Finding your voice and being heard in the workplace can sometimes be difficult for women, especially if you are working in a male dominated industry and/or just starting out in your career. Feelings of intimidation, your own imposter syndrome, and just being unsure of yourself can all get in the way of being able to speak up, or effectively lead a meeting when you are the only female in the room.
I recently spent a few days in Nashville, TN attending The Kayo Leadership Conference with a workshop led by Vital Voice Training. I met lots of women across the private equity, VC, law, and finance sectors and heard so many individual stories of toxic workplace stressors, unfair treatment post maternity leave, instances of unconscious bias, and the realization that sometimes men don’t fully understand the impact that a look or a comment can have on young woman trying to “make” it in her career. All of which can add to being fearful to speak up. The founders of Vital Voice Training, Julie and Casey provide an important service to women helping them find their voice and confidence in navigating the workplace. They come from theater/acting backgrounds which gives them a unique approach to guiding its attendees on communication, expressive presentation techniques including: executive stage presence, language choices, and playing with pitch and tones to make yourself heard.
In my conversations with the women I coach, I find that confidence (or a lack thereof) along with imposter syndrome can be the number one roadblock for women in the workplace, so I wanted to share my biggest takeaways from this 2 day seminar…..
Negative Self Talk Negative self-talk can be a huge obstacle as we navigate the workplace and its where many women tend to get stuck. Self- doubt can creep in and in many instances we end up talking ourselves out of having a direct conversation with a peer, volunteering for a big project, or in general putting yourself out there because of it.
So how can we shift this? Reframing the story you are telling yourself in your head to one of curiosity and open ended questions is a good way to start. “I always feel rushed when I meet with X colleague,” could be handled by like, “do you have 15 minutes for me to get through 3 important points?” Clear, concise, and commanding. Always communicate with your end goal in mind and remember that your bosses, middle managers, and even C-suites are real people too, that don’t know everything, and have their own “stuff” going on.
Imposter Syndrome & Confidence
I can’t stress this one enough- imposter syndrome at the highest level is a CULTURAL problem and not an INDIVIDUAL one. In fact, imposter syndrome is found to be more prevalent amongst women who work in male dominated industries and even female C-suites who have made it to the top continue to battle with this internally. I spoke with one recently promoted CEO in the finance industry who said she STILL feels self doubt sometimes especially when she’s surrounded by her C-level male peers.
Finding that inner confidence can be a lifelong journey, but having allies around you to lift you up in weak moments, (including your male peers that you’ve developed trust with) is an important skill set to develop as you grow in your career. Ask yourself who you feel best around and make sure you surround yourself with those people as much as you can!
An Activated Nervous System Our nervous system is actually a gift and protects us from harm so although our fight or flight state can get in the way of effectively making a point in a big meeting or nailing a presentation, try to remember there is a reason for it! If we can reframe our mindset that being nervous is a positive thing, and that it actually exists to help us, it can be easier to learn strategies to deal with them.
Breathing exercises, a mantra you say to yourself, or practicing mindfulness techniques before leading a meeting or giving a big presentation are all good strategies. Exhaling your air out before taking a breath in is another good trick!
Components of A Powerful Presentation
Preparing and rehearsing for your big moment are two ingredients to creating a commanding presentation, but there are many more nuanced pieces to putting it all together. Reading the room, hand gestures, body language, enunciating, knowing your transitions, speaking through a microphone in a voice that allows the room to hear you, and keeping the information you are presenting clear, concise, and organized all add up to the perfect pitch. If it feels like a-lot to remember….well it is, but like with anything the more you force yourself to do it the better you will get at it.
Remember to embrace the uncomfortable. You’ve got this!
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