Before you can effectively lead, you must first build trust with those around you, both with the members of your team, and, the decision makers above you. For most of us, trust does not come easy. We only come to trust someone after we’ve known them for a while, and have some experience with them.
To become an effective leader, you must focus on honing those skills that make it easy for others to quickly come to trust you. Most of it comes down to communication.
If you’ve read Tara Mohr’s book “Playing Big,” you’ll know that as women, we are often responsible for holding ourselves back and playing small. She says, “Too often, they were sitting on their big ideas rather than sharing them, holding back their most provocative questions rather than asking them.” For Tara, it’s all about you finding your voice.
Finding your voice.
Finding your voice may not be as difficult as you think, but it may mean you need to confront some of your limiting communication behaviours and replacing them with confident new ones. That will mean acknowledging and managing the vulnerability you will feel as you start speaking up and voicing your opinion, too.
The best place to start is with an examination of your language and word choices.
Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy
If you want your team members, peers, and decision makers to take you seriously, you must first stop undermining yourself with your speech.
For many leaders, self-sabotage is a genuine issue. This is particularly for women, who may have developed the habit of apologising for everything that goes wrong in a situation, whether or not it was something in their control.
Whether it’s conditioning by society, and social expectations, or, the result of listening to an internal critical voice that expresses self-doubts and fear, we assume the blame for things going wrong. It seems to be part of our innate need to keep everyone happy. As women, most of us tend to be nurturing and to offer emotional support and empathy to others in a difficult situation. But saying “I’m sorry,” when it’s not your fault, comes across as weak, and wishy-washy.
Be mindful of general overuse of “sorry”. For example, when you arrive at a doorway at the same time as someone else, or you want to manoeuvre past someone. It’s common to say “Sorry”, when what you really mean is “Excuse me” or “May I please pass you?”. Pantene did a great campaign on this which you can watch here.
Your team members, peers and decision makers need to feel assured that their futures, and the future of the company, is safe in your hands. Apologising for things that are not your fault, failing to speak up and take credit for your own accomplishments, or failing to defend your opinions for fear of making someone angry isn’t showing respect for others. It is sending a very clear message that you don’t trust yourself, you may not support your team, and that you aren’t to be trusted. Even a single seemingly unassuming word like “just,” or “perhaps,” decreases your authority and makes others less likely to trust whatever additional words you say after that one little “qualifier.”
Combine this response with our tendency to excuse ourselves and our opinions, and it’s very clear why women struggle to play as big as they are capable of. When communicating in a business environment, be sure your communication is helping your career, not hindering it. You are more than capable of playing big. Your ideas are worth sharing and you are as entitled to your opinion as anyone else. Stop playing small with the way you express yourself. You can do better than that.