You and Madeleine Albright might have more in common then you realize.

Despite the fact that Madeleine had the drive and smarts to reach such a high level of success AND become the first woman to serve as the US Secretary of State, she STRUGGLED to raise her voice during meetings.

This accomplished woman stayed silent because she thought what she had to say would sound STUPID. And when a man was praised for stating the very thing she was too afraid to say, Madeleine would be left wondering — “why didn’t I talk?”

Over the last few decades, ambitious women have taken their seats at the table — but many are still searching for their voice.

On today’s episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership, I’ll explain why staying silent is ROBBING the conversation of your valuable insight AND I’ll give you practical strategies that will help you confidently raise your voice next time you’re at the boardroom table.

Listen here.

Full Podcast Transcript

Eleanor Beaton: You are listening to Fierce Feminine Leadership, episode number 265. Speak up buttercup! Why powerhouse women leaders won’t stay silent.

Voice Over: Welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership: The Success Podcast for Women in Business. Each week we feature interviews and advice to help you step into your power and lead your way. Now here’s your host women’s leadership expert Eleanor Beaton.

Eleanor Beaton: Hello there fierce ones. Eleanor Beaton here. And welcome back to Fierce Feminine Leadership: The Success Podcast for Ambitious Women in Business.

This is episode number 265, and today we’re talking about the reasons why powerhouse women leaders won’t stay silent — and why you shouldn’t either. So this episode stems actually from a very interesting conversation that I had with a powerhouse women’s CEO and company director. We were having a martini and we were chatting about women and leadership and career development. And I was telling her about a situation I’d been in recently in which there were a group of men and women who were sitting around a table and I was really surprised that one of the women around this table didn’t say anything. She was actually quite silent during the entire meeting and it wasn’t that she was you know really focused on listening to everything that everybody had to say.

The conversation was interesting, but her contribution would have made a huge difference. And so this woman said to me Eleanor I cannot tell you the number of power tables I have sat around. OK. This is a woman who serves at the highest levels. All right. The number of tables I have sat around where women have not spoken up. And we talked about it and how in not speaking up those women were really robbing the discussion and that group of their very valuable insight. And it’s certainly a trend that I have seen and experienced. And let’s just put it out there. If you’re sitting around a table and your voice isn’t heard you’ve got a remedy that.

This is not about talking for the sake of hearing your own voice. This is about making a meaningful contribution and understanding that your voice has power and is is important to claim that power strategically.

So if you are a new listener to Fierce Feminine Leadership I want to warmly welcome you to the show thank you so much for tuning in. We really appreciate it. If you’re a loyal listener, thank you so much for being a part of our fierce tribe and of lending me your valuable time and attention. And if you’ve been listening to the show for a while I would so appreciate if you subscribed to the show on iTunes and left us a review. It matters to us more than you know.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m Eleanor Beaton. I’m a women’s leadership mentor. I’m the creator of The Leadership Lab, which is our signature eight week leadership development program. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with powerhouse women leaders from around the world. These are women who are leading multibillion dollar companies. These are women who have advised heads of state. These are women who have built international movements. These are women who have spearheaded some of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns and I am a mentor to the next generation of women in leadership, which is of course one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.

This show is produced not only by myself with my team. We’ll tell you about them the very end. But I really am privileged to do this work and it’s my mission to really make available some excellent free resources like this one, as well as another one that I’m going to be sharing with you in a moment, that really provide leadership development and education to the women who need it most. Because when I look around at the world and the challenges that we’re facing I know that women’s voices are needed at every level of leadership.

So this episode is actually one of a series on the five lessons powerhouse women had to unlearn in order to unleash their ultimate potential. If you haven’t listened to the rest of the series, make sure to go back and check out the previous episodes. You can head on back to iTunes or Stitcher. The series starts at episode number 259.

So today we’re going to be talking about tip 5: why powerhouse women leaders won’t stay silent. And in this episode I’ll be discussing the importance of being heard and strategies to help you speak up during meetings. Now maybe you’ve been raised to believe that you can learn something important from everyone you meet which is true and maybe you’ve been raised that it’s important to get a quote unquote lay of the land before you weigh in on something.

Again, another true lesson. However, to truly make an impact an unlock the next step in your career or business. You’re going to have to do more than take your seat at the table. You are going to have to learn how to use your voice. Powerhouse women leaders speak up because they know their opinions and insights should be shared. And they are comfortable taking a risk and sharing their half baked ideas because they know it’s important to get the conversation rolling.

They’ve learned that persuasive speaking and presentation skills are critical to high level leaders success. So they’ve cultivated those skills to get to where they are today. But despite her high position the former U.S. secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, sometimes struggled to find her voice during meetings. In fact, here’s what she told Time magazine and I quote:.

“I have often been the only woman in the room and I thought to myself well I don’t think I’ll say anything today because it’ll sound stupid. And then some man says it and everybody thinks it’s brilliant, and you think “why didn’t I talk?” If we are in a meeting we’re there for a reason. And the bottom line is: if you are only they’re not speaking, you create that the impression that you’re not prepared to be there” End quote.

I’m going to say it one more time. The bottom line is if you are only there, not speaking, you create the impression that you’re not prepared to be there. Thank you Madeleine Albright, holler and preach.

