“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.” - Margaret Atwood
Great communicators speak, and their audience hears them. In our everyday lives, communication is a central component. Finding your voice and being heard are crucial pillars in our day to day communication. Mastering these skills unlocks many benefits in our professional and personal lives. Exploring different techniques to become a more effective communicator will give you a competitive advantage over your peers.
In this post, we will explore some great techniques to find your voice and also be heard. Also, I'll share some great advice I gathered from my research on this topic – “Her Advice”. At the end of this post, you can find some amazing resources that would help you on your journey.
Do you face these challenges?
Would you like to do the following?
How to find your voice and be heard
If you identified with the questions above, here are some techniques to help you:
Take stock and know you have a voice
Start with a self-assessment - how are you using your voice? What were some instances when you were not heard? How did it make you feel?
Being more aware of the times you felt like you were not heard or when you didn’t use your voice is essential. The objective is to identify areas where you could make some changes and improve in your communication.
"Make yourself the focus and pay attention to whether or not you are choosing to honor yourself in your interactions. Using your voice is really about how much you are able to honor yourself. -Lesley Wirth"
Have a "relevant" and concise message
Women who have something valuable to contribute and know how to deliver their message inspire me. Too many people talk for “talking sake,” please don't be one of them. Being aware of the value you want to deliver helps refine your message. Also, equipping yourself with some knowledge and difference in perspective before you speak makes your message powerful.
#1: “One of the best ways to get your voice heard is to save it for the things you’re most passionate about. Your enthusiasm will shine through and will draw others to you. Coupling your passion with your unique voice is a recipe for success!” (Source: 6 Female Leaders on How to Have Your Voice Heard)
#2: “When in doubt, write it out, jot down your thoughts and get them organized. Read them aloud. Share them with a friend or family member. Get feedback to make sure your message is clear.” (Source: 6 Female Leaders on How to Have Your Voice Heard)
#3: "It’s important for women to know that having a voice really means having a track record of success and accomplishments so that people want to listen to what you have to say because you’re saying something of value. So use your voice, but use it strategically" (Source: Executive Women, Finding (and Owning) Their Voice)
Prepare yourself to speak
Especially in a professional setting, you increase your influence by going into meetings prepared with comments and questions. If you only start creating your message in the room, your thoughts might not be as succinct as you want it to be and your delivery will be less impactful. Make time to prepare yourself and then deliver.
"It’s really, really important that you know before you go to a meeting what’s going to happen. And what’s the purpose of the meeting. Depending on the focus of the meeting, we have got to prepare." (Source: Women at Work: Make Yourself Heard [Podcast] )
Use your voice
You may have the brightest ideas or be the smartest in the room. If you don't speak up, the outside world will never know what you have inside of you. Learn to stand up for what you believe. I know it's easier said than done. Share your thoughts and ideas with the world. To deliver your message effectively and be heard put yourself in the listener’s position.
#1: "Don’t sit quietly and think about things and maybe whisper to somebody or tell people afterward. Put yourself out there, and get involved in the conversation." (Source: Executive Women, Finding (and Owning) Their Voice)
#2: "If you spend your life keeping your thoughts to yourself, holding back when you have something to say, then you miss an opportunity in life to influence outcomes — to change an opinion, to clear up a misunderstanding, to give support, to challenge an assumption, to keep someone from making a mistake. Your voice begins to fade. You can even miss the opportunity for your words to change you." (Source: Finding Your Voice)
Observe & Learn from your experiences
Becoming a great communicator requires a lot of practice and learning. Being more aware of how you communicate and willingness to learn will not only develop the skill of communication , but it will also empower you.
"Stop apologizing for asking questions, pushing the envelope and disrupt the way things are done with your awesome ideas, your creativity, and knowledge." (Source: 6 Female Leaders on How to Have Your Voice Heard)
Get external support
Gather feedback from trusted people around you and filter through to identify areas for improvement. External input and support are an excellent resource in this case, as you get insight into how you are perceived and heard. Also, consider getting mentorship or training in your areas of improvement. Be open to listen and learn from your trusted circle.
