I recently had lunch with a CEO friend – a smart, successful leader of 60 employees – who admitted she is quaking with nerves at the thought of her company's Christmas party.
This is a woman who stands at the front of boardrooms, instructing, debating and actioning with unabated confidence, yet the thought of mingling with her employees in a social situation made her tempted to pull a sickie and hide at home with her Netflix subscription.
I don't think my friend is the only leader to feel this way. Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer once said she has suffered from such shyness that she struggled to stay at parties for longer than 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Ben Silbermann, founder and CEO of Pinterest, has admitted he can be a wallflower. "It's not like I'm jumping around the table throwing things," he says. "I'm not the kind of person by nature who celebrates everything."
Take a boss out of their natural environment and place of authority, and they can feel out of their depth when you drop them into a bar full of staff members (especially if they've faced conflict with any of those staff members during the year).
I am lucky to be looking forward to my company's Christmas party, but if you're in the 'don't wanna go' camp then here are my top tips for an instant confidence boost.
Prep to party
If you've watched the movie The Devil Wears Prada you'll know fashion editor Miranda Priestly (the 'devil') has a book that her assistants have to memorise before an important party, which contains the names, relationship history and personal trivia about all the guests invited.
She's never stuck for small talk because she knows who they're dating, where they've holidayed or if they're planning a wedding. I'm not saying you should do weeks of revision, but social media does make it easy to do instant research and have icebreakers ready.
Host it on home turf
Sporting teams feel more confident when playing on their home ground, and I think the same can apply to socialising. A lot of famous business leaders choose to host their company parties at their own house, and it's not just because they want to show off their mansions. It stands to reason that people feel more confident in environments they're familiar with – and where is more familiar than your own living room?
Take a seat
I am often the person at a networking event who goes and sits on a sofa by the wall, whilst the crowd stands in the centre of the room. This is the equivalent of being the first person to tuck into the buffet at a wedding – we all want to, but we don't want to be the first to do it. But sometimes, even at the most fun social occasions, you need a time out (and a sit-down), so give yourself permission to act accordingly. The funny thing is that often I find someone interesting comes to sit next to me. Then you can have an enjoyable conversation whilst sitting comfortably.
Nod to the beats
Nodding your head isn't just a good way of showing you're listening (or pretending to if the music is too loud to really hear someone). Research from Ohio State University found that nodding your head can also boost your confidence, because we are "communicating to ourselves" and "gaining confidence in what we are thinking."
Another study from Harvard found that holding a "power pose" (hands on hips or even one arm in the air like Superman) makes people feel more capable and confident. Just pretend it's a new dance move!
'Ghost' without guilt
Just because you're the leader, you don't have to be the last person standing. In fact, your employees might prefer to party on without you. I recently came across this blog post titled The Introvert's Guide to Spontaneous Departures.
"Step 1: Tell the extrovert friend who invited you that you're trying this thing where you go home as soon as you feel like it.
Step 2: Notice how you feel.
Step 3: Look like you are having the time of your life as you say goodbye, because last impressions are important.
You don't always have to party on!
The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.