LeadHERship: Position Yourself for Pay Raises, Projects and Promotions

“Anyone who waits for recognition is criminally naïve.” – Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Years ago, I had an opportunity to speak for the women’s leadership program for a well-known Silicon Valley company. My session was on Personal Branding, in particular how the women in this male-dominated company and industry could be more pro-active about fulfilling their potential; earning the respect they want, need and deserve; and positioning themselves for pay raises, promotions, projects and positions.

I had an opportunity to interview one of their senior executives to get his input on what I could cover in my presentation to make it maximally timely, relevant and useful. He shared an insightful story about how some women sabotage themselves when it comes to maintaining the visibility necessary to be considered for career advancement.

He said, “Sam, I try to be a champion for women, but sometimes they don’t help themselves.”

I asked, “What’s an example?”

He said, “Last year, we opened an office in Paris. A woman in my department had lived in France as a foreign exchange student and speaks French fluently. I thought she would be a real addition to our team there so I threw her hat in the ring when we were discussing possible staff selections.

The other executives at the table just looked at me with puzzled expressions. No one knew who she was. I went to bat for her and tried to explain why I thought she could help us ramp up this new location.

One of my colleagues finally recognized her name. He said, “Okay, I know who you’re talking about now. She’s sat in on some of my meetings. But she never says anything.’

She ended up NOT getting that position, and it wasn’t because she didn’t deserve it or wouldn’t have done a good job. It was because those decision-makers hadn’t witnessed her adding value and weren’t willing to take a risk on someone they didn’t know.”

I asked, “Did you talk to her about this missed opportunity?”

“I did. And when I asked why she didn’t speak up in those meetings, she said, ‘I tried to, but everyone just talked over me. I suggested a way to streamline some of our procedures, but no one listened. In fact, a few minutes later one of the men said pretty much the same thing and everyone went, ‘Great idea!’ I finally just gave up.’

I told her, ‘Don’t you realize, if you don’t say anything at meetings, you make no mark? The people there conclude you don’t have anything to contribute.”

I shared his input during my presentation and suggested several ways women could speak up at meetings so participants experience them adding value and have first-hand evidence of their LeadHership ability. Here are those six tips.

Six Ways to Add Value at Meetings so People Experience your LeadHership

1. Promise yourself you’ll contribute at least one ACTION-oriented suggestion at every meeting. Notice, I did not say an opinion, I said an action. Instead of simply sharing what you think or feel, contribute specific options of what can be done to move a project forward, turn an idea into reality, or achieve a company objective.

2. Never point about what’s not working – unless you immediately follow up with how this could be replaced with something more efficient and effective. In other words, instead of focusing on a problem and what’s wrong, focus on a solution and how this can be done right.

3. Do not defer compliments, graciously honor them. If someone praises you, instead of saying, “It was nothing.” or “My team deserves the credit.” say “Thank you. Your feedback means a lot.” Then, add a detail, e.g., “Our goal was to exceed our sales quota this quarter, so we identified three high-profile clients, reached out to them, and we’re pleased to land three new major accounts.” Then, talk about your next goal or upcoming initiative so people are aware of how you’re continuing to add value.

4. Keep your comments to two minutes or less. No one likes a windbag. Richard Branson said, “Time is the new money.” In today’s rush-rush, impatient world of INFObesity, time is the new TRUST. By keeping your remarks succinct, purposeful, pro-active and to the point, people will always want to hear what you say because you’re always a good use of their time and mind.

5. If someone interrupts, speak up instead of suffering in silence as they talk over you. Look at the person, use his or her name, and say, “Mark, let me finish” or “Elizabeth, I want to hear what you have to say right after I wrap up my report,” or “Bev, one more minute and then it’s your turn.” Then, be brief, but conclude your remarks. You’re not being rude, just clear and confident that you have the right to speak.

6. SIT TALL. If you slouch, tuck your chin in, or use a tentative, high-pitched voice, people will doubt your clout. Instead, roll your shoulders up and back and sit up straight. Think “Tower, don’t cower.” Speak with a warm, firm, lower-pitched voice of authority that projects so every single person can hear every single word.

A program participant chased me down in the parking lot after that Silicon Valley talk to thank me.

She said, “Sam, I was on the verge of quitting this company. I wasn’t getting credit for all my hard work and overtime, and I’d become really resentful. I’ve been putting out fires, saving the day, and no one seemed to notice or care. You helped me realize that I can’t blame my boss for not giving me the recognition I think I deserve if I’m not giving him evidence of all the ways I’m making a difference for our clients and company.”

Her feedback made my day because it reinforced the premise of my LeadHership program. It is idealistic and unrealistic to expect organizational decision-makers to know all the ways we’re contributing and to initiate on our behalf. They’ve got enough on their plate without taking responsibility for our career advancement.