“If you’re struggling with speaking up, find a safe, supportive group of peers and practice with them. Be open about your struggles. Set a goal: ‘I want to get more confident about being heard in meetings/by my manager/etc.’ Practice conversations, share advice, and support each other.” (Source: 6 Female Leaders on How to Have Your Voice Heard)
Embrace your voice
As you are learning to be a great communicator, you need to start embracing your voice. You have a unique and powerful voice. Don't let anyone else define your voice or silence you.
#1: "Once you've identified your voice, it's time to start embracing it. Every time you write--and I mean every time: email, memos, anything you plan to publish--make sure to stay true to that voice." (Source: The Power of Your Voice: 3 Steps to Finding and Embracing It)
#2: "Embracing your own unique voice not only diminishes fear and insecurity, but it can also lead to greater opportunities." (Source: The Power of Your Voice: 3 Steps to Finding and Embracing It)
"Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered--just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better." -Barrie Davenport
Confidence is a characteristic that I find attractive and desirable in women. I am incredibly inspired when I discover the backstory of how they have overcome insecurities, fear and negativity on their journey. A sentence in an article I recently read stuck with me "Confidence is a gift you give yourself." With many things in our lives, we feel like we don't have full control. Confidence, however, is one area in your life that you fully own and can control.
As women, confidence is a very personal topic for us. I would like to treat this topic with the care and respect it deserves. In this post, I'll share some tools and techniques that will help you on your journey to build your confidence and my personal story.
As a confident woman......
You are: Bold, Adventurous, Fearless, Hopeful, Positive, Sure, Courageous, Certain, Assured, Assertive.
You are not: Insecure, Afraid, Doubtful, Fearful, Pessimistic, Uncertain, Unsure, Cowardly.
What is confidence?
I intentionally used the word "build" with regards to self-confidence as the following is true:
How to build your self-confidence
As you work on building your confidence, I recommend some proven techniques that have worked for me:
Know yourself and what affects your confidence
What makes you feel insecure? Is it what people say or have said? Is it what you tell yourself? Is it your family history or some statistics?
Knowing what steals your confidence is a crucial step to build your self-confidence. You might have to go back in time and look into your childhood. Take the time you need to discover the source of your insecurities. You will feel empowered and in control when you take an active approach to work on them and regain your confidence. Check-in regularly to see the progress in the improvement areas you identified and celebrate your growing self-confidence.
Think & Say positive things about yourself
How do you talk about yourself? Do you use a lot of these words - can’t, try, if only, impossible, doubt? Do you think you are enough?
Your journey to self-confidence starts and ends in your mind. Observe what you think and how you talk about yourself for a few days. This activity will help you become more aware of the positive and negative thoughts and words you use to describe yourself. Make it a point to increase the positive thoughts and the words you say about yourself. After a while, you will see how much more confident you'll be. Start believing in your powers and that you are enough.
Appreciate your abilities and accomplishments
You have many great skills and talents. Acknowledge how awesome you are and know your unique contribution to the world around you. Confidence is built through appreciating our abilities and past accomplishments. Reflecting on the times when you achieved something you doubted you could, will help grow your confidence in your skills.
At the times when life events steal your confidence and make you doubt yourself, remember your value, skills, strengths, talents, and accomplishments.
Address your fears
Often, we let our insecurity and fear to rob us of so many great opportunities. A phrase I heard a while ago has guided me through my journey - "Do it afraid." Don't let fear stop you from taking that step and doing that great thing. Fear of the unknown will steal your confidence in your ability to achieve your dreams. When you are afraid, look back on something you did although you were scared and thrived at. Reminding yourself of your past experiences with overcoming your fear and the great outcomes you saw will boost your confidence. Facing my fears is the hardest lesson I have had to learn and still re-learn daily.
