If you’re being passed over for promotions by people less qualified than you or not getting jobs you can’t believe you didn’t get, part of the problem could be your self-presentation. “From the way you walk into a room to the tone of your voice, there are nonverbal ways of communicating that you are or aren’t manager material,” says Ruth Sherman, CEO and celebrity speech and media coach and author of Speakrets [rhymes with secrets]: The 30 Best, Most Effective, Most Overlooked Marketing And Personal Branding Essentials. “But these aren’t natural-born talents. It’s a matter of learning and practicing performance and technique.”
That said, because boys, more than girls, traditionally have been raised to think of themselves as leaders, they tend to pick up these important nonverbal cues earlier. Here, from Sherman, are three ways women should act more like their male counterparts to be seen as leaders:
#1. Take your place at the table.
Years ago, when Sherman was consulting to a law firm, there was a female partner who would stand against a wall rather than pull up a chair and ask the other lawyers to make room for her at the conference table. “She was literally a wallflower,” Sherman says. “I never saw a man do that. You need to be at the table, ideally across from the decision maker, making eye contact, asserting yourself.”
#2. Speak for the sake of being heard.
It’s frustrating, if not irritating, when people talk at meetings just to repeat what’s been said or to agree with it. But they do this because “they know that if they don’t speak they might as well have not been there,” say Sherman. “Women, on the other hand, tend to wait until they have something earth-shattering to say or feel they can defend it if someone disagrees.” She recommends adding your own voice to the mix by saying that you want to clarify something that has been said and then paraphrasing it.
#3. Don’t ask for permission to speak.
Sometimes the discussion can move so fast that it feels impossible to interject, even when you have something brilliant to say. When that happens, Sherman says it’s perfectly fine to wait until there’s a lull and say, “I’d like to go back to what we were talking about”—and then immediately return to that subject. Do not add a tag question—such as “Can we do that?” or “Okay?”—and do not wait for someone to give you permission to proceed. “Just lean in, speak with expression and articulate clearly—and you’ll be heard,” Sherman says.
Ruth Sherman will be speaking at the PA Conference for Women on October 3, 2017.