Amy’s irreverent comment on…
the “Don’t Call on Me!” Culture
I traveled to the Midwest last week to produce a “Command Performance” program for a large insurance company. We designed it for 25 emerging woman leaders who were tapped for advancement, but each needed to develop a better command of the room when addressing customers or senior management and each had to refine their “leadership presence” before they could move up in the company.
We knew it.
They knew it.
And our program was going to help each person
“nail it” so they had a chance to be promoted.
But as I got on the plane, the text messages started to arrive fast and furious from those registered:
“I’m signed up for your program, but please don’t call on me.”
“Glad you’re coming here to work with us, but I’d rather not get up to speak.”
And even more revealing, “Just a heads up, in our culture, we’d prefer it if we don’t have to interact.”
Whoa! Here’s some real truth-telling! Sadly, it’s not confined to those at just one insurance company. And sadly, you can’t solve the problem by simply telling women to “lean in” (Thank you, Ms. Sandberg) because that concept doesn’t eliminate the fear, the inexperience, or the trail of “check the box” training programs that litter the corporate landscape. The “feel good, but don’t get up to do anything” programs do a great disservice!
In response, my truth-telling is this:
Developing executive presence is not easy! And, in fact, requires a good deal of serious work and rehearsal. But if you, as a leader, (emerging or otherwise), duck the chance to take the stage, you just can’t expect an organization to recognize your leadership potential. And if you, as a leader, (emerging or otherwise) choose a program where no one calls upon you, then for sure, no one will call upon you!
Want to hire your own “executive presence” coach? Email me at email@example.com
Amy’s irreverent comment on…”Attitude”
Your attitude could be taking you down.
I received a form letter from a major well-known New York financial institution last week accusing me of being very late in paying back-fees on an account I had already closed. Clearly something was wrong. Maybe the account wasn’t properly closed? Maybe the letter was sent to me in error? Maybe the bank needed to investigate? So I called Customer Service to inquire and to suggest there was a miscommunication.
Instead of giving me a reasonable explanation, an apology (for what seemed like a mixed-up situation) or a proposal to solve the issue, the Customer Service rep chose to give me attitude. “Why didn’t I go back to my branch and get it fixed?” “Why didn’t I close my account properly?” “Why don’t I just pay what I owe the bank?” Was she serious? (And sadly a she!) Did someone tell her that attitude was good business practice? Or did she deliver the attitude on her own and never get called out for it?
On the check-out line at my drug store yesterday, ten people were waiting on line to pay. But the three service representatives manning the cash register were ignoring the crowd. Instead, they were deeply involved in a “could you believe who didn’t show up for work today?” conversation. When someone at the front of the line asked if we could check-out (No, it wasn’t me but I was tempted), our friendly Service Rep was not so friendly retorting “When we’re ready for you, we’ll let you know!.” Boy, I say that’s an “A” for attitude!
Serve up “tude” and you’re apt to go down! And you should! And so should your organization.
Why in the world should “attitude” be okay? And why, as a customer, should any of us accept that? If you don’t know about the attitude your employees or colleagues are serving up, it’s time to find out. And correct it. If you lead the organization, work to establish a positive attitude rule book. If you work inside a company that has no policy about good attitude, then start one. Lead the good attitude charge. If you’ve never monitored your personal attitude, now may be the perfect time to begin. Finally, if you face someone with noticeably bad attitude, tell them. Sometimes someone needs a wake-up call.
Amy’s irreverent comment on …
Don’t get upstaged!
Hijacking doesn’t happen in the sky alone. Hijacking can happen right in the middle of a business meeting, just when you want to make the most significant point to the Board Chair or a new client.
Someone else in the room jumps in and “takes it away” and in essence upstages you. You probably can’t prevent it (unless you hurl your BlackBerry at the scene-stealer) but you can surely find those masterful ways of “taking it back” and assuring that you still lead the scene.