It’s up to us to, diplomatically, give organizational decision-makers evidence of how we’re contributing so they experience our LeadHership first-hand. Only then will they be motivated to give us the promotions, positions, projects and pay raises we deserve. Only then will they know we’re “up to the task” and can be trusted to add tangible, real-world value because they’ve personally experienced us doing just that.

The career ball is in your court. How will you be a LeadHer at your next meeting?

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Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is the author of Tongue Fu!, What’s Holding You Back? and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? Her work has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, NPR and MSNBC. Want Sam to inspire your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to discuss your goals and ask how Sam can contribute to the success of your professional women’s group or event.

Tongue Fu!® How to Lead and Influence with Respect

Thanks to ChosunBiz – South Korea’s largest newspaper – for interviewing me for a cover story. Thought you might enjoy highlights from our interview with these Tongue Fu! tips on how to lead and influence with respect … because everyone wants, needs and deserves to be treated with respect.

1.   What is the core of new elements for 21st Century leadership?

We are no longer in the information age; we are in the connection age. Information is no longer enough to earn people’s attention and respect. If what we’re trying to communicate isn’t connecting, we’re wasting everyone’s time.

This is different from the 20th-century charismatic leadership because that was based on “I am the boss, you have to listen to me. I’m  senior to you, you must pay attention and do what I say.”

Journalist Eleanor Clift says, ‘We’re all in a race to be relevant. ” In today’s short-attention-span world of INFObesity, if we don’t make what we’re saying personally relevant to whoever we’re trying to connect with; they will ignore us and nothing will get done.

2.  How can leaders express their empathy when talking to employees?

First, ask themselves before they say anything, “How would I feel if this was happening to me? How would it feel to be on the receiving end of this message?”

Those four words “How would I feel ” are the quickest way to understand – and empathize with – what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

Second, by prefacing what you say with “.” and then inserting how you anticipate the employee is feeling.

For  example, ” I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to find out we’re going to have to start from scratch after you’ve spent several weeks on this.”

Or “I can only imagine how tired you must be after putting in a 10 hour day yesterday, so please know how much I appreciate you staying late again to get this project finished.”

3. How can CEO’s make other people feel comfortable and empowered when they’re talking?

SIT DOWN. As long as you are standing up and other people are seated, your body language is reinforcing that you are in the superior position and they are in the inferior position. It seems like you’re  towering over them. It diminishes them, makes them feel small and makes them feel you’re the teacher and they’re the students. This perpetuates the “I’m in control, you’re not” leadership style.

When you sit down, you level the playing field. It’s a way of saying, “We are on equal ground, we can see things eye to eye. It encourages people to speak up because they feel you are one of them instead of above them.”

Next, say “In the past …” For example, “in the past, you may have felt your opinion didn’t matter.”

“In the past, employees may have been punished for sharing honest feedback that appeared to be critical.”

Then,  bridge with “and now…”

“And now, we welcome your honest input because we rather know what’s not working so we can fix it.”

“And now, we encourage you to point out what we can do better because we want our company to be more productive and profitable.”

4.   How can senior CEOs overcome the generation gap and connect with younger employees?

First, make young people the expert. Give Millennials an opportunity to showcase and share what they know, what they’re good at.

For example, say “Our organization wants to be even more relevant to millennials. As a 20-something, we welcome your suggestions on how we can describe our products and services in ways that make them more appealing to your friends. What are your recommendations on how we can do that?”

Or, ask for advice on how to leverage social media and new tech devices.

Say, “We know we could do a better job being more current and staying up-to-date with all things digital. What do you think we could be doing to reach more young people with apps,  Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other popular online options?”

5.  How can young CEOs and leaders communicate better with older managers?

First, take notes.

Young people are often quick thinkers who tend to get impatient when older managers start talking about “In the old days…”  or “How we used to do this …”

Carry a notepad with you and jot down what people are saying. Instead of getting distracted, interrupting or cutting them off, it helps you stay focused on what they’re saying.

When they’re finished talking, paraphrase what they said from your notes. This shows respect and that you really heard them.

Then,  move the conversation to what can be done about the situation.

Resist the urge to check a digital device (a laptop, iPad or smartphone) when older people are talking. Put it face down on a nearby surface or turn away from your laptop and LOOK at the person speaking.

Don’t even glance at your smartphone if it pings. Non-digital natives will never believe you’re listening if you’re checking your digital device. They feel disrespected.

6.  What kind of TONGUE FU!® or INTRIGUE skills can be used to earn people’s respect and favorable attention in the following situations?

A) Town hall:

Address the time.   Anxiety is defined in two words – not knowing. If people don’t know how long you’re going to talk, they’re not listening, they’re in a state of resentful anxiety.

For example, say, “I know it’s 7 PM on a weeknight and you’ve already put in a long day and many of you have children waiting for you at home… so we’re going to keep this town hall meeting to 45 minutes so you can all get back to your families at a reasonable hour.”

