management, role

What Story Do Others Tell About You?

Exerting more positive influence with others can take a lot of listening, especially with individuals and groups who appear to be at odds with you. You know your good intentions and probably see yourself in the best possible light. However, the story you tell yourself about yourself is not always the same narrative others tell about you.

When I started a job as HR Director in a unionized workplace, I had no idea the amount of existing baggage that would be heaped on me by others who had been around awhile. Bad blood had existed between previous HR Directors and some employee groups. Simply by stepping into the role, some factions automatically assumed the worst from me. It seemed no matter what I did or didn’t do, my actions and words were interpreted in the most negative light possible.

Even though I didn’t see myself at odds with these groups and even though we shared a common purpose, it took years before the defensiveness decreased enough to have productive interactions. Some groups had crafted a story about me that served their purposes, and I often unintentionally stepped right into their negative narrative because I wasn’t fully aware that my behavior was so easily misinterpreted.

What’s Their Story?

Maximizing your influence starts with identifying the various factions that have an interest in an issue or initiative. These are groups of stakeholders who band together based on common values, interests, and motivations around the issue.

Next, imagine the story they tell about themselves and about you. How do they see themselves? Why do they care? What do they stand to lose in the situation if things don’t go their way? How would they describe YOUR values, interests, and motivations in the particular situation? When you layout each faction’s values, interests, and motivations, along with your own, you can start to see where you can create common ground and where you might need to bridge a divide with the right appeal.

How Does Your View of Yourself Play Into It?

For clarity with each faction, take a good look at yourself. Decide how you want to be seen with each faction. This can help you stay focused on the broader relationship you want to create as you work through a particular challenge. Next, identify your strengths. This helps you know what you can leverage to bring to discussions and the work. Also, be aware of how this group and its interests might trigger you into an emotionally reactive state. What insecurities or vulnerabilities might they hit on that will “tweak” you? When you prepare for what can set you off, you’ll be better able to recognize it when it happens and prepare your reactions accordingly.

With this information, the story other individuals or factions are telling about you emerges. If it’s not the story you want them to tell, start working to change the script. Use this information to exert the most positive influence possible by gaining credibility along the way and seeking a win-win result.

 

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

anxiety types

Is Your Influence Recognized and Rewarded in Your Company Culture?

Which leadership behaviors are reinforced in your company? In particular, does your company culture recognize and reward behaviors you would describe as more “masculine” or those you would describe as more “feminine”? And maybe it’s a balanced blend of both.

Male and Female Brains

To set the stage, not all women exhibit 100 % feminine thinking, speech, or behavior. Not all men, have completely male mannerisms, behaviors, or thought and speech patterns. Each of us is our own unique combination of masculine and feminine traits. However, current brain research shows that most women tend to have more female brains, while men tend to have more male brains. Brain structure and functioning is also influence by gender-related hormones of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, oxytocin, etc. And because of that most women show a propensity for more “feminine” ways of operating, and most men exhibit more “masculine” modus operandi. The culture in which you were raised adds a layer of gender-based expectations.

This makes it interesting to look at the kinds of behaviors your organization tends to reinforce. If you’re a woman in the workplace you know this ground quite well. Even though most workplaces today are roughly 50/50, male/female, most corporate cultures in the US are still very male-oriented. Thus, it is commonplace that your thinking, speaking, and other behaviors are misinterpreted by the corporate culture and the men around you. Because of this, the way women interact within their companies is interpreted and explained away through a male lens. In fact, more and more research shows unconscious bias in companies adversely affects, not only people of color, but also women, especially when it comes to promoting individuals into leadership positions.

For example, the leadership model has been shifting over the past couple of decades from using mostly hierarchical authority towards more egalitarian influence. This seems great for most women because the female brain tends to seek out complex and robust relationships. Most women want to create good relationships in the workplace. Once they foster relationships, they also work to maintain those relationships and keep them intact. On the other hand, the male brain is wired to prove prowess and strength. So, so men tend to be more aggressive and competitive, looking for ways that they can prove themselves.

Relationships Versus Competition

Apply this to one area of being successful in most companies: showing your success by stating your accomplishments. This often comes up in performance reviews. Because women generally seek to maintain relationships, they will tend not to brag about their accomplishments for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re a woman, you don’t want to appear as though you’re better than other people because you’re trying to relate to others without positioning yourself as “better”. Second, you realize that other people contributed to your success. Third, if you have to brag about what you accomplished, it diminishes any recognition you received for your feat.

