Powerful Speaking for Powerful Women

Tricia Karp

woman-thinking-300x202A client asked me the other day whether, during conversations with a few female members in his organisation, I’d heard anything that was unique to his company.

“No,” I told him.  “I heard what women tell me all the time in just about every organisation.”

Now I want to share with you the most common workplace downfalls that women create for themselves.

And I want to issue you with a challenge to stop doing them because they’re limiting your potential.  Big time.

1. You don’t sell yourself

You don’t take opportunities to talk about your wins and success, and you don’t create them either.  You do your job well and hope that working hard will be enough.  You’re waiting to be noticed for a promotion or new project, even a pay rise.

It’s not going to happen.

You don’t have to traipse around the office with a sign around your neck spruiking your brilliance nor use any and every opportunity to tell the world you’re amazing.  You do need to know your brand – your strengths – and sell it when the right opportunity comes up.

Modesty won’t get you anywhere.

Here’s what you can do:

When a promotion comes up that you think should have your name on it, ask for it.  When you want a new challenge in your career, start talking about it so that people know your plans.  Then you’ll be more likely to hear about opportunities when they arise.  Showcase your achievements in subtle ways, that feel comfortable for you and match your integrity and values.  Create a marketing plan for yourself.  Grow yourself and your skills.  Get coaching or ask for specific feedback.  Sell yourself.

2. You don’t ask for what you want

I never know how to ask.  I’m often not aware of the opportunities that are available.  I didn’t ask for a pay rise because I didn’t think I was allowed to given the way the system works in my organisation.  I see the men ask all the time but I don’t feel comfortable doing it myself.

I hear comments like this all the time.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  It really is that simple.  Pay rises don’t appear out of thin air.  Nor do new assignments.  Bosses don’t walk around the office asking who wants to go part-time, including working two days a week from home.  They also don’t usually hand out extra funding for professional development with a free car park thrown in as part of your package.

You’re an adult.  Take the initiative.  If you want something you need to ask for it.  And if you don’t know anyone else who has asked for it, and you’re worried about pushing the boundaries of the status quo, that’s even more reason to do your homework and ask.

Remember too that, when you don’t ask, you deny others the opportunity to meet your needs.  Asking isn’t just about you.

Here’s what you can do:

There’s a way to ask – absolutely – and it’s essential to master the skills to do it so that you have the best chance of getting a great result.  It takes courage, confidence, skill, respect and grace to ask for what you want.  Learn how to do it. And don’t forget to focus on what you’re prepared to give.

3. You apologise for yourself

You apologise unnecessarily and often.  You say sorry for things that aren’t really mistakes.

Your apology can come out in the way you speak, even if you never utter the word sorry.  Your tone gives you away when you ask for something that you’re not convinced you’ll get or even deserve to have.

Your sorry might be thinly disguised too, and come out in phrases like Is that okay? after you ask your boss if you can go to a medical appointment.

Here’s what you can do:

Start noticing how often you apologise for yourself.  Do a “sorry” audit.  Consciously try to apologise less often, unless you have made a serious mistake that warrants a sorry.  If it does, apologise once, then focus on a solution.  Be mindful not to apologise for someone else’s mistakes too.  I used to be guilty of apologising for things I did incorrectly based on not being given all the information I needed in the first place.  If you do that too, instead of firing off a quick sorry, you can say something like this: Based on the information you gave me, I didn’t know that was your expectation.  Tell me what you had in mind and I’ll make the necessary changes.

A lot of this boils down to owning it: who you are, what you want, and the decisions you make.

Own it.

4. You behave like a victim

We can be our own worst enemies.  Too often I hear a group of women whinge about the men at work.  It sounds like this: I can’t believe he asked you that!  He wouldn’t have asked a man that question or That’s so unfair!  The men automatically get that and the women don’t.

We all want more women in senior leadership roles.  And we know and accept that women have some issues with which to contend that men don’t.

And… how about dropping the notion of playing the victim and instead being the change you want to see?  You need to stop buying in to the drama and noise and get on with doing your job and being the best you can be.  Regardless of your role, you can assume equality and be a leader.

Here’s what you can do:

Challenge what’s not acceptable to you – with courage, confidence, skill and grace.  Learn how to instigate confronting conversations.  Be firm on problems and respectful at the same time.  Don’t whinge or complain.  Find possible solutions and offer them with a view to collaborating, rather than colluding with others who want to behave like victims.

That’s leadership.  That’s you owning your power.

5.  You don’t own your space

You have negative conversations about what will and won’t work.  You don’t contribute in meetings, or you wait for others to speak first.  You’re not clear and succinct about what you want.  You’re swayed by other people’s ideas.  You don’t present your ideas with confidence and strength.  You have trouble standing by your decisions.

You have a right to step into the space you’ve been given at work and claim it.  And for your organisation to get the best from you, it’s essential you do that.

Here’s what you can do:

Give yourself permission to go in and get the job done.  Take opportunities to put your ideas forward.  Say yes to projects or requests that stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone.  Be creative with solutions to problems.  Be positive. Be confident.  Get coaching to ensure you present yourself in a way that matches the level of confidence and power a woman in your position is expected to exude and express.  Stop telling yourself you’re an impostor.  Remember that one person, at the very least, thinks you’re worthy of the position you hold.

Own your space.


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