Our world view automatically gives men credibility as leaders, but it requires women to earn it. While today’s business climate is shifting toward a focus on relationships and cooperation, –noted as feminine skills, our society remains stuck in the perception that the masculine traits of command and control show strength. That’s why several challenges still confront women on their journey to that CEO office in the sky.
Women must use their innate skills of a desire for connection, collaboration, developing relationships and building bridges to increase their workplace impact. Combining these with communication strategies can give women the edge toward leadership and that promotion they deserve. Two of the featured experts in my book give insights into how to leverage these strategies: Claire Damken-Brown, Ph.D., gender communication styles expert, and Birute Regine, Ed.D., feminine leadership skills authority.
Use these five communication behaviors to gain credibility and leverage your position in the workplace.
Women’s communication style is aimed at building and maintaining relationships. They lean toward talk patterns that are indirect, detailed and oriented toward others: their friends, feelings and personal issues. Men’s communication style is more related to tasks, competitive and aimed at exchanging information and data. Their talk patterns are direct and self-oriented with regard to work, goals, sports, finances and accomplishments. Women tend to collaborate and share thoughts and ideas. Men tend to compete and challenge each other to establish dominance.
When communicating with men, women need to adapt their style by being succinct and skipping the story — go short. Give a one word answer — yes, no, or maybe. If he needs more information, he will ask. Then respond with one sentence.
Position your strengths.
Being natural relationship builders, women have powerful skills for the workplace. Feminine skills are not soft. They are hard and powerful skills to have in our interconnected world and essential for true collaborations. Be clear about the skills you have to offer and value them. A new kind of leadership is evolving to meet the needs of today’s workplace.
Develop your natural feminine skills: You may be a connector, who brings people together; an effective bridge-builder, who links different perspectives or a facilitator, able to bring difficult people along. Leadership is now more collaborative, so position your strengths and support them with an effective communication strategy.
Read nonverbal cues.
Women’s social sensitivity helps them read nonverbal cues and other people’s emotions, and to value a sense of fairness in turn-taking. The power of these feminine skills can influence the culture of an organization and the dynamics of a group meeting. Be alert to nonverbal cues to lead meetings more effectively. Feminine skills such as emotional intelligence, inclusion and empathy strengthen workplace relationships and fortify your leadership position.
Managing interruptions is a great way for women to be heard. Contrary to what you may think, in business meetings, men actually talk more than women; they hold the floor for a longer time and they interrupt more. No wonder women are not getting their ideas heard. If a woman is not speaking up, she may be viewed as uninterested, not knowledgeable, or not wanting to be promoted. Practice any one of these responses to be ready when (not if) it occurs: “Just a second.” “One minute while I finish.” “Thanks for that insight, I’ll finish now.” Or, “Hold that thought.” Use these techniques, not only to get your own voice heard, but to help other women get their ideas heard as well. . .
Prevent idea theft.
Idea theft has happened to lots of women. That’s where you express your last great idea and no one comments. Then about five or ten minutes later, Frank repeats what you said and everyone thinks it’s wonderful and can’t wait to implement it, giving Frank all the credit, of course.
Stop Frank before he gets started by writing down your ideas and presenting them at the meeting on paper. You can email attendees a day before the meeting with your ideas for discussion. Or, if it happens during a meeting, draw the attention back to yourself by saying, “Frank, glad you think my idea will work. Let me give the group a few more data points.” Direct the communication and you can prevent idea theft or stop it in its tracks. . .
Women, power-up your feminine and communication skills. Do not let yourselves be silenced. You are uniquely equipped with the tools to be heard and build the credibility you deserve. Take charge of the conversation. Take a stand, hold your ground, and never apologize for who you are.