Career Development and Sweaty Palm Moments

I spent last Friday night watching a 14 year old named Kati perform her signing debut at open mic night, after only 3 months of voice lessons, and was reminded of the powerful  value of Sweaty Palm Moments.

Sweaty Palm Moments are those times when you have to perform because your pride or your career or your self-respect depend on it. There are big Sweaty Palm Moments, such as making a formal presentations to hundreds of people, and small Sweaty Palm Moments, such as a conversation with a key client or customer that really need to result in a specific outcome.

Sweaty Palm Moments provide valuable personal and professional development opportunities – they are the ‘on the job’ real-time development opportunities that companies encourage their employees to take advantage of. But what is the best way to get the most out of a Sweaty Palm Moment? It is simple:

  • Prepare like your life – or at least your reputation – depends on it and know your content cold. For my 14-year-old friend Kati, that meant knowing the lyrics to her song so well that she heard them in her dreams for days leading up to her performance. All that practice in the shower paid off for her, so don’t pass up any chances to practice, practice, practice.
  • Project confidence, and do whatever it takes to build your confidence ahead of time. This was Kati’s first time on a stage, but you would never know it because she walked up there as if she belonged in front of an audience. She prepared ahead of time by selecting a song she loved and an outfit and accessories that she felt comfortable performing in. She was a bundle of nerves inside, but nobody other than her close friends could tell.
  • Visualize ahead of time how you are going to handle a sticky situation if it comes up. What will you do if you forget what you want to say, get off track or encounter someone who challenges you? Kati’s voice coach worked with her to ‘plan for the worst’ where she might need to pause for a deep breath if her nerves began to show. When I am headed into a Sweaty Palm Moment, I like to visualize how good I am going to feel when it is over and I knew I did my best. Looking ahead to the ‘thank goodness that is over’ feeling is what helps me get through almost any Sweaty Palm Moment.

Kati’s voice coach started the performance mic night I attended to provide her students an opportunity to perform live early in their training. Like Kati’s coach, some of the best leaders I have worked for were the ones who understood the developmental value of Sweaty Palm Moments and put me into them regularly.

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.

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