Michelle Gielan | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Michelle Gielan


The Institute for Applied Positive Research looks at the link between happiness and performance.

The Mistake:

I have a degree in computer engineering and it wasn't a good fit for me, so I transitioned into software sales. I started working at a small company in London that sold software to traders to use when they worked on the London Metal Exchange. I was working directly with the boss, there was a sales team of two--me and him. I wanted to impress him and the way that I saw to do that was to be as professional as possible.

I prepared immensely for the first sales pitch. I was wearing a suit that could've been a man's suit, my collar was buttoned up all the way up. I started the presentation with a quote from literature, I don't know what the hell I was doing. And then, I told them all the value points of our software and tried to build an argument about why they should buy it.

My boss and I left the office and I will never forget what he said to me, "You know kid, it's okay to crack a smile when you are doing these presentations. Having a little fun with this will make the ride much more enjoyable for all of us."  

Too often we think in order to be successful we need to be serious.

The Lesson:

That was a transformative moment for me. What I came to see, is that too often we think in order to be successful we need to be serious.

What I realize now, is there is an important place for having a fun spirit and expressing your happiness to other people. When you have a positive mindset you broadcast that to the people around you.

So, anytime when I am hoping to convey information or convince people of some ideas, adding humor and positivity is key.

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