Conversely, men aren’t defining themselves primarily by their bonding and relationship skills. Rather, if you’re a man, you compete to the best most accomplished or best performer. That’s why most men don’t have a problem bragging about their accomplishments. In fact, it’s important that they call attention to their abilities. Consequently, men generally can more easily talk about their wins.

Collaboration and Influence

Another area where your influence and might be missed is through collaboration. Masculine versus feminine notions of “collaboration” can look different. Women will ask others to participate in projects or decisions. As a woman, you may hold off landing on an answer to a challenge and gather a lot of input from others up front. Not only do you value the connection with the people, but you might be looking for a lot of different perspectives or ideas that about the challenge. This inductive thinking is about gathering more ideas for a better solution. In contrast, male collaboration comes from a competitive competence angle. If you’re a man, collaborating with others is a way to test out your ideas and see how well they measure up. With this more deductive style of thinking, you start with your idea and see how well it stands up to challenges from others.

How have your behaviors been perceived through the lens of your company culture? How are you perceived by various factions within your company culture? What are the implications for you and your leadership?

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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This is Why You’re Not Taken Seriously in Meetings

meeting; team; working in groups; leading groupsDo you feel like you’re not getting the respect you deserve with your colleagues? Here are 6 suggestions for enhancing your credibility in meetings:

1. You don’t pre-pave

Find out what people are thinking about the agenda items ahead of time and start to plant seeds for your point of view on important topics. A quick check in with others a day or two before the meeting is all it usually takes.

2. You arrive “late” or leave “early”

If you are only showing up for the actual meeting, you might be missing out on an opportunity to strengthen relationships with others. Arrive about 10 minutes early to chat and network with others when you can talk about non-work-related topics. Avoid leaving right at the end of meeting and consider staying for the “after-party” to wrap up conversations, build rapport with others, or gather more information on an important topic discussed during the meeting.

3. You act like a personal assistant instead of a colleague

This one is especially for the ladies: You teach people how to treat you! Once in a while it’s fine to do little things for others, but don’t get in the habit of always fetching beverages for others, making copies, or taking notes. Encourage your peers to rotate these duties if they are regularly required at your meetings.

4. You back down when interrupted

People in management can often be very fast-moving, driven, and impatient. That means, some are in the habit of interrupting and talking over others to make a point. If this happens to you, don’t back down. Instead, calmly and directly callout the interruption and continue on. Also, be sure to speak up for others when someone interrupts them.

5. You don’t confidently own your ideas and positions

Have you ever offered a comment or idea that was met with silence, then minutes later someone else re-asserts your idea as though it’s their own? When that happens to you, calmly call attention to the fact that you previously said the same thing, and use humor if appropriate to make your point. For example, you can say, “That is a great idea, and I think it was just as great a few minutes ago when I said it.”

Also, another way to show your confidence is to avoid backing down when challenged. Instead, realize that many of the personalities in your meeting are forthright and maybe even skeptical. Now worries. Calmly assert your position and provide back-up rationale to support it.

6. You use too many words

Avoid thinking aloud or appearing to ramble. Make sure you state your point up front then provide pertinent supporting information to substantiate it.

Adapt these suggestions to the norms in your workplace regarding meeting expectations. Then, regardless of how others treat you, remain calm and collected, don’t be shy about asking questions to understand issues better, and stand your ground when you need to.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more influence inside their organizations, by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and impact with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Avoid Being Misunderstood

misunderstoodDo you feel misunderstood by your direct reports or colleagues? Do they think you’re an ogre when you’re really fun and fair? Or maybe they think you’re a pushover when you’re really purposeful and committed.

There might be a disconnect between what you intend and how you’re coming across. Here are four ways avoid misunderstandings by closing any gap between your intentions and your actual impact on others.Get clear about what you want to happen. Conventional wisdom says that we are on auto-pilot about 95% of the time. Which means we are consciously thinking about or aware of what we are doing very little during the day.

  • Get clear. Know what you want to accomplish before you go into a meeting, have a conversation with a co-worker, or work on a project. Ask yourself what you want to get out your time spent.
  • State your intentions. Based on the outcome you want to create, state your intentions out loud, especially when interacting with others. By doing so when going into a meeting or conversation, you are not leaving to chance how the other person will interpret what you say or do.
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective first. As a leader, when you speak, your words carry weight, and that weight often shuts down others who are further down the food chain. Additionally, listening first will give you a chance to tune in to the other’s perspective.
  • Seek to reconcile different perspectives. With a clearly stated intention and after sharing perspectives, you will have a better understanding of how the different perspectives overlap or don’t. Revisit your intention again, and ask for how you can move forward by using what most important from each perspective.