Build your team of “cheerleaders”
Surround yourself with people who know your value, support you and cheer you on. They will help boost your confidence at times when you are unable to do so on your own. Especially when you are embarking on an unknown journey having people in your court that believe in you, encourage you, say kind things to you, remind you of your strengths is very crucial. While I take bold steps in new areas of my life, I have come to value how much my personal "cheerleaders" support me and help me build my confidence. The positive reinforcement has kept me going.
My self-confidence Journey
"I am bold, assertive, hopeful, sure and positive." - MC, 2018
As a kid, a lot of negative things were said to and about me. People teased me, I was compared to my twin, and I was made to believe that I had a lot of negative traits. It was not a good foundation for my confidence. Interestingly, looking back I didn't know I had low self-confidence.
In my early teens, I became aware of how loud the negative voices around me were and how they impacted how I saw myself. I "kind of" knew I had something good although people around me didn't necessarily say it to me. My quest to silence the negative external voices and start turning up my inside voice began.
A significant turning point for me was when I started seeing how specific traits I had that I was told were negative started helping me on my journey. The most significant being my ability to communicate and talk to complete strangers. I was labeled as being "talkative" and “stubborn” as a kid. However, this specific trait or skill was what helped me make new connections and settle into my new life in Germany.
In the past years, I have been working on "rebranding" the so-called negative traits and seeing the positive in them. Today, I know that those voices don't define who I am. I actively build my confidence through positive affirmations, learning new skills and surrounding myself with positive people who value the real me.
Your confidence toolkit
In addition to the techniques above, here are some additional tools that can help build your confidence:
How are you doing towards accomplishing your 2018 goals?
It's mid-July already; I really can't believe it. This year has been going by very quickly. Having been through over half of this year, it seems like a great time to reflect on the past months and plan for the months ahead. Let's start by checking in on your goals that you set at the beginning of the year or last quarter. Earlier in March, I wrote a blog post What's your plan for 2018? about setting goals and shared some tips that have helped me so far. I'm excited to reflect on the progress you have made over the last three months.
Most of us are accustomed to mid-year reviews at work, now let's apply those principles to our personal development plans. I encourage you to set some time aside and take stock of where you are on your journey towards achieving your goals. In this post, I will share some attributes of a good review and share some practical tips on how to conduct your review.
What does a good review cover?
The discipline of regularly reviewing your goals provides you the opportunity to do the following:
Top 5 activities to do during your review
There are multiples ways to go about a review. Here are five activities I do during my goal reviews that I believe will help you.
#1: Assess your progress
Start by looking at your list of goals and the progress you have made over the past months. The primary objective of this activity is to reflect and document the steps you have taken towards achieving your goals. Don't feel discouraged if you didn't accomplish everything you thought you would have achieved by now. Continue with the next steps.
Questions to ask yourself:
#2: Celebrate your achievements
Every step you have taken towards your goals is an achievement. Make time to reflect and celebrate them. Acknowledging your accomplishments will motivate you for the journey ahead. Remember to recognize the small achievements as well.
Questions to ask yourself:
#3: Identify your challenges and blockers
With the goals that you have not yet achieved, it is essential to understand the reason why. As part of your assessment be honest with yourself, document the internal and external challenges you faced. You will learn more about yourself through this activity.
Questions to ask yourself:
#4: Test a new strategy
As we grow and develop, it is essential to be open to adapt your approach towards achieving your goals. There are many reasons why we may not have accomplished our goals; it's time to try something new. Apply your learnings, plan differently and adapt your implementation approach.
Questions to ask yourself:
#5: Set your new goals
You have reflected, identified areas of improvement, now it's time to look forward and add some new goals to your plan. Life has changed a lot since the beginning of this year. Make sure your goals documented and that you have some action items. Goal-setting should be a continuous activity, not only done at the beginning of the year. Learn some more techniques on how to set your goals in my previous post What's your plan for 2018?.
