Sheryl Sandberg, the famous COO of Facebook has written an insightful book called ‘Lean in’ which talks at length about the challenges faced by women in industry to achieve influencing skills and presence. Our biggest enemy when it comes to this is ourselves, but fortunately that also means that we can do something to change it. We are all shaped by our environments, by the values of our society, by the unwritten rules. Such as: women should not be outspoken, aggressive or assertive, you cannot have it all; family and a career, it is rude to talk about money etc.
It isn’t so. Everyone has something to contribute. So next time you are in a meeting, or debating with a colleague, rest assured that your opinion matters as much as theirs do and ‘lean in’ and participate actively in the debate.
Whilst you can ‘fake it until you make it’ in terms of confidence, remember that the way you exert your influence and presence has to be in your style, according to your values, because only then will the impact be profound and change things. You may have been given a label from a Myers-Briggs test once that said you are introverted. That does not mean you should not contribute and stay quiet. It simply means you recharge your batteries from silence rather than from crowds of people and this label has no impact on your influencing skills in a meeting. However, it may mean your presence is a more subtle one than that of an extroverted person.
Next time you feel frustrated because you did not succeed in getting your opinion across in a meeting, consider whether there are different ways of influencing (if meetings are not your thing) or whether you are indeed holding yourself back based on beliefs that simply are not true.