By consciously focusing on a clear intention and being open with your perspective, you can create conditions that allow others to “see” you for who you are.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc  or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting

Effective Presentations: The Foolproof Five

I had the pleasure of interviewing communications coach Beth Noymer Levine. She graciously allowed me to share the following blog post, excerpted in part from her book, Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World, www.jocktalkbook.com.

 

team; working in groups; leading groupsMore often than not, what makes people freeze before a big presentation is the nagging question, “Am I even doing this right?” and its companion, the fear of embarrassment.

I’m always taken aback when smart, successful, otherwise confident people reveal that they’re afraid to make a fool of themselves. I would never have guessed in most cases.

Trust me when I say that no one is “a natural” at speaking and presenting; even the best of the best think about it, worry, and work at it. Regardless of your style or your comfort level with public speaking, it’s wise to consider some core guiding principles for yourself as a speaker.

Below are five foolproof principles of being an effective speaker or presenter that will give you the confidence to know you’re “doing it right,” and will leave your audience quite impressed.

The five principles are:

  • Audience-centricity
  • Transparency
  • Graciousness
  • Brevity
  • Preparedness

Taken together, they send two really important messages about you to your audience:

  1. That you care about and respect them.
  2. That you’re real and therefore credible and trustworthy.
Audience-centricity

It may be a new term to you, yet it’s probably the most fundamental of the five principles. Simply put, audience-centricity is making the audience’s interests and experience a top priority in the planning and execution of a talk.

Too many speakers prepare and deliver what is important and interesting to themselves without enough careful considerations of their listeners. Being audience-centric is a mindset shift that encourages the speaker to prepare and deliver content in a way that will matter to and resonate with the audience.

Transparency

It is exactly what you think it is; it’s about being open and direct — yes, and honest, too. Transparency is critical. It contributes to the levels of sincerity and trust that are accorded to you by your audience.

Graciousness

It is the art, skill, and willingness to be kind-hearted, fair and polite. As motivators and influencers, love and peace work far better than anger and war. Speaking in positives rather than negatives leaves lasting, favorable impressions.

Brevity

Brevity is a crowd-pleaser and needs no further introduction.

Preparedness

Preparedness speaks for itself as well. The unprepared speaker is the one who is most likely to be long-winded, not to mention unfocused. While the mere thought of preparation might bring feelings of dread, the feeling of approaching the front of the room ill-prepared is far worse – and it shows.

Success is in the eye of the beholder – your audience. Show care and respect, be real, and your audience is much more likely to listen, like you, and be impressed.

This post was inspired by my interview with Beth Noymer LevineBeth Noymer Levine – Communications Coach at SmartMouth Communications.  SmartMouth Founder and Principal Beth Noymer Levine is a Communications Coach who is emerging as one of the country’s leading voices on how to prepare and deliver speeches and presentations that actually work for both the audience and the speaker.

8 Traits That Make You Untrustworthy

lack of trust

You would think that because people spend roughly 1/3 of their time at work, the workplace would be a critical venue for establishing trust. Yet, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that only 49% of employees think CEOs are very or extremely credible. Along the same lines, a recent HBR article on trust at work reported that only 46% of employees place “a great deal of trust” in their employers, and 15% report “very little” or “no trust at all.”

No wonder work is stressful. If employees are spending a good deal of time in a place where there is at least some distrust, you know they are diverting time and energy to activities to create safety and security that hedge against their lack of trust, instead of putting that time and energy towards innovating and otherwise doing their jobs.

Here’s what you’re doing to make your employees see you as untrustworthy:

 

1. You are Unpredictable.

When people can’t count on what you stand for or on the processes or criteria that govern how decisions are made in our company, they don’t trust you. Create certainty to combat your employees’ wary reptilian and avoid being erratic by switching the fundamental principles or values that guide your behavior and don’t be wishy-washy. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow up on the things you commit to doing.

2. You Are Incompetent.

When you don’t have the basic background and knowledge to make good judgment calls, your team will not have faith in you. Cultivate your personal knowledge and abilities instead by educating yourself on issues and concepts or asking others to enlighten you in your area of responsibility. You don’t need to be THE expert, but you need to be competent enough.