Or, if this is a controversial issue, address the elephant in the room.

Say, “We know this is a highly charged issue and people have strong feelings. So, to make sure the discussion stays pro-active and everyone has an opportunity to speak, we are going to follow these ground rules.”

B) a meeting with managers when you want the truth.

Be straightforward that you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth – even if it’s not good news.

Say, “I can only imagine you might be reluctant to tell us what’s not working because you wonder if you’ll be blamed for it. Our priority here is not to find fault, it is to find solutions. We ask you to please share your honest assessment of what’s undermining our effectiveness. We can’t fix what’s wrong if we don’t know what’s wrong. Thank you in advance for giving us the truth even if it’s not pretty. We will all be better for it.”

You’re welcome to share these questions/answers with your team at your next staff meeting.  Hope it catalyzes an important conversation about how to earn people’s attention and cooperation by influencing with respect.

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Want to share these Tongue Fu!® and INTRIGUE leadership approaches with your group?  Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to keynote your convention or company meeting. Discover for yourself why her inspiring presentations receive raves from such clients as Boeing, Cisco, Intel, Four Seasons, Capital One and National Geographic,  Also,  check out her TEDx talk on Intrigue and Influence with Respect – and her books Tongue Fu!® POP! and Washington Post Bestseller Got Your Attention?

Reporting in from United Nations

Thanks to Kunal Sood for giving me the opportunity to be a delegate at the inspiring Novus Summit at the United Nations this past Sunday.

Here are just a few of the many highlights of that incredible day.

One of the speakers talked about there being two types of people in the world – those who wear a red cape and “fight bad things”- and those who wear a blue cape and “grow good things.”

The speaker who originated this insight (and I would love to attribute this to the right speaker – so if you know who said this, please contact me so I can give credit where credit is due) claims we NEED BOTH red cape people and blue cape people.

We need people who are willing to step up, take on the dark forces and do something about them.

And we need people who initiate and create positive breakthroughs and technological advances that benefit us all.

(Personally, I think there is a third kind of person. Black cape people who choose to rant and rave or complain about what’s wrong. It’s tempting and oh-so-easy to do that. Especially when we watch what’s happening on the news and are outraged, worried or discouraged by it. But .. it … doesn’t … help. It only adds to the darkness – only amplifies what’s wrong.)

Closing speaker Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation and co-founder of Singularity University, is a walking-talking example of a blue caper-talking example of a blue caper.

peter diamandis

Whether it is his book on Abundance; or his passion and purpose for leveraging innovation in the various X Prize competitions; he is a model for how we can choose to allocate our time, attention and resources to creating initiatives that proactively address issues and add value for all involved.

As Peter says, “Lots of people dream big and talk about big bold ideas but never do anything. I judge people by what they’ve done. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite. So just do something.”

Peter is a 100% blue cape DOER – as was every single one of the thought-leaders featured on Sunday including:

* Peabody winner and former head of the CNN International desk Parisa Khosravi, who asked the provocative question, “What if were to COME BACK to earth? Would we see it with fresh, more empathetic, proactive eyes?”

* astronauts Anousheh Ansari, Dan Barry and Scott Parazynski, who all made good on their childhood dreams of going into space and who are now leveraging what they’ve learned “up there” by applying it “down here.”

* Maysoon Zayid, who has the most watched TED talk of 2014 with more than 7 1/2 million views. Within the first two minutes, we all understood why. Maysoon, an Arab-American actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled, is a force of nature. As she says, “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali. I shake all the time. I have 99 problems; cerebral palsy is just one of them.”

* Martin Seligman, often called the “Father of Positive Psychology,” who gave this piece of deceptively simple – yet profound – advice.
Before you go to bed tonight (and every night), ask yourself, “What are three things that went well today? How did I contribute to that?

I love this idea because it’s a way to “blue cape” our perspective.

Think about it. When we reflect on our day, we have a choice.

We can focus on – and rant and rave about or be discouraged by – what went wrong (a black cape).

Or we can focus on – and celebrate, appreciate and elevate – what went well (a blue cape).

Choosing to focus on what went well renews our appreciation keeps our blessings front and center and top of mind.

Perhaps even more importantly, thinking about how we might have played a role in what went well helps us understand and own the fact that we can – in fact, we are – contributing to the well-being of ourselves and others’, right here, right now

We don’t have to be a thought-leader at the UN to be a blue caper.

That’s wonderful and welcome. But on a daily basis, every single one of us can choose to focus on growing good things. And when we do, everyone benefits.

Thanks again Kunal – and kudos to you and your team – for creating an event that focused on and grew good things – not just for everyone in that grand hall – but for everyone who will be positively impacted by what was shared and initiated on Sunday.

sam novus

Want more insights from Sam’s conferences, travels, and connections?  Visit www.SerenDestiny.com and her LinkedIn blog.