Want to present yourself with confidence (even if you don’t feel it right now)? Learn two new rules to help you talk with authority – and break your own personal glass ceiling.
In the past, many women in business have struggled to gain the same respect as their male counterparts, and certainly a significant reason may be in the way we present ourselves.
But times are changing. And to help you navigate the new business world – and gain the respect you deserve, leadership presentation expert Nicolette Wolf from Marcus-Wolf shares two rules to help you present yourself with confidence and authority.
Returning from maternity leave is scary
Let’s be honest. Coming back into work after maternity leave is scary. First, you have to dare to wear the clothes that suited a pre-motherhood body shape and less practical style. And second, finding the time to paint nails, pluck eye brows and style hair in between breast feeding and coping with three hours of sleep is a huge challenge.
But third, and maybe most importantly, your life priorities have changed hugely. You will most probably be exploring questions around self-identity need to active develop confidence in this new phase of ‘you’.
Part of this will involve coping with the daily switch from being a worn out mother whose primary role at home is childcare, to an aspiring business woman who has value, potential, vision and productivity… all in a journey to work. Not easy!
Women are more apologetic than men
As a coach in leadership presentation impact, I have worked with many men and women wanting to get to the top. While both sexes struggle with self esteem, image and presentation issues, women tend to be much more apologetic in their demeanour than men.
For some reason, it seems harder for some women to effectively communicate at work in order to win support, guard against threats and impact a message. While men, on the other hand, seem to more naturally gain an unspoken respect, a communication platform and an authority from their audiences. But why is this?
‘Successful leaders’ are tall, aggressive men
Western business culture tends to view successful leaders as male, tall, aggressive, charming, physically fit, and slightly grey haired – and many leaders fit this stereotype.
In research for his 2005 book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell found that 30% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are 6 feet 2 inches or taller, compared with 3.9% of the American population.
Not only do women fall short of this stereotype, but when you are struggling to find your identity in this culture, then your physical posture will be mirroring how you feel. And with research suggesting that 55% of a first impression is based on your body language, your less confident mindset will show (if not managed) in the way you communicate and diffuse your impact even further.
The deeper your voice, the more you earn
Successful leaders don’t just need to look impressive, they have to sound good too. Research suggests that 38% of a first impression is based on how you sound, and only 7% on what you say.
Academics from the business schools of the University of California, San Diego and Duke University listened to 792 male CEOs giving presentations to investors. They found that those with the deepest voices earned $187,000 a year more than the average. And as we know, in general, men have lower voices than women, so yet again are at an immediate power advantage. So what’s an aspiring woman to do?
Business is changing – you can play to your own rules
In the past, many business women have tried to meet the Western business culture’s expectations of what defines a successful leader.
Heeled shoes add a few inches and a potential power advantage depending on the size of others in the room. Padded shoulders in sharp jackets help project aggression and power poses. Maggie Thatcher even pushed down her vocal tone to create a rasping tonal depth in order to try and gain the competitive edge.
But still men could dominate and win with their rules. But their rules are changing: there are an increasing number of ‘geeks’ running international businesses; youths have become rich through the .com era and women are increasingly managing to carve out roles that allow them to have 4 children and run successful organisations.
Today more than half of the world’s biggest 2,500 public companies have their headquarters outside the West as well. So it’s cleat that the business culture is changing – and you no longer need to try and change yourself to play to the old guard rules. Now you can play to your own.
Two simple rules to present yourself with confidence
In this new world of business, there are two simple rules that can help you to return to work with confidence and command the respect you deserve. (And neither involve high heels or power suits, you’ll be relieved to hear!)
1) Make the most out of who you are
Developing authenticity is key. In other words, the more you are able to be yourself, the more compelling you’ll be to others.
being authentic creates self-confidence, which leads to trust and then to authority. Sounds obvious? It is something which is often neglected and undervalued in the world of business.
So seek to use emotional intelligence techniques to make the most of who you are, building an individual style of leadership presentation impact which is both genuine and relaxed.
2) Develop an ambassadorial, practical style of delivery
As a business woman, you have a responsibility to yourself, your shareholder, your employees and your organisation to enhance your delivery skills.
And if you only concentrate on what you say without fine tuning your body language and vocal technique, you are constantly diffusing your message. Your physicality, voice and use of language are the means by which you communicate with other people. It is through these means (in acting terms, your ‘instrument’) that you convey your precise thoughts and feelings.
So the more responsive and efficient your instrument is, the clearer will be the impact of your message. Your emotional and physical state is always affecting your physicality and voice. If you are ‘out of harmony’ your voice will not ring true. This can have a lasting damaging effect on your audience.
Demolish your own glass ceiling
The only real glass ceiling in business is only the one we create ourselves. Playing to the above two rules will make sure you get your desired impact consistently right – and demolish any glass ceiling you have built.
You owe it to yourself to ensure that your leadership presentation style is pro-actively developed rather than passively endured so that your desired outcomes are achieved. Isn’t it time to start getting it right?
For enquiries about bespoke one-to-one or team leadership presentation programmes, contact Marcus-Wolf for a confidential exploratory conversation. Call them on +44 (0) 7961 373 774 or email Nicolette.
Image: SuperfamousNicolette Wolf