“Trust in institutions and their license to operate is no longer automatically granted on the basis of hierarchy or title, rather in today’s world, trust must be earned.” — Richard Edelman, President/CEO of Edelman, a communications/marketing firm

3. You Have a Hidden Agenda.

If others believe you aren’t being upfront about what you think or why you think it, they will definitely be leery of you. Instead, become more transparent by explaining your underlying assumptions and rationale for the opinions you hold and stances you take and do it in a way that is the company’s best interests – not your own.

4. You Come Across as Fake.

Whether you’re trying to be a super hero, a brown-noser, or are just too good to be true, if others can’t relate to you human-to-human, you won’t have their trust. Instead be genuine by owning up to your failings and to the fact that you don’t have all the answers.

5. You’re Clueless.

When your attention is elsewhere instead of on your area of responsibility, people don’t trust that you know what’s going on. Combat cluelessness by keeping your eye on the ball and focusing on issues and trends in the industry, your profession, and most certainly in your company.

6. You Have a Big Ego.

You think only you can save the day or have the answers. Broaden your perspective to avoid being immersed in own your world or focused only on your own prowess or needs and wants. Make it a practice to seek out differing points of view and explore their assumptions and backgrounds that led them to their conclusions.

7. You Live in Your Own Little World.

Foster better relationships with others to build trust. Connect with others in your company at all levels. This means you need to ask questions about their experiences and thoughts on an issue then listen to them and appreciate where they are coming from. You’ll be more likely to build more trusting relationships when people see you and interact with you.

8. You Don’t Acknowledge the Work of Others.

If you don’t recognize the contributions made by every level of employee in your company, you miss out on a big opportunity to show that you are indeed clued in and understand the impact that is made throughout your company every day. When people understand you really “see” what they are doing, they learn to trust that you are minding the store.

Ultimately, trust starts with each person, and as with most things, leaders get to go first. So, start with yourself and see how you can create more of the following in your company and become a more trustworthy and all-round better person in the process.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their companies by gaining greater focus, self-awareness and influence with their teams.  Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

New Beginnings: How to Gain Credibility in a New Role Without Slaughtering Sacred Cows

Sacred CowWhether you were recently promoted to a leadership position for the first time, or you are a seasoned leader hired into a new company, stepping into a new role is exciting . . . and it can also be fraught with landmines and interpersonal dynamics you never dreamed of. If you transition to your new role thoughtfully, you increase your odds of making a great impression on others, avoiding critical errors that come from underestimating the power of corporate culture, and laying the foundation for getting results later on.

The biggest tendency is to jump right in to show how good you are, regaling others with your knowledge or solving problems that you can’t wait to address. Unfortunately, those who have been around awhile might see things different and might even take offense at all of your new-fangled ideas.

Unless you were hired into a desperate situation with the expectation that you would clean house from Day 1, you would be wise to ease in to your new role and be a bit circumspect. For the first three to six months, here are 6 things to do or keep in mind when you are the new kid on the block:

1. Take it slowly.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to “fix” everything you see that is wrong (in your eyes) all at once (unless that’s why you were hired). Let people get to know you first. Slowing down also allows you to more fully understand why things are the way they are. If you rush to make changes, you’re sure to step on toes that you can’t afford to offend.

2. Clarify what will make you “successful”.

To do this, look at what would make you successful based on the role, what your boss is looking for from you, and what you want to personally accomplish long- and short-term to be successful.

3. Make your boss shine.

Need I say more? It’s always good to make your boss look good, so what can you do in your new role to support your boss’s agenda?

4. Foster a relationship with each direct report.

The better your team knows you as a person, the easier it is for them to put your ideas and suggestions into context. Get to know what’s important to them and for their careers. They will already have trust in you and know you have their best interests at heart.

5. Don’t risk being labeled an “outsider” from the get-go.

Align with the company’s values and behavioral expectations. Figure out how things get done. Get a feel for the sacred cows, pet peeves, superstars, and outsiders. In short, adapt to your new surroundings. You can point out when and if the company doesn’t “walk its talk” later once others know and trust you.

6. Observe and uncover issues without solving them immediately.

Especially in your area of responsibility, get to know other players, learn about current and on-going issues, and just listen and observe. Spot patterns, learn the history of things, and tune into where there are alliances and feuds. Quietly hypothesize about root causes and possible solutions.

Sometimes less is more, and that seems to be apt when starting a new role (and especially in a new company). Ease into your job in the first 3-6 months and let the company adjust to you before you attempt to impact the new culture. Once you are a better-known quantity and accepted as part of the group, you’ll have the credibility to voice your observations, concerns, and solutions and have them taken seriously.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more  atfirebrandconsultingllc.com.