Your Brilliant Career Podcast

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This podcast provides an injection of energy and practical insights to women who are committed to their career. I share tactics, tools and stories that inspire capable women to think bigger and unapologetically achieve the success they deserve.

One of my early realisations was that there are many unwritten rules about career success that no one tells you. Smart women are tired of generic career tips. They want accessible, relevant and practical tips. Each episode includes content that inspires women to step up in their career and experience the energy and reward of being more.

Your Brilliant Career is a podcast that aims to help more women rise and reach new heights in their career.



Today I want to talk about a pain point that many women experience in business, and it is the challenge of speaking with senior leaders. Now, as a women's career expert and executive coach, I hear from women all the time that it is important to them to do this well, but they lack the confidence and capability in their application. They know that their meetings, their interactions with senior leaders represents a great development opportunity for them. It's great visibility, all of those things, but they're not sure how to make a great impression when speaking with those senior leaders.

In this episode, I'm going to share four insights that I think are very practical, something you can go and do and work on immediately, that will help you impress senior leaders in your business. 

Links we talked about on the podcast include:

RISE Accelerate program:

My free guide - How to communicate confidently with senior stakeholders:

Amy Cuddy's TED Talk - Your body language may shape who you are: Watch it here!

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Your transcript


 Welcome to season three of the Your Brilliant Career podcast. This is our second episode back. It is a pleasure to be with you. Today I want to talk about a pain point that many women experience in business, and it is the challenge of speaking with senior leaders. Now, as a women's career expert and executive coach, I hear from women all the time that it is important to them to do this well, but they lack the confidence and capability in their application. They know that their meetings, their interactions with senior leaders represents a great development opportunity for them. It's great visibility, all of those things, but they're not sure how to make a great impression when speaking with those senior leaders. And this is the sort of thing I hear from women. They say things like, "I get nervous in these meetings, and it's weird because I don't feel nervous when I'm speaking with my team or my peers or less senior stakeholders yet, put me in front of a senior group and I feel completely out of my depth. In fact, I don't even feel worthy that I should have a seat at the table".

So if you relate to that in any possible way and you want to just build some credibility and confidence with senior stakeholders, then this episode is for you. I'm going to share four insights that I think are very practical, something you can go and do and work on immediately, that will help you impress senior leaders in your business. In addition to that, because I really want you to work on this, I don't think it's just you listen to it once and you've got it nailed. I think it's a constant work in progress. You've got to take these tips, practice them, evolve them to really elevate yourself. That is the hard work that sits behind this.

I also want to share with you today a free guide and it is available to everyone listening to the podcast. The link is in the show notes below. I'm going to share some of the points from that guide in this episode. But there's so much more in the guide we are going to talk about. We're going to talk a little bit about body language today, but in the guide it talks a lot about how to be more assertive, how to anticipate, because senior leaders think differently, how to contribute, including some of the language and tips you might need. So it's a really good guide. If you want to go deeper on this, you can download it after listening to the episode and print it off. Circle the stuff that resonates with you so you can practice and work on that.

All right, so let's dive in. I've only got four insights. I want to keep this very practical for you all. And the first one is probably the most accessible of all the insights. And it's this, think about your posture. So when you visualise a senior executive that impresses you, just visualise them for a moment coming into a meeting. I can't imagine that they're slumped, that their eyes are darting down, that they're fidgety with nerves. No. I imagine their body language conveys confidence. So even before they say anything, you're impressed. They have presence. So next time you’re in a meeting and it can be a Zoom meeting, it doesn't really matter. Note your own posture. What is your body language saying about you professionally in that moment? Are you projecting the confidence and certainty that you want?

So here's what happens for a lot of women. You start observing this. It's so fascinating. Many women tend to condense their bodies, they keep their elbows to their side, they'll cross their legs. They just won't take up too much space. They even place their notepad or materials very neatly and condensely beside them. They just don't want to impose any additional space. You might be guilty of this yourself, and it's just so interesting. But one simple strategy here is to expand, take up more room. And I'm not suggesting an Amy Cuddy power pose here. Thank God I hear you say. For those that don't know, Amy Cuddy TED Talk, check it out. No, it is a far simpler, and achievable tip that I'm sharing here. The idea is to expand in a natural way and take up a bit more room. You know yourself that people who suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, they tend to take up less physical space by slouching, trying to be invisible. We don't want that. Now you want to be having impact in this moment. You want to be having the kind of gravitas and presence that make you stand out, that convey confidence. 

