed.

Here are five of Comstock’s tips for any entrepreneur who is trying to come out of their shell.


1. Give Yourself Permission to Take Risks

Comstock said that as an introvert, it didn’t come naturally for her to take risks, such as asking for things or pitching new ideas.

“Give yourself permission to do these things,” said Comstock, who over her 27-year-long career at GE oversaw the founding of Hulu and implemented a green technology business strategy.

“I think it’s hard because [women have] been conditioned this way socially. Once you’ve given yourself permission, get out there.


2. Not Everyone is Going to Like You

For Comstock, it went against her natural instincts to “piss people off,” but she had to in order to get ahead. Women are not used to being “at odds” with others, she said, but it’s often a necessary casualty.

“To be able to ask for things—if you want to be an innovator and make change, which is what I pushed my career to be, it meant I had to piss people off. It meant I had to upend the status quo.”


3. Make it About the Team, Not Just You

Sometimes it can be a lot easier to put yourself out there if you incorporate your team. Most entrepreneurs can’t operate without one.

“Don’t just make it about you, make it about the team,” said Comstock. “It’s a lot easier to get out there that way.”


4. “No” May Mean “Not Yet”

Resilience is a muscle that needs to be toned. In Comstock’s career, sometimes “no” has meant “not yet,” and she has been forced to try again and again.

She recounted a story about approaching NBC CEO Bob Wright with a pitch for the Experience Store.

“The head of network said, ‘no’ the first time,” she said. “The team took three times to sell. In the end, Bob said, “I wanted to say ‘no,’ but you made it so darn hard to say ‘no,’ so I’m saying ‘yes.’ And I realized he was also testing me, and he was right because the idea got better. Resilience: if you want to make change happen, it’s up to you to keep going back.”


5. Don’t Take Feedback Personally

It’s easy to take negative feedback to heart, but Comstock said you need to take it as is—and it can often be helpful.

“I would have been too afraid to ask this before, but now I ask people to tell me something I don’t want to hear. Because I usually need to hear it,” said Comstock. “It gets you the data you need. You don’t have to agree with everything. Just listen to people. Often in that feedback you’re getting validation. So, don’t take it personally—but sometimes you need to ask for that personal feedback so you can get better.”

Beth Comstock

Beth Comstock is the former GE Vice Chair and CMO, where—for two decades—she led efforts to transform a process-heavy culture to a faster, more agile and inventive one. Prior to GE, Beth was President of Integrated Media at NBC Universal, overseeing the company’s digital efforts, including early development of hulu.com. Listed on Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women” and PR Week’s “20 Most Influential Communicators,” Beth helps incubate new companies and advises business leaders to accelerate growth and innovation. She is also a Director for Nike, a top-ten LinkedIn influencer and her first book, Imagine it Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change, offers lessons from a life of continual transformation that inspire others to embrace our rapidly changing world.