This week, we take a page from LinkedIn’s editorial calendar: #AdviceThatSticks. The site for professionals asks, “Think back to the best (or worst) pieces of advice you’ve ever followed. What did you learn from it? Would you follow that advice again?”
I’m lucky in that I’ve had quite a few powerful female role models and mentors. I’ve learned a lot from these ladies throughout the years and am happy to pass on my hard-fought wisdom to others. So, although this “Best Of” list really applies to everyone, the following information is particularly on-point for women in business.
- Introduce yourself by your full name, first and last. Women, in particular, tend to introduce themselves only by their first names, where as men usually use their full names. “Hello, I’m Bob Smith.” “Hello, I’m Judy.” Once I realized this was the case, I followed this piece of advice every time. As a woman, it is particularly important to be a whole person. Historically, women have been referred to only by first name, in a diminutive way. Reclaim your last name and start using it proudly.
- Remember to smile when you’re introducing yourself. While we may feel that our words and accomplishments are more than enough to make a good impression, the fact is that likeability is almost always a factor in business. When we get so caught up in our conversations that we forget to infuse a little humanity, we can come off as cold and unfeeling. It’s important to remember that “what” you are is often just as important as “who” you are. I have to remind myself of this advice constantly when speaking in front of a group. I take a moment and smile to the audience, asking “Are we ready to rock this?!” It wakes them up and starts everything off right.
- Take ownership of your personal accomplishments. Women have a tendency to speak in terms of the team (“We increased sales by 50% this quarter”) even when the accomplishments are entirely their own. Most women I know think that claiming their own list comes off as braggadocious. It’s not. If you don’t lay claim to it, how is anyone else suppose to know? Still having a hard time with listing off those fabulous stats yourself? Get a Linkedin recommendation so that someone else can boast for you! The power of reviews is a piece of advice I keep coming back to. It definitely pays dividends!
- Don’t poll the room before you comment. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your own opinion. You don’t need to ask, “What does everyone else think?” or “Am I off base here?” Be confident in your stance and go for a “simply stated” approach. I mean: What do you think? 😉
- Don’t regularly feed your co-workers or clients. In her book, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office 101,” author Lois P. Frankel reminds us that, “ The act of feeding is equated with nourishing, and nourishing is definitely a stereotypically female attribute.” Thus, you should avoid the temptation to bring a box of donuts to the morning meeting. You don’t need to bribe people with food in order to be well liked or respected. Note: I don’t follow this advice 100%. When I’m running morning meetings or kick-offs that go for two hours plus, I feel brain food is warranted.
- When putting out a proposal or negotiating a raise, stick to the facts, not the figures. Don’t feel badly about what your time and talents cost. Instead of apologizing for the expense, stick to your guns…and features and benefits statements. Value is about worth, so remind them what you’re worth, without worrying about sticker shock.
- Don’t use words that minimize. Stay away from terms like “just” or “only” or “really.” Ellen Petry Leanse, a former exec at Google and Apple, noticed that her female coworkers were using the word “just” in their emails, conversations, and presentations, to which she commented, “It hit me that there was something about the word I didn’t like. It was a ‘permission’ word, in a way — a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking, ‘Can I get something I need from you?’.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you’ve understood correctly. Use your active listening skills. Then, when someone is telling you something complicated or confusing, don’t be afraid to parrot back what you’ve heard and ask if you’ve got it right. This is a persuasion technique that works wonders, regardless of gender. It’s so effective, in fact, that it’s used by expert hostage negotiators, as seen in this video. There’s a power in helping people feel like they’ve really been heard and understood. I follow this advice in every kick-off meeting. It’s a secret-weapon of sorts for us.
I’m not of the opinion that you need to be “manly” to be taken seriously in business. In the spirit of inclusiveness, I think it’ important not to hide your uniquely feminine qualities. That being said, there are certain “tells” that may diminish your effectiveness in a given situation. I hope that being made aware of these liabilities puts you in the power seat at the table, which you rightfully deserve.