In 2014 ANZ introduced a program to help their senior women become more visible.

Their study of women in Australia and New Zealand showed that visibility may be a missing link in promoting more women into senior leadership roles. The survey ANZ undertook found that increased visibility contributed to greater confidence in pushing for leadership roles.

An important part of visibility is the ability to contribute ideas, opinions and generally be heard within your role and the business.

I work with women on a daily basis. I see the traits and the behaviours that some women exhibit that clearly hold them back from reaching their full potential (whether they aspire to senior leadership or not). I tend to coach and train groups of women only, not because they need it more than men, but because they need different things to men.

One of the most interesting (and frustrating) observations I have made, is that many women are less likely to speak up and contribute when there are men in the room.

At an event I was speaking at a couple of months ago, there was roughly 50/50 male/females in the room.  During the networking and activities everyone was active and contributing. When it came time to speak up and contribute to the whole group, it was all men who volunteered. Not one single woman stuck her hand up to contribute. Two senior members of the leadership team were in the room – what a missed opportunity for the women in the room to build their personal brand, visibility and awareness!

What were they afraid of? Getting it wrong (in the circumstances that was highly unlikely)? Having everyone focus on them? Appearing “stupid” (again, highly unlikely)?

In the information age we live in it’s crucial that all of us, male and female, are able to communicate our thoughts and ideas in a way that cuts through the noise. Whether it’s in the boardroom, or in a one on one meeting, speaking up and contributing is an essential skill.

If you want to speak up more, or if you know you need to work on this, here are some tips:

  • Be sure to understand what message you want to communicate – it should be clear and uncluttered.
  • Be able to back up your message with hard facts, figures or evidence of some sort (if appropriate).
  • Where possible understand who your audience is. How do they like to communicate? What has worked/not worked in the past?
  • Understand that if you are thinking something, it’s pretty much guaranteed some-one else will be thinking the same thing! Be brave and be the first to voice your thoughts.
  • Support other women! To avoid being “manterrupted” try this tactic used by senior women on President Obama’s staff. A former aide of President Obama and other female staffers developed a simple-but-effective tactic to make each other’s voices heard. When a woman makes a “key point” in a meeting, another female colleague repeats it, giving credit to the original speaker. The purpose of the strategy — known as “amplification” — is twofold: to force men to acknowledge the comment and to prevent men from passing off women’s ideas as their own.

Learning to speak up and be heard is a critical element in improving your visibility internally and externally, and it also has a positive impact on your confidence. Make a pact with yourself that you will focus on this essential career skill.

Fiona

If you’d like to learn more about how you can be heard effectively by any audience, and communicate your ideas better, we’d love to invite you to join our next SmartWomen Smart Breakfast where member Amber Daines will speak on the topic “How to be Heard”. You can register by clicking here