Believe it or not, Microsoft’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Amy Hood, talks to herself every day. The world’s top CEOs and leaders all use some form of intrapersonal communication in their daily routine. Whether it involves positive self-talk, mediation, exercise, or self-reflection, they’ve found this practice improves their teamwork, ability to focus, and handle stress at work.

But how do you actually do it? How do you flex those intrapersonal communication muscles? Let’s take a closer look at how Hood transformed Microsoft through her intrapersonal communication skills.

“Whatever it is that gives you energy, fills up your tank, should be a priority.”

-Amy Hood, CFO at Microsoft, shares how intrapersonal communication can help you better prioritize your energy

Intrapersonal Communication Is Self Talking Your Way Up The Ladder

We are our own worst critics. If you’re highly driven and motivated to succeed, then being a perfectionist comes with the territory. So does beating yourself up (unnecessarily) for mistakes. Consistent self-criticism can actually hinder your professional development, as it can create a fear of stepping up and taking leadership. So how can you use intrapersonal communication to break the cycle?

Amy Hood, CFO of Microsoft, played an instrumental role in the acquisition of GitHub. Pictured from right to left: Hood sitting next to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and GitHub's cofounders (Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft CFO, Amy Hood has been in her current role since 2013. With her at the helm, Microsoft’s stock values have risen nearly 300%. So it’s surprising to hear Amy confess to imposter syndrome and feeling underqualified for any of her jobs at first.

Her method of dealing with it? She advises positive self-talk or positive affirmations and to tell yourself, “I’m good at my job. I’m a confident person.” Amy isn’t afraid to practice this on the daily.

“Tell yourself, ‘I’m a good person. I’m a confident person.’ ... I do the whole self-talk a lot, even though I may sound crazy talking to myself."

Here are some practical ways to counteract the negative self-talk:

  • Focus on the solution. “I’m an idiot! How did I make such a stupid mistake?”, becomes, “Oh well. How can I do better next time?”
  • Change a negative into a positive. “I made a mistake,” becomes, “I caught a mistake I made and will now fix it.”
  • Let go of the idea of having to be right or perfect. Hood encourages her team to allow themselves to put any ideas they have forward, whether they think they’re good or not. To Hood, it’s not about achieving the perfect outcome, it’s about making progress and teamwork.
  • Positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your talents and skills. Daily. “I’m a creative, dynamic person who is great with people.”
  • Say it to your own face. If you struggle to believe anyone you can’t look in the eye, you can practice positive self-talk in front of a mirror. You can even write a list of daily gratitudes, positive attributes, and accomplishments then read them to yourself.

When you feel more confident on the inside, you’ll appear more confident on the outside. This can help your professional development too. It might mean that you’ll be noticeably more relaxed when public speaking, you’re more comfortable delegating, or have improved interpersonal skills.

Undoing years of self-criticism might take practice, but take a leaf out of Hood’s book: Remember it’s progress, not perfection. Our brains are a muscle and flexing will only make them stronger.

Going the Distance Through Intrapersonal Communication

Hood used to get resentful when people didn’t want to show up for her 6 p.m. office meetings. Now she leaves her office at 4 p.m. every day to spend time with her family. More and more business leaders are recognizing the importance of self-care in maintaining productivity and avoiding burnout.

Think of building your professional career as running a long marathon. Success is not going to happen overnight. You need to train for it. By regularly recharging, fueling your body, giving yourself time to rest, relax, and have fun, you can go the distance.

So what do you enjoy doing? Here’s a list of suggestions that might help you get started:

  • Play (or learn to play) a musical instrument
  • Join a sports team or start one with your peers
  • Take a dance or language class
  • Find a local Trivia Night

Think about what you enjoy doing and find a way to incorporate it into your day. Imagine how much more fun each day will be for you.

Right Here, Write Now

Hood advises to let go of perfection, but how do you actually do that? Writing it down can be helpful. A daily gratitude list can combat the negative, by giving tangible examples of things to feel good about, even if it’s a simple as coffee and convenient parking.  

"I know my great ideas are a lot better now than the ones I had when I felt the constrained pressure and weight of perfection.”

Setting aside time each week for self-reflection on paper can also be useful. Hood spends a lot of time asking herself how she could improve herself and make her day better.

Amy Hood, CFO at Microsoft, speaks with Fortune about culture building (Credit: Fortune)

The point is to use self-reflection as a tool for self-improvement, and not a stick to beat yourself up with. So rather than focusing on what you did wrong, shift your focus to how you can learn and do better next time. Result: Turning a negative into a positive. Added bonus: Less fear around stepping up and taking risks in the future, more forward thinking and more productivity. Who doesn’t want that?

Mix and Match Your Own Intrapersonal Communication Style

This isn’t a prescriptive one-size fits all list of instructions to follow. This is simply a look at some of the intrapersonal communication tools top entrepreneurs have used to achieve their own success, and how some of it might be useful to you in building your own professional career. Feel free to mix it up, experiment, try new ideas and discard what doesn’t work for you. Finding what doesn’t work, is just as effective finding what does. In the end it’s all progress, right? So enjoy the process of making progress.


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Cover Photo Credit: Fortune