So maybe try some of these things. When you sit down at a meeting, consider placing your notebook and pen further away than you normally would. I'm not suggesting you go crazy here, but just inch it a little bit out. I think it will make you feel a little bit awkward at first. But consciously we are trying to take up some more space. So another thing you could do is use hand gestures to convey your message. Just taking up a little bit more space. Look at people that do this in a meeting. Some people get completely carried away and take up a ridiculous amount of space, but you can use hand gestures just to be more expressive and more than anything, expand the space that you're using.

Another tip is don't cross your arms. Try and keep them open. So maybe hold your pen in one hand and the other could rest on the arm of the chair so your hands aren't touching. It's going to create more openness. Your abdominal area is going to be more open. You're going to be sitting up straighter as a result of that. Because this is the truth, what senior leaders see is just as important as what they hear. And I know we put all the emphasis into what we're going to say and how we're going to say it, but what they see is just as important. Now, you may have heard of this piece of research. It's called Mehrabian's Communication Theory. It's been around for a very long time and it's often included in communication pieces. And Albert Mehrabian's Communication Theory, it basically explores the impact of non-verbal communication.

So he found that 55% of our impressions are made based on body language alone. So that is people are experiencing us by what we do with our body, our posture. How we are standing, what we're doing with our eyes, our smile, all of those things. Further, our tone of voice, that is our pitch, accounts for 38%. Now this leaves a miserable 7% for the actual impact of content. Now, how ironic is that? Think about all the time that you spend preparing what you're going to say. Yet people are experiencing you through your body language and to a lesser extent your voice, how you're delivering that message. So the lesson here is that to increase our impact and our executive presence, we need to pay attention to what we are doing with our bodies. Not just obsess with what we are going to say, because senior leaders see, what they see is just as important as what they hear.

So we got to adjust our posture accordingly. Just make those little tiny shifts. And there's another benefit here. Just a little side note I want to add here. When you do adjust your posture, when you're sitting upright, when you are walking into a room confidently, you are actually managing your emotional state. You are allowing yourself to feel more confident. Have you ever heard the expression, motion equals emotion? Well, it means what you do with your body impacts how you feel. So there is a direct correlation between what we do with our bodies and our emotional state. Now think about crossing your legs and slumped over a meeting room table for an hour and how you feel. Versus sitting up straight and interacting, being very present. It's a very different emotional state. And that's why when I'm nervous, I'm very aware of what I'm doing with my body because I know it will help me manage my nerves and get into a positive emotional state faster in that moment.

So if I'm in a meeting and I really want to be on my game, I intentionally avoid crossing my legs. That's the first thing I do. And instead, I place both feet firmly on the ground. Now, I know that might sound very simplistic, but it keeps me upright. Like you literally sit more upright, you're not tilted. And it makes me feel more grounded. If I'm about to present to a large audience, I will think about the way that I walk to the front of the room or the stage. I'm very conscious of the way I carry my body in that moment because I know that it will help me build confidence in that moment before I start my talk. So tip number one is about posture. It is such an accessible tip. You can go away, you can play with this. No one will know you're playing with this, and it will help you to have more impact and it will help you to build confidence. Nice and easy. And it will make you feel like one of them because senior leaders are very good at these things. 

So the second insight is about having conviction when presenting any point to a senior audience. Because senior leaders want to know you believe in what you're saying. They want to see conviction in you. So you need to demonstrate certainty in your message. You want to come across that what you're saying is the right solution for the organisation. So again, think of a senior leader or executive that you know, that you admire. And let me ask you this, do they lack a strong stance or opinion in meetings? So when there's something really important being discussed, do they lack having a stance or an opinion in those meetings? I bet they don't. I bet they always have a stance, have an opinion. They have conviction and they want to see it in you too.

So we want to confidently state our opinion. Of course, we need to provide the necessary evidence to support what we are saying. But people that act with certainty, such as senior leaders, they don't look down, they don't look dismissive. They use assertive language and they bring energy into what they're saying. When we truly believe something, when we have conviction, we bring energy to what we are saying and we get to the point. Our body language is certain. All of those things come across. If you don't speak with conviction, then your stakeholders will likely detect this and they won't buy your message. They won't. So before you head into your next senior meeting, consider how you can have more conviction. Look at the key points you want to convey. Imagine yourself delivering these with certainty and confidence. Because here's the truth, the nasty old truth. If you don't believe what you are saying is important and valuable, why are you saying it? If you don't believe that what you're saying is important, then why are you sharing it? And further, if you don't believe you're worthy to have a seat at the table, why would anyone else? 