So here’s what you can do. Ok. I love that story because sometimes I think we can tell ourselves that it’s only beginners who feel that they don’t have the right to be there. Nah uh. Even Madeleine Albright, at one time one of the most powerful women in the world, has had that experience. OK. So if she can have that experience, so can you. The key is it’s not about not having that feeling or not having the self-doubt. It’s about dealing with it when it happened.

So here’s some tips. Number one, I hinted at this before, share ideas that aren’t fully formed. women often want to share ideas that are 100 percent formed. But that’s just not realistic. Successful people are comfortable sharing half baked ideas because they know it keeps the conversation going. They also know it makes a good impression because it shows leadership. So instead of waiting for someone to welcome you into the conversation, throw out an idea. If you’re uncomfortable, you can acknowledge that this idea is not fully formed by saying you wanted to put an idea on the table to advance the conversation.

Number two set a goal before you head into the meeting. You want to head into a meeting by deciding on at least one action you’re going to take or one outcome you want to take. So you might decide they are going to make an observation, that you’re going to share an insight, that you’re going to ask a question. And this is going to be your baseline for engagement in the meeting. Then make sure you say it.

Now here’s an added trick that I often give my introverted clients. I’ll have some clients who are introverted. They have a tendency, even more of a tendency, not to necessarily speak up or engage during a meeting and for some of them they are actively dealing with that impression that Madeline Albright talked about, that they’re not prepared to be there. Which is of course totally not the case. So my challenge to them is: listen, for at least one meeting this week and for the whole rest of the month, one meeting per week for the month, I want you to be the first to weigh in on something. So you don’t have to do it every meeting, but one meeting a week I want you to be the very first to weigh in on something and to practice doing that. All right. So that’s about all about setting a goal for contribution before you head into the meeting.

Number three you can focus on the goal of the meeting and the people it serves rather than yourself. Because here’s the thing, when you have imposter syndrome, when when you doubt yourself, sometimes that can actually be the highest form of self-absorption. Guess what. Not everyone around the table is sitting there thinking to themselves I wonder what dumb things so-and-so is going to say next. Or, Oh so-and-so just said that really dumb thing. Or I hope so-and-so doesn’t speak up she’s probably going to say something dumb right. Nobody cares. The universal law of humanity is that most of us are really focused on ourselves and not focused enough on other people.

In this instance it can be really helpful for you not to focus on yourself. To focus instead and ask yourself: what is needed to move this company or idea forward? Make it about something bigger than you. What is needed to move this company or idea forward and how can I advance it in a way that’s appreciated even if it’s not completely on the mark? Think about the people who may benefit from your ideas, even if they’re half formed, and the issues that might occur if you don’t speak up. And recognize that you bring a lot to the table and you’re at the table for a reason and then act accordingly. In other words, boss up.

Number 4: ask for help. So you could approach someone you know who’s going to be attending the meeting. Ideally someone who is already comfortable speaking up in meetings, and you can ask them to call on you during the meeting for your input. This is a brilliant strategy. It can help you sometimes push through that fear of breaking into a fast flowing conversation.

So there you have it for strategies to ensure that you speak up, buttercup.

So here’s the deal, if you are really looking at taking your performance in meetings to the next level, and I know you probably don’t wake up in the morning and say to yourself: I am on this earth like I want to take my performance in meetings to the next level. You might not think that. But guess what? You probably should. Because when it comes to high performance in business, whether you’re running your own business or you’re working inside an existing organization, the meeting is the most important unit of influence in your career.

All the big decisions happen in meetings. Most of the impressions that people have of you are going to happen in meetings. And if you don’t have the power, presence and positioning inside a meeting to be able to get your ideas heard to build consensus to establish and distinguish yourself, well, your career and business are probably going to take a lot longer to advance.

So really learning how to distinguish yourself inside meetings, both in terms of what you say, how you say it, where you sit, you know the relationships that you have around you at the table, the prep work that you’ve done before that meeting, these are all the practical tactical much needed elements that we focus on inside The Leadership Lab along with of course so much more.

It is the world’s premier leadership training program for ambitious women who want to unlock their power, presence and ultimate potential. I’m going to share inside this eight week group mentoring program, the knowledge I have developed from advising some of North America’s most respected women business leaders. I’ve used this knowledge to create a step by step program that teaches you the high level theory behind how successful business women get outstanding results and the practical, tactical steps of how you can transform these processes into a game plan that can really explode your business and career. Graduates from our program have gone on to increase sales for their organizations in the multiple millions range. They’ve gone on to be selected for high level corporate sponsorship and mentoring programs for board directors seats. They’ve transitioned from executive assistant to CEO track. They’ve been earmarked for prestigious roles at top global think tanks. Our next cohort starts at the end of April early May head on over to www.leadershiplabforwomen.com to check out the program and see if it’s a good fit. Again www.leadershiplabforwomen.com. Head on over.

Check it out see if it’s a good fit for you. If it is, I would love to meet you there. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, stay fierce.

Voice Over: Fierce Feminine Leadership is executive produced and hosted by Eleanor Beaton. Technical producer is Kate Astrakhan. Content producers are Adrianne Alexander and Marie Hanifen. Thanks to Kelly Fillman and Amy Bleser. Find Eleanor on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram @ Eleanor Beaton. Thank you for listening. Stay fierce.

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