For most professionals, the use of words like “Uh,” “Um” and “So…” can easily get out of control if we’re not conscious of them. These innocent-seeming filler words aren’t an issue when they’re said once or twice in a meeting (in which case they can actually make a person seem more considered), it’s their repetitive use that really kills a person’s credibility.
Perhaps you’re unprepared in a meeting and struggling to answer a tough question. Maybe you’re overtired and stammering to focus on your central point or get out the corresponding words. Whatever the case, when we hear consistent verbal stumbling, we assume the speaker is unsure of herself.
If there’s one force that can either sabotage or propel your message, it’s your body. With it, we can signal that we own the stage or that we bring irreplaceable value and importance to a meeting. Conversely, we can communicate through our bodies that we’re not totally bought in to our ideas…or ourselves. With so much body language advice pointed at women—and it seems there are hundreds of do’s and don’ts—some professionals are more than overwhelmed with advice, they’re paralyzed by it.
Everyone agrees that it’s a smart practice to ask for feedback. Don’t walk through life with blinders on. Show them that you’re proactive. Assume that you always have room to grow.
It’s long been demonstrated that companies that create great work cultures see big benefits from doing so. They experience lower turnover and better financial performance than their peers, see improved track records on safety and customer satisfaction, and are sought out by better quality job applicants.
What’s less obvious is the payoff enjoyed by the individual employee who smartly chooses their workplace culture. As you interview for your next job, being attuned to critical cultural elements won’t just inform that important next career step, if you choose well, it’ll lift your on-the-job engagement, productivity and overall wellbeing and satisfaction.
Have you ever sat in a meeting and felt ignored or utterly unimportant? Perhaps you offered up an idea that someone else seized upon. Maybe you inserted yourself into the conversation but no one gave you their eye contact or their attention. Whether you’re the youngest in the room or the one from a department no one respects (or you’re just not getting your due for unknown reasons), you can lean on these four strategies to re-assert yourself.
Nothing can fluster even the most unflappable professional like being asked a question to which they don’t know the answer. Appearing incompetent or uninformed is one thing, but what makes this scenario even worse is when you’re asked the ‘impossible question’ in a group setting. Maybe it’s a group you know well—or maybe it’s a group you’re building early credibility with and hoping to impress. You’re unsure of the details, you may feel a bit embarrassed, and you’re not sure how to word a response.
For most of us, working on projects and deliverables by ourselves is becoming increasingly scarce. We are constantly joining existing teams, forming new ones or otherwise meeting in groups. In fact, studies of managers and knowledge workers reveal that they spend between 25%-80% of their time in meetings, suggesting that “teamwork” is a primary vehicle for the modern business today. And, meeting time has only increased since 2008.
If you ask someone to describe a person with a compelling leadership brand, they will often struggle initially to explain exactly why that person is so effective. Maybe this is because everything that we do, say, and embody at work creates the brand for which we become known. For some, this is just too heady a realization to bear… People in this camp may feel powerless about their reputation – thinking, “Others are going to make their minds up about me. I can’t control their views.”
In one of my first jobs out of school, at a tender 25 years old, I found myself at a firm with no career ladder and a particularly demoralizing, tyrannical boss. Every morning that I walked from my house to that job, I was wretchedly miserable. My one glimmer of happiness was a smart, funny peer—let’s call her Sarah—who became my instant friend. We were in the same unhappy boat, at a similar level in the organization, and I seized on our lunch breaks as prime opportunities to vent my gloom and misfortune with someone who I knew would understand.
It’s no wonder that for many people, the fear of public speaking registers as more terrifying than the fear of death. Just think about where are minds go when we’re about to give a key presentation and all eyes are on us. So often, what we tell ourselves in this critical moment is not in any way conducive to presenting well. Then there’s our bodies which add some other complications to manage: the light feeling in our stomach, the tight, short breaths, and the booming heartbeat. All the while we’re trying to harness our deepest concentration and most eloquent words!
