Friday, November 21, 2014

Use Your Language to Empower Your Life

Yesterday I had the pleasure to hang out with some amazing women from the local "Lean In" group and after the event, I had a great conversation with a young professional woman who had an interview today for a new position.

Be Confident and  Empower Yourself
As we chatted in our group, she practiced some of the things she planned on saying in the interview and some feedback that I gave to her was the inspiration for this post.

As I've mentioned before, I am a strategy and leadership coaching consultant of my own firm and so collaborating on the success of women is a core service.  I have noticed how much the language of people is really important but I think we all aren't necessarily aware of it.

For the young lady I'll call Rebecca (not her real name), she mentioned that in the interview, there would be a point where she'd say:  "If you don't mind, can I ask you a few questions?" (Note: she had done some research and was well prepared for the interview.)

My response to her was why doesn't she re-phrase that to "I have a list of questions I prepared for the interview that I wanted to ask so that I can more clearly understand some of the responsibilities of the position."

Do you see the difference in the language?

The reason this is important is that from my 15+ years working in corporate, I was constantly confronted with not only my own language and how I presented myself but also, I observed the language of my female colleagues.

An Example of How Your Language Can Hurt You
For example, I would spend closed door time with a female executive colleague before a quarterly Board presentation or a team project. My colleague would speak with confidence and assured-ness due to preparation, their knowledge and experience...even if they were nervous, they were prepared.

It never failed that as soon as my female colleague was at the presentation, her language would completely change!

My colleague's language would go from strong language in our closed door prep meetings of: "We exceeded our projected numbers by 30% for the quarter and even though we see challenges from our competitor's new product line, we are preparing in advance to focus on our core customer relationships and our marketing efforts."

To once my colleague was speaking in front  of (normally) an all white male Board meeting: "I think we did a good job this quarter because we increased our numbers by 30% but Jimmy (punting to her male colleague) has stated that we need to be more proactive with the threat our competitors presents."

Do you see the difference in the language?

And this matters!  I can't tell you how many executive management and human resource meetings I have sat in where management was not confident in the decision making and leadership skills of my female colleagues.  This was due to the language my colleague used and how they presented themselves (not because of their results which should have mattered the most).

Best Tip for Using Your Language to Empower Your Life
Understand that your language tells other people how to perceive you.  And because of that, YOU are in control of what that perception is, whether positive or negative. So don't see this as a negative, see this as a point to be empowered.

For example, if you know you are up for a promotion and one of the key requirements is the ability to connect people, at least 6-12 months before you apply for the position, at every single meeting with your manager (or person who will influence the selection of the person getting promoted), you use the words/phrases like:
  • "I was happy to connect our team for project X by doing __"
  • "I really enjoy connecting with other departments...."
  • "Connecting with people is something I really enjoy..."
Do you get it?

YOU be empowered to train that banker, manager, HR department, potential partner, etc. of what you want the outcome to be based on who you are using your language BEFORE the actual point of decision and before you know it (mark my words) those people will start using that language about you!  It will start appearing in your performance reviews, in meetings, etc.

For more helpful tips on being great in the workplace whether that's empowering your language or other practical tips, don't forgot to sign up for a one-on-one coaching session with me!

Be great and empower your life with your language!


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