It saddens me that so many leaders with valuable and useful things to say don’t get their voices heard. And yet their colleagues speak up and speak out with no problem at all. Sometimes eloquently and succinctly, at other times…. well, you know the rest!
It saddens me because when I first became a senior leader, I struggled to get my voice heard too. I had that ‘not good enough’ feeling way too often. Plus, I was brought up to believe that it is ‘rude to interrupt’ (is it? Always?) and that made it hard to find a way into some conversations.
Here are five possible reasons your voice is not being heard – and what to do about it:
You’re not speaking in meetings! So many talented leaders tell me they don’t want to speak up ‘for fear of looking stupid’ or something similar.
Solution: Find a way to say something – just one thing to start with – and preferably early on. Once you’ve got those vocal cords going, you’ll find it easier to speak up again.
Have a couple of relevant questions up your sleeve. Or if you’re in new territory, how about: ‘This is new ground for me, so I’d like to understand this a bit more’. Or ‘I’ll be able to give a more well-thought-out response when I’ve done xyz’. Or ‘I’d love to know a bit more about that’ and so on. People will respect your interest, curiosity and willingness to know more. And I guarantee that will help you feel more confident.
You’re waffling on – many of us waffle when we are nervous. But it’s hard for others to listen so they switch off and our valuable input is lost. We lose our authority and impact when we go on and on. We also confuse people and they’re not clear what we want them to do. All they’ve heard is a stream of consciousness with no structure or clarity.
Solution: Practise breathing in and out. I find it helps to make one or two points and then pause for 5 seconds. Take a sip of water or ask a question before continuing. Rinse and repeat. I’ve practised this a lot by recording myself and listening back. It works!
Other people are not ‘letting you (or others) in’.
Solution: Interrupt with elegance: ‘I’d like to come in here.’ ‘There’s something important to add here.’ ‘I notice we’ve heard from Jan and Sami but not Steve and Su – so over to you, Steve and Su. What would you add?’
Posture – shrinking in your seat can sometimes look to others as if you are diminishing yourself. People will treat you accordingly – remember, we teach people how to treat us. I notice when I’m working virtually how someone’s energy changes when they sit up and own the virtual space.
Solution: Stand or sit tall, project your voice to the back of the room or virtual room and make your point. A helpful reminder from my Pilates classes: ‘Imagine you’ve got a string on the top of your head that is pulling you up to the ceiling. That’ll work beautifully.
You’re running a no-longer-useful script or story in your head that you need to change. Or your ‘Impostor’ is getting in the way.
Solution: My superpower is pinpointing exactly how to stop letting that negative inner voice hold you back from opportunities, promotions, asking for a pay rise or being more courageous in every area of your life. Contact me to find out how I do this – email@example.com
P.S. You don’t have to let Impostor Syndrome run your life. Contact me if you’re ready to say bye-bye once and for all – firstname.lastname@example.org