If you want to scale the corporate ladder, have more influence and be successful in the workplace, you’ll need to sharpen your leadership voice. Yet, most people have neither the time nor the inclination to make the necessary effort to hone their communication skills. We prefer to get lost in social media, superficial banter and excuses that keep us hidden. Yet, unless we face the fear of speaking up and putting our authentic voice out there, we’ll never develop the emotional strength to become a true business contender.
There are no quick fixes to success. But, fortunately there are some easy hacks you can start implementing today to start the journey to finding your inner leader voice.
1. Keep it Simple.
Most people overcomplicate what they say. In meetings, we are often bombarded with useless jargon, sterile business-speak and endless data that send people to sleep. It takes a confident person to drop the faux business façade and speak honestly and directly. If you’re in the habit of delivering overly complex data and hiding behind business fluff, stop. If you can’t explain what you do in a few simple terms, you’ll sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, imagine you’re talking to a bunch of 5 year olds or even aliens from another planet. They won’t comprehend anything complex. So, keep your language simple. Because, when we speak with clarity, we sound strong.
2. Drop-kick doubt.
You must learn to speak with conviction and heart, or your words, no matter how well crafted, will fall flat. Most business presentations tank due to a lifeless delivery. In fact, over 90% of persuasion success has nothing to do with your words at all and everything to do with your ability to elicit positive emotion in others. But how can we do that? By showing how much YOU believe in what you are saying. So, say what you mean and mean what you say, and don’t ever be ashamed of not knowing the answer, because we are always in a position of learning and discovery. We are not meant to know everything. The funny thing about getting older is that you realise you actually know very little. And that’s great! It’s OK not to know. Instead, have supreme faith in your ability to learn and find endless solutions.
3. Use Criticism Powerfully.
As a budding person of influence, you’ll need all the advice you can get. We all need to be coachable and open to feedback so that we learn. However, a leader must be careful whom they let into their inner circle. We are all complex with many differing agendas. Navigating all this on your journey to the top can be challenging. The trick to success is learning to distinguish between constructive feedback and destructive criticism. Your greatest friend could be the person who tells you cold hard truths in the service of your growth, in other words telling you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. You may not like it, but it will be good for you. A negative critic is someone whose feedback is designed to keep you small. If you come away from an encounter feeling diminished, then you just let an unhealthy person into your sphere of trust. So start checking in with how you feel around certain people. Pay attention to whether you feel supported or crushed. Eventually you’ll disregard the opinions of those who aren’t on your side and let in the ones who only want the best for you.
4. Be Authentic.
We often feel a sense of unease when we have to sell or talk about money. To cope with this anxiety, we adopt a false persona to hide our awkwardness, but then we feel like we are not being ourselves. It’s uncomfortable and draining. The best leaders are authentic and move seamlessly from one role to another without having to alter their persona too much. In other words, it’s less of an act. So, how do we become more ourselves when the pressure is on? One hack is to simply pause and focus on your breath, rather than on what you are going to say. Take a moment to transfer all your attention on calming your nerves before you say anything. When you take the time to breathe and self-regulate, you drop any persona and move into an authentic state. Whatever words you chose to say in that moment, even if it’s to do with money, will sound far more convincing than any rehearsed answer you may have. And people will trust you more. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. So, begin pausing and focusing on your breath today, and months down the line you’ll notice a remarkable improvement in your presence.
5. Lift Others Up.
If you want to develop your inner leader voice, focus on helping others grow. Rather than worrying about yourself and how you come across, short-circuit the self-consciousness by paying attention to the vulnerabilities of others. Ask yourself the following three questions. How can I lift someone else’s spirit today? How can I engage their trust? How can I motivate them to aspire to greater heights? One way is to truly listen to people and make it safe for them to share their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and concerns without recrimination. When you listen closely, you help people see possibilities in a situation rather than limitations. And in doing so, you become the rare person who evokes in others the capacity to dream. So, help your teams reach for a higher goal by believing in their potential no matter who they are or what their current situation might be. In turn, you’ll be seen as a leader without having to pretend because your focus will be in the right place.
6. Never Give In.
Your success is founded in your capacity to step boldly into the arena, stand tall in the eye of the storm, face your fears and stick to your guns. So, play all in, speak with confidence, spirit and passion and show your peers you’re a force to be reckoned with rather than a minion who cowers in the wings. You have to be assertive, sometimes disagreeable and be able to say no as confidently as you can say yes. And be wary of self-doubt and excuses as to why you can’t reach higher. When you let yourself believe in limitation, you’ll become a victim of circumstance. And no one will buy into you as a voice of influence because you won’t sound like one. When business gets tough, which it inevitably will, your peers needs to trust in your ability to pull through and make your ideas happen no matter what. You’ll help yourself to this end when you care less what anyone thinks – and this includes your inner critic. Sometimes we have to ignore our own minds most of all to keep moving forward.
The quality that cuts across all these tips is courage. The one true requirement in terms of what it takes to be a leader is the courage to break out of the box, confront people problems forcefully and also face your own weaknesses so that you can model growth for those around you. Leaders are not perfect, nor will they ever be. However, they have the backbone to ask questions, listen to the truth, hear the difficulties within an organisation and relentlessly search for solutions. So, if you do one thing, take responsibility for your current situation, help those around you grow, and while the weak make excuses, you make dreams a reality.