So, conversational hijackers beware:
I think you’re out of line! And so do your colleagues. For those who don’t yet know how to retake the stage, or in this case the meeting, here’s what I propose:
a) Let the hijacker finish his/her statements and immediately thank them for their insights or perspectives. Then be bold! Direct the conversation back toward the person(s) you were originally talking to. Don’t wait for the meeting to get off track.
b) Recap. When the scene-stealer is finished, quickly recap what has been covered and then move to the next point you want to cover. This lets you continue to be in charge of your meeting.
c) Interrupt! If it’s very clear that the hijacker is not going to “take a breath” then it may be time to actually interrupt. Not too different than moderating a panel with a speaker who goes on and on, a hijacker is often unaware of how long he or she has “stolen” air time. So yes, interrupt them, albeit politely, by suggesting that there are other important points and people that should be heard and you’d like to move the conversation forward.
d) Refuse to get flustered. Too many people lose their train of thought or concentration when they are hijacked. Keep your cool. Pay attention to the conversation’s direction. And remember the intention you began with. Then speak up!
Amy’s irreverent comment on …
“Really? You have nothing to say?”
I was calling several companies last week to invite senior women executives to speak on a panel for The Corporate State CEO Summit that we produce every year in Toronto, (October 2, 2012 for those of you taking notes), and at one of the Fortune 500 companies I reached, the EVP of HR told me that none of the senior women in the company felt they would have anything to say on a panel at the Summit.
Excuse me? Did I hear that correctly? Your senior women, leaders in your organization, the same women who complain that they, like other senior women, are not moving quickly enough to the C-Suite, have nothing to contribute on a panel at the summit?
This kind of opting out is outrageous! With one strong breath, women executives are venting about lack of parity on Corporate Boards and in the executive ranks, and with another strong breath, they opt out of the very opportunities that can give them exposure, voice and influence.
I’m not buying the “I have nothing to say” argument. I believe women have a lot to say, but too often dismiss the value and significance of showing up and speaking publicly. I think the new mantra should be “Opt in!” Take the microphone, the stage, the panel seat, the on-camera interview, the seat in the front row. If you “have nothing to say” then you surely can’t expect your calls for equality on the corporate or public stage to be heard.
Want to develop a convincing and comfortable public presence? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy’s irreverent comment on …“Introducing Yourself”
Come on, of course you know your own name! In the past month, I’ve been to four conferences. At each, I grabbed a seat up front. I’m usually eager to hear the opening speech and the front row provides best viewing. But in all four cases, I was blown away by the fact that the presenter read her own name aloud from her notes at the podium, and didn’t look up at her audience. Come on—you know your own name, don’t you? Of course you do! But when you do that, you’re not only announcing how unprepared and unrehearsed you are, you’re announcing that you’re not a leader.
There is no reason to be unprepared. No, none! If you have the privilege of addressing an audience, then you have the responsibility to take the stage with enough stage presence to introduce yourself without clutching your notes like a security blanket. What’s more, you owe it to your audience. After all, they took the time to come hear you. They want to learn from you. So when you read your name like you don’t know who you are, you have really let them down. And you’ve done yourself, and your leadership, a gross disservice.
Want help delivering a “killer” presentation and taking the stage with grace?
Email me at email@example.com
Amy’s irreverent comment on …”Upspeak”
“I need you to stop doing that…..”
I was on the phone last week participating in a training session with an experiential marketing company and I found myself paying attention to the “upspeak” from the presenter instead of the actual training. Every sentence ended in an upward inflection that made it sound like a question! I was so distracted I wanted to jump in and say “I need you to stop doing that” but wasn’t sure exactly when to make my plea.
There is no reason to make a statement sound like a question. There is no reason to pronounce your name like you’re not sure who you are. And there is no reason to shy away from expressing your knowledge with confidence and grace. It’s time to choke upspeak, that nasty little habit that makes every statement you utter sound like you have to double check that you’re right, or you need approval. You don’t.
I can’t be the only one who thinks this way of speaking is annoying and ultimately troublesome. At the core, upspeak undermines a person’s presence and credibility – whether man or woman. But what’s worse, young women professionals (okay, some more mature women, too) seem to be subconsciously doing it as a way to hide or sidetrack their real power, intelligence or authority. Don’t do that!
Want help ditching it? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org