You can tell how old this Punch cartoon is by the honorific applied to the sidelined “Miss” Triggs.
But sadly, even though it was first published more than half a century ago, including it in a slide deck in 2016 still elicits the laughter of recognition.
What stops you from speaking up at meetings?
Even if you know that it’s folly to count on your hard work alone to get you noticed, gaining profile within your organization isn’t always easy. Depending on the leadership, levels of hierarchy, or organizational culture, meetings can feel competitive or fraught. If you’re new on the job or naturally introverted, you might also be reluctant to interrupt, or inclined to reflect longer on the ideas that occur to you, wanting to be sure that what you say will genuinely add value to the conversation.
As a consequence, however, your insights may go unshared and your potential remain unrecognized by decision-makers. Meanwhile, others who feel empowered to weigh in – even when their contributions offer little new – end up getting tapped for plum assignments or promotions.
At one of our recent Communicating with Confidence workshops, we discussed how to overcome these and other barriers to being heard – obstacles often flagged by women working either in environments dominated by male colleagues, or in positions that are seen as servicing (versus central to) the core business of the organization.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
Even if you’re the one chairing the get together, it’s possible to get derailed. Suppose you’ve actually called a meeting for which you’ve developed a carefully thought-out agenda and some concrete goals. You’re clear about the input or decisions you need to extract by the end of the allotted 45 minutes. But the interventions of a strong-willed colleague hijack the meeting, eliciting a spirited debate about a side issue that proves to be more engaging to colleagues than your topic.
You might consider trying one or both of the following:
Finally, to overcome the scenario depicted in the Miss Triggs cartoon above, you might also:
Despite the fact that all organizations have a vested interest in drawing on the strengths and contributions of every team member, it’s easy for long-established processes or unconscious practices to get in the way of facilitating that. So keep in mind that you looking for ways to be heard has a much bigger purpose than simply reminding people of your value; it’s likely to help to pave the way for other marginalized voices to be heard, too, and that’s bound to make a positive difference to your organization.