Without being stereotypical about it, there are some communication characteristics that may be more familiar to women in leadership roles than will resonate with men in similar roles. We see many millennials, of both genders, struggling with these traits as well. But that’s an article for another day! Here a few reminders.
- Placing a question mark at the end of sentences (uptalk)
- Apologizing when there is no need
- Diminishing their value by using tentative words such as little or just while describing accomplishments
1. Become your greatest advocate
Negative self-image can still slow a person’s progress. Some women were never taught to think highly of or assert themselves. Some women may second-guess themselves and wonder if they are acting too aggressively. Authoritative communication skills must continuously be polished because they are what is necessary to drive processes and reach goals. All leaders can learn how to communicate authoritatively in a respectful and kind way. But it takes will, skill, and practice to overcome antiquated thinking. All leaders must be well aware of limiting beliefs so they can challenge and change them.
2. Become unapologetically visible
Leaders communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Women in leadership roles will appear more authoritative by standing up while speaking, which also helps to overcome a softer volume. When sitting around a board table, they can place one arm by their side and another on the table, to open up. Dressing in black or beige is sometimes appropriate, but it’s an easy fashion rut to get into. Good posture is vital and can counter the ill effects of hovering over electronics. Continuous deep breaths help shake off anything else a woman leader may have as a concern.
3. Connect with others
Great leaders know how to connect on the human level. They carry themselves with confidence in the hallways and in public. If working remotely, they use the phone or video calls to connect interpersonally. They engage colleagues and employees often using first names and make it a point to ask what matters to them and what they’re having difficulty with. Leaders know it takes practice to keep communication organized and concise. The ability to tell a story in record time is a coveted skill. As is the ability to be authentic, and, occasionally, vulnerable.
4. Communicate succinctly
Leaders need to speak at a high level and know when to pause and when to stop talking completely. It can appear to be a lack of confidence when people over talk their point, talk quickly or say very little. When this occurs, you are not seen as effective. This happens for many reasons from not being comfortable, to believing listeners need details first before getting to the main point. This can confuse people and lead to listening fatigue. When communicating with senior managers, remember less is more. Tell them the high-level points and save the details for when you are asked for them.
5. Know your worth and communicate It
Leaders know what makes them credible and are able to speak about it. What makes a leader credible? Education? Experience? Results? Credibility is situational. What matters to one listener, in one setting, may not matter in another. Make an effort (directly or indirectly) early in the relationship, if possible, to establish credibility whether it is an informal conversation or formal presentation. Always be able to speak about what makes you credible. Practice. Become a person of interest.
Leaders move forth with a balance of urgency and calm and know that in 2020, it’s all about collaboration. It is through teamwork that leaders are able to galvanize people to achieve goals. This takes communication, trust, and energy. So, work hard, but relax. Know what you can and can’t control and do not seek perfection. Instead, attune yourself to what needs to be done and to the team that is helping to take you there. Take occasional breathers to recharge. Relaxed leaders are able to be present with people and the situation at hand, which makes them more mindful of what is needed to maintain momentum. When stressors happen, and they will, a great leader continues to think strategically, remain calm, clear, and in control as they communicate internally (with the workforce), externally (with clients and in the community), and with themselves (the most important person with whom to communicate).
It’s 2020. Be the calmest one in the room.