Questions to ask yourself:
My Progress Update - 2018 so far....
I want to wrap up this post by sharing how I've been doing towards my 2018 yearly and quarterly goals. The break-down below is done in the categories I defined and prioritized.
What is your career development plan?
In recent conversations, I heard women say that they expect their managers or companies to drive and invest in their career development. Early on in my career, I realized that it was my responsibility to ensure that I was advancing, growing and learning. I seized the opportunity and started creating my career development plan. Reflecting on where I am today and how my career has evolved and changed over time, I value my decision to own my development. I encourage you today to take charge and enjoy all the benefits of being in the driver's seat of your career development.
In this post, we will define career development, debunk three common myths and explore five ways you can start owning your growth today. For further reading and in the context of this post, career development and professional development are used interchangeably.
What is career development?
What are some benefits of planning your Career development?
Taking a more active approach to your career development has the following benefits:
Three common myths about career development
Myth 1: My company will help me develop my career
The expectation that your company will set you up for success in your career might lead to disappointment. If your company provides development opportunities, be sure to take advantage. However, if they don't, seek out opportunities to make it happen for yourself. Be ready to invest in your development.
Myth 2: My manager is responsible for my career development
Owning your career development planning is key. Your manager can support you in implementing your plan. However, it is your responsibility to take charge of the implementation of your plan and shaping your career.
Myth 3: Career growth will come naturally
All good things demand some effort and work. You need to take an active role in your career development to get the career you desire. Don't leave your career growth to chance or circumstances. Your steering and managing are required to have the great career you want.
How to own your Career development
Let's explore five simple steps to own and shape your career development.
Set your career goals
Where are you now in your career? Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years? You should have clear answers to these questions. However, if you don't have the answers, that's perfectly fine. Start thinking about your career goals today and write them down. Think freely, don't limit yourself, think of all the great things you can achieve in your career. This activity will help give you clarity and a sense of purpose for your career.
MC's Tip: Be as specific as possible. For example: By January 2019, I want to transition into a new role as a Product Manager in my current company.
Create your career development plan
What do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you want to succeed, you need to have a plan. Take a more in-depth look at what activities are necessary to achieve your goals. Remember to set due dates for the activities. Also, make it a priority to revisit your development plan regularly and keep your plan current to where you are in your career.
MC's Tip: Break down the tasks you need to do to achieve your goal. For example: To become a Product Manager, I need to gather more information about the role, inform my manager, get product management training and search for open positions.
Take steps to get where you want
Now that your goals are clear, and you have a plan, it is time to take the first step towards the career you want. Making progress towards your goals is the best motivation on your journey. We achieve our career development goals by taking ownership and taking a step. Remember to track your achievements and progress.
MC's Tip: Do something today. For example: Contact someone working in the role you want and invite them to have a cup of coffee.
Expand your support system
Having access to people with experience, insight, and information will help you get ahead in your career. Be sure to invest time in building a network that propels your career growth. A great support system should consist of a mix of mentors, sponsors, colleagues, champions, and partners. The people that form your support system can serve as accountability partners, share knowledge, celebrate you, give you advice and feedback. The crucial role of your professional network in your career growth can't be stressed enough.
MC's Tip: Find people who have experience in the areas you are interested in. For example: Join a professional network of Product Managers and start taking in knowledge of the community.
Build your professional portfolio
Your portfolio is an organized collection of relevant documents and artifacts that showcase your talents, most relevant skills, and charts your professional growth. (Source: Developing a Professional Portfolio). Spend time building your professional portfolio that has information about you and your professional journey. As you progress in your career, show and share your achievements and your experience that showcase your professional identity.
MC's Tip: Your portfolio should contain proof that you have put in the work to get where you are. For example: Add relevant knowledge, experience, and successes that will make you a great Product Manager. Let your portfolio speak for you.
