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Beth Comstock: 5 tips for coming out of your shell at work

The former vice chair of GE says that as an introvert, it didn’t come naturally for her to take risks. Here's how she changed her thinking.
Beth Comstock, former vice chair of General Electric, speaks at the Ascend Summit in New York City earlier this month.
Beth Comstock, former vice chair of General Electric, speaks at the Ascend Summit in New York City earlier this month.Miller Hawkins

Beth Comstock is one of the most influential female business executives in the U.S. 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,” recently told Know Your Value’s Daniela Pierre-Bravo during an interview at the ASCEND summit in New York City 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 or woman in business who is trying to come out of her shell.

1. Give yourself permission to take risks.

Comstock told Pierre-Bravo 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.”

Beth Comstock attends the 25th Anniversary Gala at Gotham Hall on April 30, 2018, in New York.Scott Roth / Invision/AP file

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 often 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,” she told Pierre-Bravo. “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, said Comstock. 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, said Pierre-Bravo. 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,' you made it so darn hard to say ‘no,' I’m saying ‘yes.’ And when I realized he was also testing me, and he was right because our idea got better. Resilience: if you want to make change happen, it's up to you to keep going back.”

Beth Comstock at SXSW on March 11, 2017 in Austin, Texas.Rick Kern / Getty Images file

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: Tell me something I don’t wanna hear because I need to hear it usually,” 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."