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Raise Your Star

blog jadine cleary member benefit the women in fitness association women women in fitness association women leaders womeninfitnessassociation Nov 20, 2018

How do you ensure you stand out to move up?

As a Master facilitator in Communication and Leadership as well as an Executive coach, I love enabling women to speak up and I am fascinated with our occasional habit of engaging self-perceptions that limit our confidence and hold us silent.

There are a number of common areas women speak to me about- where they’re seeking a “go to” phrase when they feel flustered or they need a strategy for how to be more vocal and assertive. I often hear women say that they’d like to speak up more, but it can feel out of reach, especially if they feel trapped by already existing patterns in their relationships or perspectives of themselves.

Here I outline performance strategies that have helped the women I work with utilize their voice and ultimately raise their star.

If you have decided (and it is a decision) that it will be beneficial for you to speak up at work, follow these strategies to help build your confidence and be heard.  You will not be given credit or noticed if you don’t speak up.  People recognize actions not intentions. Let’s make your actions demonstrate your intentions and your intelligence.

One of the women I coach in Washington was intent on attending more meetings “on the second floor”.  With this goal in mind, over the last year we strategized how to have her “sitting at the tables” she needed to be at and contributing in a way that got her more influence and more opportunities.  One year later she has been successful and attends daily meetings “on the second floor” and is now sought out for her opinions and her ability to risk manage situations.  As you can imagine, she is very busy at the moment!  All of this from a woman who has been self-conscious about speaking out since she was in seventh grade.  Here are the strategies we outlined together and she implemented.

Know what do you think

Do some research on the agenda or topic that is being discussed at work.  What do you think will be impactful about the agenda items for different people or departments?

Flex your muscles in getting to know your own convictions.  What do you know about the topic or issue?  Write down a number of bullet points before meetings or important discussions so you have them ready.

Set a Goal for yourself

Give yourself a goal for how many times you will speak up at the next meeting.

Minimum 1 time and work on increasing this.  You will begin to notice your moments for jumping in and over time you will break your habit of hesitating. If you need a phrase to get into the dialogue you can use the simple question, “May I jump in”? or “I have a thought”.  Do not say this in a meek voice, just say it.  And then either ask your question or give your opinion.

Do not add any qualifying statements for example, “I think” or “this may seem like a silly idea” state your point or question and avoid excessive upswing in your voice. 

This is a powerful quote from Meg Whitman from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“I had to learn to stand up for myself. Frank Wells, [The Walt Disney Company] COO, told me ‘You are just as smart as these guys. You have to speak up in meetings.’ I thought that unless I had something brilliant to say, I should be quiet. But three quarters of the other people were saying stupid stuff.” – Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Avoid the Backpack

Lastly, speak up early and recognize the power of asking clarifying questions.

If you have a niggling feeling that you “should” speak up about something (and especially if you are generally more thoughtful or aware of others feelings) there’s a good chance that you absolutely should speak up- and do it early.  Often we wait until things pile up before we speak up.  A few minor events happen and we backpack them, carrying a heavy emotional load (perhaps without the other person even knowing they have done something to upset us).  This emotional weight is exhausting and it clouds our perception, stifling forward progress because we haven’t sorted what is really going on.  For example, if someone asks you to do something that is out of the normal range of policy you can ask, “Can I clarify something with you? Can I ask the reason for the change in order? Are you aware that this isn’t normally how it’s done? Can I share my concern for doing it this way?”  When said in a neutral, collaborative fashion, these questions are powerful because they elicit thinking in the other party and you are heard.  Your colleagues will know that you are not a wallflower and that they can’t pass things by you.

When you are upset or unsure ask for clarification.  If you are genuine and you ask to speak about a situation, most people will engage in the dialogue with you.

You can never go wrong with clarifying a situation or comment that was made. 

Have the guts to speak up.  Raise your voice, raise your star.

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