Make Your Impact @ Work: Be Heard
This is the second article in a 3 part series focused on how to make and increase your impact at work both now and throughout your career.
I was inspired to write this after running a 3 month Impact at Work Programme with the Princes Trust and as many of my clients are coming to me concerned that their impact and influence has decreased during the pandemic.
Remote working is a boon for many people but it does bring it's challenges and for many of us being seen, heard and decisive is hard when so physically distanced from our colleagues and teams.
Even without the ongoing pandemic, lockdown and tentative re-opening, I see the same impact-obstacles come up time and again with my clients - if these ring true then do not fear as you are not alone!
They range from:
Being spoken over in meetings - or not even given the chance to speak up
Fear of challenging the 'norm'
Having their idea taken as someone else's and therefore losing the credit for it
Realisation of distinct favouritism
Feeling invisible especially when it comes to promotions and pay rises
Recognising the need to be a certain 'type' of person in order to fit in
You may have several impact-obstacles to add to the list - either way - read on for my essential guide on how to make sure you and your opinions are being fully heard and appreciated by the right people, at the right time.
Importance of Language
Let's get a few things out in the open - we rarely talk to ourselves in the same way in which we talk to others as we have a tendency to be incredibly hard on ourselves so therefore often use very negative language with ourselves.
If this strikes a chord then actively engage in replacing the negatives with positives, or as one of my clients discovered, counteract the negative with a positive - and make that the final and louder statement you hear.
Often this negativity is down to our Inner Critic who often pipes up due to being afraid and therefore, in an attempt to keep us safe.
As with Imposter Syndrome consider embracing your Inner Critic to understand where this fear comes from. By doing so you can reassure that negative voice that there is nothing to fear or that you have a plan ready to manage the potential fall out.
Choose your words to make them work for you. Clients regularly come to me saying that they have been told to be more 'confident' or 'assertive', however, often these words don't serve them well as they cannot identify what they really mean.
If certain semantics are not working well for you choose others. For me it is courage - I often need to dig deep to take some courageous steps or make brave decisions. The more I do that the more I prove to myself my worth, value and therefore my impact.
Be brave in speaking up when you need to.
We have a tendency to use diminishing language with others whether that's in meetings, general discussion, presentations or even emails.
Take a look at the examples below and identify which ones you use regularly - then ban them!
“Ummm / Errr” we all do this when trying to find a thought or when nervous - try to have what you want to say formulated first.
“Like” “basically” just no!
“Just” “actually” and “almost” are shrinkers so remove them! (“I just think…” “I almost want to add that…”)
“Sorry to bother you…” “Sorry if this is a silly question…” these are unnecessary apologies - you have every right to speak, to be bothersome and to ask questions! And when it comes to giving a genuine apology - the power of that would have been diluted by these unnecessary 'sorry's'
“Just a minute” “a little bit” or “just a sec” all imply that what you have to say is not worth time, focus or space so get rid of these.
“Does that make sense?” “Am I making sense?” “Do you know what I mean?” Ahh - the one I am most guilty of. They all imply that what you have been saying is incoherent or that you think your audience is stupid. Let’s replace with “Let me know if you have questions about this.” or “I look forward to hearing your thoughts”
“I’m thinking off the top of my head, but…” “I’m no expert in this, but…” or “You clearly know about this more than I do, but…” are all undermining disclaimers where you lose that ‘power’ so delete these statements and simply state what you have to say.
“Does everyone feel sure about this direction?” hides you point of view of “I think this is the wrong direction for us to take” making you appear in need of others validation. Use questions as replacements for more explicit statements only when it is strategic - not as a hiding place
The stronger you are in how you speak and articulate the thoughts the more of an impact you will naturally make.
I have found that there is often the loudest voice in the room and since the majority of our 'rooms' are now virtual there is regularly a loud and overbearing voice on video calls. It can be even harder to break that monotony of whoever is holding court yet it seems they find it very easy to cut others off and take overall control.
How can you manage this?
Have your 'Kamala Moment' - when Kamala Harris and Mike Pence went head to head in a televised debate he continuously interrupted her. And she took a stand and said "Mr Vice President I'm speaking" making it crystal clear that she was going to continue to talk and he should show respect to her by shutting up.
Now - we can't all be as strong as Kamala, however, we can always ask for respect to be shown to us and let our conversation intruder know that we have not finished and would, therefore, appreciate them to wait until we have done so.
If this is something you struggle with then get an ally on board who will be in the meeting with you so that when the conversation intruder constantly interrupts you have someone to interrupt them and ask them to be quiet as they want to hear the rest of what you have to say.
Alternatively, ask the person who is chairing that meeting (or who organised it) to be aware that people have a tendency to cut in and that they are responsible for everyone having a voice and being heard in that space.
If you are the chair or organiser and struggle to keep conversation intruders under control - set a clear agenda and refer back to it. Key phrases such as 'in the interest's of time and taking action we need to keep focused and hear from everyone'.
You can apply the following key questions to any area of making an impact, however, I find they work incredibly well when it comes to being heard - or not as the case may be:
When, where and how have you made an impact at work in the past? What did you learn and what can you do more of now?
When, where and how have you lost your impact at work? What now needs to change for you to regain it?
When, where and how have you given away your impact at work? This is subtly different to Q2 - here you have allowed your impact, power, voice be taken away so consider what you could have done differently and what needs to improve from now on.
Let's now make this very specific:
How are you not being heard or listened do?
Who is not hearing or listening to you who should be?
Who can help you?
How can you help yourself more?
Once you identify what needs to happen to be heard you can then find solutions in order to make it happen by considering what you need to do, what resources you need and who is best placed to assist you.
In the last article on Making an Impact at Work: Be Seen I talked about getting a champion on board to help your work be seen by those who need to see it. This same advice applies here - how can they help your voice to be heard and your thoughts listened to and taken on board?
By volunteering for projects or challenges you can help raise your profile and make you impact by being more present across your organisation.
What is key here is to then start talking about your experiences and share your learnings - both what worked and what did not work.
Giving team updates in your meetings, running a company wide talk or creating a project deck of the main do's and don'ts will add influence to your work and you will be displaying your achievements at the same time.
I hope this helps - next time I'll be delving into how you can learn from others who you work with whether that is to be more decisive, take action and not only own your achievements & success but also take the due credit you are owed for them.