How to Bring Out Someone’s Super Powers

Nov 17, 2017 by

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In my opinion, this is even better than the diploma I earned twenty-five years ago.

In 1992, I graduated from Cal State Hayward (now called Cal State East Bay) with a degree that is so far removed from what I do now that it isn’t even worth mentioning. All it did was qualify me to mark “college graduate” on forms and find out what I wasn’t wired for—teaching preschoolers or a classroom full of children that includes more than one discipline problem. The number of years that it took me to finish college—between community college and Cal State—is not worth mentioning either. But I did get married in that time and have my first child, so I’m thankful that I graduated at all. At the beginning of my lengthy college career, I spent some time in the Theater department and competitive public speaking. My event was Dramatic Interpretation. Debate felt too much like arguing and categories that required research felt too much like homework. Plus, they wouldn’t allow me to show off my acting skills. I had no desire to motivate or inspire anyone at the time, I just liked to perform.

The only things I didn’t like about these activities were the audition process and the constant picking apart of one’s performance.

Speech tournament judges can be so mean!

You’d think my brief time in theater and speech competitions would have helped me toughen up. Instead, it fed my insecurity, and I’d been gorging on that since about age five.

I was right not to pursue a career in stage and film. It would have ruined me faster than the preschool class in Reno where I learned that, though it was no longer okay to give a child a time out, it was completely acceptable for a child to throw Hot Wheels at the teacher and call her a poo poo head.

As much as I love speaking and have wanted to attend a speaker conference for years, and as much as I’ve been looking forward to Leverage since I registered in August, the idea of actually going to a professional speaker conference scared me to death.

I’d heard stories.

I’d taken drama classes from a teacher who cussed.

I’d been called sappy in a speech tournament evaluation.

I’d never made it past the dreaded 4th Place in competition.

I’d had Hot Wheels thrown at me by a cherub-faced three-year-old. (Okay, I realize that has absolutely nothing to do with speaking, but some things stick with us for life. Is it wrong to picture that kid reading my blog post from prison and sharing a cell with the boy who purposely dumped milk in the Home Living center?)

Yes, I’d received glowing feedback on my writers’ conference workshops and been told that I was a good speaker, but a speaker conference was completely different!

I would be there with people who’d spoken at more than three women’s events in the past four years.

It helped to see all the “I’m so nervous!” posts on Facebook. Thank you, everyone, for your honesty.

My friend Kathi Lipp wasn’t exaggerating when she subtitled her Leverage speaker conference “The safest place to practice the scariest profession.” She was telling the truth when she told me, “We help you find your super power.” I can’t remember the last time I was in such an encouraging, nurturing environment where so much emphasis was placed on recognizing and drawing out one another’s strengths.

I received so much positive feedback and affirmation that I was not out of my league after all that when it came time for my mentor, Amy Cowell, to give her critiques, I welcomed every suggestion for improvement.

The rest of us had to limit our comments to what each speaker in our group did well.

I love pointing out what others do well. I value constructive critiques too. I have plenty of experience with critiquing writers. But when I don’t know the person, or know them just enough to understand what a huge leap they are taking out of their comfort zone, I would much rather build them up.

I love these people!

Thank you, Amy, for giving us so many reasons to brag that we got the best mentor.


I am convinced that THAT is why we all improved with every talk we had to give.

Because the goal was to help all of us find our strengths and walk away knowing what kind of speaker we were, not make it a competition.

Whether we fell into the category of Entertainer, Motivator, Inspiring, or Educator all of us felt equally valued. (In case you’re wondering, my primary style is Inspiring, my secondary is Educator.)

When, during the closing celebration, my group went up to receive our certificates and words that described us—one from each group member and one from our mentor—receiving those words was overwhelming in a good way. I knew each one came from a sincere heart that I’d grown to love, not from someone who’d just called me sappy in front of the whole group an hour ago. I got to be powerfully surprised and tear up in a room full of people that I felt safe tearing up in front of.

I left believing I can do this.

Thank you, Kathi Lipp and everyone else at Leverage, for reminding us of the best way to bring out a speaker’s best, or anyone’s best—by pointing it out.

Calling it a super power also helps.

Thank you, Kathi Lipp and everyone else at Leverage... Click To Tweet
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  1. Jeanette, your conference workshops have always been great.

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