Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why your lifestyle can be affecting your credibility at work

Why your lifestyle can be affecting your credibility at work

‘Nobody ever takes me seriously’ complained Rachel*. ‘I’m as qualified as they are and I’m doing a good job with clients but they treat me like the office junior. I’m really fed up with it.

‘Why don’t they take you seriously?’Messing_about_at_work

‘Because I’m a girl and the youngest person there. They’re all just sexist old farts.’

‘Well, Sally’s only a couple of years older than you. Do they take her seriously?’

‘Yes, but she’s different.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know, she just is.’

I decided to park Rachel’s unflattering description of her colleagues for now and instead asked her to tell me more about Sally, how she behaves, what she says and the image she projects at work. Gradually we started to unpick why Sally is different from Rachel and why people take her seriously. Here’s the first thing Rachel identified:

‘She never crawls in to work, late, complaining about her hangovers.’

‘Do you?’

‘Sometimes.’ Rachel paused. ‘Most weeks, to be honest. I need to stop that. I need to keep my personal life to myself.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I talk a lot about what’s going at home, my boyfriend, my flatmates and what I’ve been doing with my friends.’

‘Why is that a problem?’

‘I do it too much.’ Rachel paused again. ‘It looks like I care more about what’s happening outside work. And nobody at work needs to know that I had a row with Jason, or drank too much on Saturday. It’s none of their business. It makes me look bad. I need to focus on work stuff at work and leave what’s happening at home behind me when I get to the office’

‘It sounds like you don’t always behave appropriately then’.

‘I had never thought of it like that, I was just having a laugh. But laughs at work and laughs outside are different. You can enjoy your job, but having a laugh with your colleagues isn’t the same as what you do and say when you’re having a laugh with your friends. I had never thought of that before. It’s no wonder they don’t take me seriously. They think I’m a party animal who lives in a soap opera.’ Rachel slumped back in her chair, her hands over her face. I gave her a minute or two to reflect. When she was ready I resumed the coaching session.

‘OK, so it sounds like you’re blurring the boundaries between home and work a bit too much. Is that fair?’

‘Definitely. I forget where I am sometimes. I need to think more about what’s appropriate. Sally never talks about her social life. Ever. If she’s out with people from work she doesn’t get drunk, or gossip, or rehash things the next day. She has a good time, she’s a good laugh, but she doesn’t bring it in to work. That’s one of the things I’m doing wrong. I feel really embarrassed. I think I need to change a lot.’

It’s easy to blame others for not taking you seriously but, as always, you need to look at yourself and your own behaviour first. In your 20’s you often socialise with colleagues and that can make it hard to adopt a more professional persona when you’re back in the office. It can also be difficult to identify and maintain clear boundaries between your social life and your work life and, as with Rachel, lack of boundaries may be one of the things that undermine your credibility.

We’ll look at more factors that influence how seriously you will be taken in my next blog. You may alos want to look at recent blogs on becoming a manager: newly-promoted-and-its-all-got-weird-heres-some-help and developing your confidence as a leader: modesty-and-confidence. In the meantime, if you recognise yourself in Rachel and want to clarify your own boundaries click on the link below for a free coaching session, on me.

* All names have been changed. This story has been told with the permission of ‘Rachel’.

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Can I just say? How to be heard at meetings

Can I just say? How to be heard at meetings

Have you ever sat in a meeting, really wanting to contribute in some way but been unable to get a word in?  Have you ever left a meeting running the ‘could have, would have, should haves’ of everything you didn’t say through your mind?  I think we’ve all been there.  There are lots of different reasons why you may not be able to speak up but often it’s because you just don’t know how to get your point across.  If that’s you, read on for my 9 tips for getting your voice heard in meetings.

1. Think about why you’re at the meeting.  Who invited you and why do they want you there?  If you’re not sure, ask.  Your boss might want you to just observe and learn, in which case you probably won’t be expected to say much.  However she might want you there to raise your profile and get more experience or because you’re the company expert on one of the agenda items.  Each of these possibilities will require different behaviour from you.

Bored_people_at_a_meeting2. Prepare well.  Check the agenda, find out what the main discussion topics will be.  Read the briefing papers and be ready to contribute to those items relating to your area of expertise or experience.  Jot down some bullet points and questions for each agenda item so you don’t forget what you wanted to raise during the meeting.

3. It can be tempting to be useful and offer take the minutes or write things up on the whiteboard, especially if you’re a woman or the youngest person in the room. Unless that’s what you’re there to do (see #1) avoid the temptation if you can.  A head-hunter once told me that acting as scribe can count against you at an assessment centre unless you also fully take part in the day’s activities.  Most scribes don’t.  After all, if you’re focussing on getting the notes, minutes or actions right it doesn’t leave a lot of time for contributing to the meeting.

4. Get in early and say something relevant and interesting as soon as you can, even if it’s asking a question.  It will take the pressure off you and you’ll settle in to the rhythm of the meeting more quickly.

5. When you do have the floor speak calmly, clearly and get to the point as quickly as you can.

6. If someone interrupts you unreasonably, pause and ask if you can just finish the point you were making.

7. Never start a sentence with an apology, even if it’s a figure of speech. ‘Sorry, can I just say….?’ may put you on the back foot.  Why preface your point at all?

8. Raise your hand slightly, or lift your pen a little to signal to the chair that you would like to speak.

9. If they’re moving on before you’ve had your say raise your hand or lean forward and ask the chair if you can make a final point before that agenda item is closed. If you choose do this make sure that your intervention is good and valuable and that you’re not going over old ground or raising issues that have already been addressed.

These are the things that have worked for me and my clients but I would love to hear your tips – please share them below.

Taking part in meetings can be tricky, as can running them (there’ll be a blog soon on chairing meetings). They can be stressful, especially if you’re new in your role or not very confident. If you find meeting etiquette and participation difficult why not have a free coaching session on us? Just click on the link below If that’s you:

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