Nov 19 2013
One of my clients, who is determinedly on track for a promotion in a fast-paced corporate environment asked me, “How can I insert myself more into conversations and meetings?” Was he asking about how to overcome shyness or how to get invited to the right meetings? No. He was asking how to increase his visibility and show up more as a leader in the meetings he is already attending. He wants to catch people’s attention, influence more decisions. I told him what he needs is to find his leadership voice.
The 5 Steps
You can take 5 steps toward being noticed and becoming more influential, finding your leadership voice, at your next meeting or conversation, today. To help you remember the steps, they create the acronym PSSST. This stands for:
- Show up
- Sit up
- Speak up
- Tie it up
Prepare. Everyone seems to be very busy today, and we often settle for winging it instead of preparing. The problem is that just getting by does not a leader make. To show up as a leader you must be prepared to share more than your opinion, give more than just a little insight, and participate in meaningful discussions rather than just listen or observe. The next time you have to attend a meeting, ask in advance about the purpose of the meeting, read (or at least glance) through the agenda and material to be covered to make sure there are no surprises. Research the topic if necessary. As you prepare, take some notes you can refer to in the meeting. Then take a few minutes to create an intention for your participation. What do you want to accomplish? What is the aim that will guide your action?
Show up. Be early or on time. Put away your phone and your e-mail. Get your coffee in advance of the meeting start time. Look everyone in the eye and introduce yourself to those you don’t know. Be fully present in each meeting you attend. Bring a notebook and a pen and place them on the desk in front of you at the beginning of the meeting. Use them to keep track of what’s being said so that you always know where the conversation is going. After all, you must be present to win.
Sit up. Research has shown that our body language effects how others see us and reflects our feelings about ourselves. The surprise is that body language also effects how we feel about ourselves. If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this subject, be sure to check it out. (Try a power pose in Step 1 of this post!) Then, next time you go to a meeting or have an important conversation, sit forward in your chair with one foot flat on the floor and the other slightly behind the first as if you are getting ready to stand. This creates energy, space to breathe, and a feeling of confidence. Lean forward to listen to others to show that you are listening, and, surprise! That posture will make it easier to listen and stay tuned in.
Speak up. To find your voice you have to use it. This is true for your physical voice as well as your other voice – the voice of you as your opinions and ideas in the world. Assume you have something to say and say it. Voice your opinion and make suggestions. Make sure that delivery is in alignment with intention. Create an opening and a close for every presentation. Allow yourself to be reminded of stories (short ones) and share them.
Connect with your message and your thoughts. Research tells us that passion and energy are encouraged if you want to be memorable. Ask questions; Berson and Steglitz, the authors of the book Leadership Conversations say, “While managers are more likely to be answering questions, a great leader routinely asks them.”If you are shy or have trouble speaking up, go back to step #1 and prepare something to say. Create questions you want answered. Practice aloud before the meeting. If your voice isn’t strong, strengthen it.
Tie it up. There is nothing worse than a meeting that just fades away at the end, leaving people unclear about next steps or what was actually accomplished. A leader calls for action, creates closure. Take charge and summarize the discussion, especially if no one else does. Demonstrate that you have heard others by repeating back what has been concluded. If there is contention, jump in and work to help solve conflicts. Then make sure everyone’s voice is heard in the summary. Make sure there are next steps and that they are documented. Follow up with an email to all participants.
Some people seem to be born with the ability to jump into meetings and voice their opinions. Those people can easily dominate a meeting or conversation. They know that the answer to being more influential lies in creating a leadership voice that is more than just your physical voice but includes it, too. Every leader has cultivated some aspect of their leadership voice, be it their expertise, their charisma, their speaking skills or their confidence. They’ve probably taken classes, read books, observed other leaders. Then, they’ve gained experience and knowledge by taking chances, speaking up, and trusting that what they have to say is worth people’s time and attention.
The battle for audience attention: Why stay awake in conversation? On Max Atkinson’s blog.
Stop Being an Order Taker, on the blog, Stephen Shapiro’s 24/7 Innovation
The Secret to Preparing Successfully for a Meeting, Dr. Nick Morgan on Forbes