If you think about it, a great networking event can be career-changing. When this kind of magic happens, you connect with people that “up” your skills, you form lasting alliances—you may even engage those with the power to expand your career options and mobility.
I recently attended a women’s leadership dinner and heard a young woman ask the speaker—a corporate woman executive—her best strategy for promoting her accomplishments. Coolly, the executive responded, “Have others do it for you.”
Ever since, I’ve been turning this advice over uncomfortably in my head.
As much as we all like to ridicule meetings—pointing out their typical inefficiencies—they are in fact a critical place to showcase your knowledge. Meetings are where we proffer up our best ideas, put our support behind key people and projects, and voice our objections when we disagree.
For many professionals, especially women, asking for a favor carries with it a stigma. Soliciting help may be associated with weakness. Worse yet, by asking for a favor we’re requesting that our counterpart go out of her way for us—thereby creating more work for her.
JK Rowling pitched the Harry Potter book series to twelve publishing houses. And ALL OF THEM rejected her manuscript. She persevered and it was finally lucky number 13, a very small publishing house in London that took a chance agreeing to publish the work. Suppose JK had given up after 6 “no’s” and scrapped the project, stuck with her secretarial job, and gave up on writing?
Regardless of your industry or job function, you could probably be doing more to build your brand as a thought leader.
And I have news for you. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be.
You never forget the moment you receive the news of your first big business opportunity. It may be a speaking engagement, a contract with a big client, a book deal, or consulting job. Often the external validation of making that first deal instills a confidence that our business really is viable.
Why is it so commonplace to hear women declare that “they’re terrible at math?” Do we have an allergy to figures? A lack of interest? Or is there a wider perception that we’ve digested that women are somehow less adept with numbers? Either way, what a truly useless notion.
Partner track Or already partners Opportunities http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/opinion/great-expectations-for-female-lawyers.html?_r=0
Bosses are often consumed with so much that they don't know what you're working on, let alone what's going well. Strive to make your managers' job easier by proactively keeping them abreast of your achievements.
How can you share more of your accomplishments?
Sometimes in our zeal to stand out from the crowd at work, we miss some of the high-impact opportunities sitting right in front of us. Asking for feedback is exactly one of these opportunities—and one which presents itself daily. Aside from demonstrating that we’re hungry to learn and improve, asking for feedback shows something even more fundamental. That we care. We care about our performance, our contribution, and our reputation.
When I first heard the term “personal branding,” I thought it was pure business babble. I had read Tom Peters' 1997 Fast Company article "The Brand Called You” which implored, “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in ... our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Surely “branding” was just a newer, glossier package for an old standby: managing one’s reputation.
Politics exist in every organization. As you make sense of the office politics around you, you'll need to distinguish when you are compiling information versus engaging in gossip. Gossip, generally speaking, is the trivial workplace talk that spreads sensational or intimate matters around the office. When interviewing women for my book, Denise Incandela, President of Saks Direct at Saks Fifth Avenue, recommended, "Don't get involved in negativity or gossip; to me that just embodies professional immaturity. Of course, a good rule of thumb is to only say things about people that you would say to their face[s]."
Can an aspiring leader say "no" to work assignments and still move up at work? The answer is "yes" if you choose your "no's" carefully.
When it comes to work, it matters how you present yourself at every turn. So what is presence and why does it matter? Presence is about carrying yourself in such a way that you are seen as credible and truly heard. Women with presence are able to motivate and persuade others, are respected, and have a certain command that inspires the "followership" of the people around them.
Your presence can be positional, as represented by your job role, title, or place in the organizational hierarchy, or it can be interpersonal. While attending a National Association of Women MBAs conference in 2008, I learned the following terrific exercise from Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. Rather than de-emphasizing stature by providing oversimplified introductions like, "Hi, I'm Andy from Operations," Jo encourages women to come up with a "30-second commercial." This go-to introduction harnesses your full importance and position.
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