“The change you experience on your journey helps you grow. ” – MC
I’m excited to continue my relocation story with chapter 4 of the “My life in Germany” series. My theme for this phase was "Ok, it's not that bad. I can live and thrive here." At this point in my journey, I started feeling at home in Germany and discovered some ways to expand my perspective. There were a lot of firsts and growth moments for me.
In this post, I'll continue sharing some of my experiences in year 11 to 14. If you missed my previous posts in the "My Life in Germany" series, you could read about Year 1 - 3, Year 3 -5 and Year 6 -10.
Studying and working
The discipline and time management skills I learned while working full time and studying for my master’s has brought me very far. For the two and a half years until I completed my course in 2013, I had to prioritize my education over my social life and find balance with work. I enjoyed my study time at home or the University library in Cologne. There was something about being around so many learners that encouraged me to study more. Though it was tough to study and work full-time, my motivation was clear - I was working towards a degree that will support my professional journey.
Expanding my community
After being in Cologne for a little over a year, my community started growing and diversifying. I had a great group of ladies at work and in my private life who were my companions in this phase. The real friends I had supported me through the growth phases of my life. Although I wasn't always able to be an active part of my community, they understood and worked with me. Having a support system that grows and changes with you is essential.
Achieving financial stability
At this phase in my journey, I was earning a stable income. Becoming more financially savvy was an essential task for me. Firstly, I worked on growing my savings. Then I learned how to budget better and plan some flexibility for fun. Building a great foundation and learning through the process helped me achieve financial goals like pay for the master’s program I wanted.
Traveling and exploring new places
Over time, I had the opportunity to explore more countries and cities. Going on vacation became a part of my life. I went for my first cruise to the Bahamas and saw the most beautiful blue water I had seen in my life. Multiple, visits to California to see a special someone was also part of my travel experiences. I was also able to discover some beautiful countries in Europe - Greece will remain my favorite. Also, being able to explore Germany a little more, helped me appreciate the great country I was living in. I wish I traveled a little more and enjoyed time off.
Enjoying my life
A valuable lesson I learned in this phase of my life was to start enjoying life a little more. I know the definition of enjoying life differs for everyone. My interpretation was making time for myself, splurging on things I enjoyed from time to time, making time for myself and spending time with my family and friends. I had gotten so used to working multiple jobs, working full-time, studying and working, being so busy that I forgot how to put up my feet up and enjoy my life. As I write this, I can hear the voices of my friends who never gave up on me and kept encouraging me to have more fun.
Developing my Career
As part of my growth journey, growing in my career was a big part of this phase. I invested a lot in learning new project management skills, getting certified and learning from other project managers in my community. The size and complexity of the projects I led, increased with time. I was able to grow through mastering new challenges in my professional life. Managing more people and multiple teams helped me improve my people skills as well. I recently looked at my old Career orientation plan and saw how I achieved my goals and learned to accept change. Thinking back, these years were formative years for my career.
Celebrating another World cup
Especially as the current world cup is in full force, I have been reflecting on where I was during the previous world cups. In 2014, I spent time watching the games in Germany and the US as I was on vacation for part of the world cup. Something was new this time; I was supporting both Nigeria and Germany in the world cup. I was the passionate supporter of Nigeria's team in the office until they exited in the round of 16. Being able to cheer for Germany until the end was amazing. I will never forget the German Team's win and how electrified our office was during the games.
Moving to the US
It was winter in 2014; I started feeling the urge to take advantage of an opportunity and start making plans to relocate to the US. Moving to the US had not been in my plans until now. There is no perfect time to do anything. In fact, the timing of my move to the US was the worst time for different personal reasons. I had gotten very comfortable in Germany, I was loving life, and now I was rocking my secure boat. Between the decision the move and the actual move I had only three months. When the time comes, you will know, and you must listen. This is not the end of my relocation story- Watch this space.
10 Tips and Lessons