Be More Powerful at Work

A recent study released by Stanford cites that women who display masculine traits such as assertiveness and confidence and know when to turn off those traits get more promotions than even their male counterparts. Today Leadership Coach Katie Kelley discussed how she helps  women at work become more powerful. Here are some of the tips:

1. Mute Your Negative Internal Voice

Many introverts as well as extroverts (side note: there are men who don’t feel powerful at work as well and it may be because they are introverts or it may not) cite that they are over-run by the negative tape that is always playing in their head, such as “You’re not smart” or “People don’t want to hear what you have to say” for example. That tape impedes their ability to speak up at critical times.

2. Become a Student of Public Speaking & Self Promotion

Just like all new habits, we have to start in small, bite size chunks. So, rather than tackling how you can address an whole gymnasium of people, for example, identify a small group that you are a part of to use as a learning lab.  Also, reach out to one or two people who you think are powerful speakers and let them know that you admire their speaking skills and ask them if they would help you improve yours.  Then, practice doing so in front of them with others and then seek their feedback afterwards. 
 
Their is vast gender difference of how men and women self-promote.  For example, a company that has hired me has done so for one core reason which is that in a weekly sales meeting, 90% of the air time is occupied by their male sales consultants touting their success stories for the week.  Meanwhile, more than half the room is inhabited by equally if not sometimes more successful female colleagues who tell the management behind closed doors that they don’t speak up because they feel their success should speak for itself and that by the time they get ‘called on’ someone else has already made their point. 

3. Come Prepared with Key Talking Points

A lot of folks tell me what throws them off is when they feel that they have been put on the spot, particularly by people who have a very different communication style. Perhaps their colleague has more of a direct and confrontational style and is more at home having a spirited debate.  However, for an introvert or someone who is a more reluctant speaker, they are overwhelmed by this kind of verbal sparring, and as a result shut down in this kind of dialogue.  To help you become more powerful, you should spend some time before your meetings, and write down the key talking points you want to be sure you touch on.  This way, you can look down at your paper, when things get heated, and calmly state your point of view. This is an art not a science and it will take some getting used to—but you can’t begin to increase your powerful voice until you use it!

4. Abolish perfectionism, embrace curiosity

A case of perfectionism can also get in the way of folks speaking up in a timely and powerful way.  It’s critical that you shed this myth and realize how much the world is missing out on when you are not sharing your wisdom today.  There are a variety of ways to unlearn the need to be perfect and for some it may mean seeing a counselor or a therapist to uncover childhood messaging or for others it could be signing up for Toastmasters of some kind of an improve  group.  Anything that will help you get more experimental with your verbal contributions is the name of the game.

A great way to overcome perfectionism is to shift your mentality around what you are contributing as not having to be totally right, but rather more of a query around a specific point, thus being curious.  This is such an open ended way to enter a dialogue versus engaging people with more of a yes/no response.  So the golden rule here is to be curious, not right!

5. Negotiate For Yourself

Linda Babcock organized a study through Carnegie Mellon where they looked at students who recently earned their Masters Degree and were negotiating their new jobs.  They found that 57% of the men negotiated their starting salaries, while only 7% of women had attempted to negotiate their salary; as a result, men had starting salaries that averaged 7.6% higher than women's.  This is a critical area for development for women in order for them to reach an equal playing field to their male counterparts.
 

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