So conviction is something we really need to work on. Believe in what you were saying, find a point of view and be compelling around that point of view. So those senior leaders, they want to know that you believe in what you're saying.

Let's move on. Insight number three is about being succinct. And a lot of people experience nerves and they can ramble and all those sort of things, or they can be naturally chatty and just expand too much with the information. But senior leaders they want a succinct response. Senior leaders have a different perspective of the business than you. They're exposed to different things. In most cases, they have more pressure. They're time poor, they're not going to be interested in the details. They really aren't. They want to understand the key points. They want to dissect that information in their own top line way. They will ask any questions to help them evaluate. That's their goal. They want to be very effective in the way that they consume the necessary information for them.

So your job is to be succinct. Now, how do you do this? Well, my big tip here is to lead with the headline. Start with what it is you're proposing or sharing. Let me give you an example. You might say comes to you. "Thank you. I'm recommending that we proceed with the next step of the project plan". So it's just a headline about what you're about to expand on. Then you can go on to explain what is going to unfold, maybe the rationale, the benefits, but you're going to do it succinctly.

Here's a good rule of thumb in thinking about how you approach these particular moments and how you keep yourself on track to be succinct. And that is to have two or three, no more sub-points to support your headline. So you've got your headline and then you have two or three supporting points that you can elaborate on that feed into that headline. And that is your basic formula. It will stop you babbling. And you know what happens when we start babbling? We lose confidence or we come across as too junior in that moment. And your goal when you're with this audience is to be clear, and succinct, and to be delivering your message with clarity. A clear approach to your messaging can actually be your secret weapon. It really can, particularly in those high stake meetings.

And part of the approach is thinking differently. Because even though you might be presenting fundamentally the same information that you presented last week to your peers or less senior stakeholders, you're delivering it differently now and you're delivering it more succinctly. And why? Because senior leaders operate at a higher level. They observe things from an enterprise-wide set of challenges and they want a concise, high level and strategic response. That is insight number four about being succinct and leading with the headline. The final insight I want to share with you today is also a bit related to managing yourself and sometimes the nerves as well. And it's around staying composed and slowing down. We want to stay composed throughout the entire meeting, even if others look flustered. We want to be seen as level-headed regardless of what might be unfolding. And how do you do this? Well, one of the things you can do is watch the pace at which you speak.

Consciously slow it down if you're nervous. The tendency is that when we get nervous, particularly for women, we speak faster. And when this happens, our voice gets a little bit higher. I don't know if you've noticed that and we can sound a little less authoritative. Yeah, it's really interesting right at that moment where we want to sound more authoritative. Think about the news readers and they can have quite a commanding style. And I'm talking about the female news readers. Their voice is just a little bit deeper. They're just, if you just dropped an octave of your own voice and their pace is a very clear pace. They're able to articulate every single word and they come across as very calm and they can be quite commanding in their style.

So think about it a little bit like that. But perhaps more importantly, the little mantra you want to have at the back of your head, if you do feel racy in those moments, is to say to yourself, "There is no hurry. There is no hurry." Because you want to slow down. You want to quieten the mind, you want to stop fidgeting. You want to stay composed, create that stillness, really access slow of movements, hand gestures, your speech, all of those things. So watch your voice, watch the sudden movements, the tapping of the pen, the wiggling. We want to slow it down. Just it will help you convey more gravitas by doing this because people will observe you as calm, as thoughtful, maybe even as perceptive. And it will also help you manage yourself in that moment because it will make you feel less agitated. So that is the fourth insight. Stay composed. And you can do that by really slowing down. Again, that is such an accessible, easy to apply tip.

That is a wrap. As I said, you can access the free guide, How To Communicate Confidently With Stakeholders. It includes more tips that I have not covered today. So check it out. You can access this guide via the show notes below. 

Well, thank you as always for being here. Thank you for listening. Have a super few weeks and I'll be back in a few weeks with a special guest to talk about personal style and how you can amp up your wardrobe for work. It is going to be such fun. Take care and I'll see you soon.

If this episode or the show in general has helped you or supported you in any way, I would so appreciate it if you would write us a short review. It really does help with the show, climb the rankings and get on the radar of other women wanting to progress in their careers. 

We are Season Three and doing well, but we would love to share these career insights with more women and see more women like you thrive in their career. So just a few words or sentences about what you enjoyed most about the podcast. It would be hugely appreciated. Thank you and see you soon.