After almost two decades building a successful career at a high profile investment bank, I realized that I needed help to get to the next level. I have already seen the benefits in my leadership skills and promotion prospects.
A director with a medium-sized firm came to me because his value to the company wasn’t being recognized. His quiet nature and somewhat passive approach were interfering with his need to be visible, especially in meetings where higher level executives were in attendance. As a result, senior staff members and other influential people weren’t aware of the impact player my client truly was. It was clear that he needed to become more visible and self-expressed.
My client’s resistance to sharing his opinions and revealing who he was were based on fear. He was afraid that he might not be accepted if he shared an opinion that was contrary to what others believed, so he avoided creating greater exposure for his ideas. He gave his power away to other people by assuming that their viewpoints held more weight than his own. He allowed himself to speak only when he knew his comments would be met with approval. This created a constant pressure to be careful about what he said and how he said it, and he became overly vigilant about how his comments were received by others.
As we worked together, my client learned that speaking up more often in meetings would yield immediate benefits for his overall job performance. Two important benefits were: (1) immediate feedback for his ideas and points of view; and (2) an exchange of ideas in the company due to his sharing of information. These benefits would, in turn, increase his knowledge capital, help him develop more (and deeper) relationships, and enhance his visibility with colleagues and executives in the company.
Are you afraid to speak up at meetings?
Do you hesitate to offer praise in support of other people’s work? Are you reluctant to initiate conversations with others? Even if you are an introvert, you can experience greater fulfillment at work by building relationships with those around you. E-mail Joel now to find out how he can help.
The methods that helped my client become better self-expressed can help boost your visibility, as well. Here are the top ten ways to express yourself more fully in meetings:
- Stop censoring yourself. Once you stop censoring yourself, you’ll automatically speak out more often. It’s important to share your thoughts and ideas without over-editing them or limiting your expression. Don’t lose valuable opportunities to share your views and be seen as the influential person you are.
- Choose a topic ahead of time. Prior to every meeting, choose one topic or agenda item that you will address, even if your perspective is contrary to the prevailing opinion, potentially confrontational, or even a moot point. Select a topic that is important to you and prepare in advance so that you will be ready to add to the discussion.
- Say the first thing that comes into your head. In addition to preparing to discuss a specific topic, commit to expressing one idea that pops into your mind. Practice doing this at least once per meeting so that speaking without censoring yourself becomes a habit. Your newfound ability to jump into a conversation without preparation will soon override any lingering fears.
- Ask questions. One of the easiest ways to speak up in a meeting is to ask questions. Try asking: “How did you come up with that?” or “What is the basis of the remark you made?” or “Where is that coming from?” Leverage your knowledge and expertise to probe deeper into what others are saying. You will feel more engaged and become an active participant, which will help facilitate a more powerful meeting and provide opportunities for others to truly see you.
- Decide how often you want to speak in a meeting. Before each meeting, decide how many times you want to speak so you will have a target that motivates you to participate. You can, for example, choose to speak three times and let the first be a comment you prepare in advance. The second could be a question you ask. And the third time you speak might be a thought that comes to mind at any point during the meeting.
- Believe in your ideas and have confidence in sharing them. Your ideas are no less valid that those of the other people in a meeting so don’t allow doubt to get in the way. You do not need to adjust your viewpoint to suit the needs of others. When you believe deeply, your confidence will expand, and you will find it easier to share your thoughts and ideas.
- Don’t give your power away. It’s common in meetings to defer to a boss, others higher up in the organization, or someone that intimidates you. In the process, however, you may be giving away your power. Learn to leverage these great opportunities. Use them to shine by sharing who you are and revealing yourself as an impact player in the organization. Most senior people will take notice someone stands firm in their own strength. Champion yourself by acknowledging that what you bring to the table is as valid as any other contribution.
- My thoughts are worth sharing. When someone else speaks up at a meeting and your view is contrary, don’t automatically think that you are wrong and she is right. When you give someone else’s ideas greater importance than your own, it may be because you don’t believe that your thoughts are worthy of sharing. That’s simply not true. Your experiences, thoughts, and opinions are not only valid and worthwhile, but may prove to be exactly what other people need to hear.
- Speak without hesitation. Speak when you want to speak and not just when you have something important to say. Imagine being the most verbose person in the meeting. Yes, that might be a bit radical, but push the limits of your comfort zone. Wouldn’t it be powerful not to censor yourself at all? Give yourself the gift of total freedom of expression and you will soon be comfortable sharing yourself without hesitation.
- Be the first to speak up. Look for opportunities in each meeting to be the first to express your viewpoint. When you speak first, you have less time to generate self-doubt by comparing what others say to your own opinion. When you delay speaking up, you may become more withdrawn and find it harder to break into the discussion. So lead the discussion instead of following it and reap the benefits of being fully engaged in every meeting.
Copyright ©2005-2017 Joel Garfinkle, All Rights Reserved.
Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 7 books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world's leading companies, including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle, and many more. Visit Joel online at Garfinkle Executive Coaching. Subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!
This article may be reprinted or forwarded to colleagues and friends as long as the above copyright notice and contact information is attached in its entirety.
If you reprint this article, please advise us that you have done so and forward a copy of the article, or a link to the web page where the article can be viewed, to Joel Garfinkle.