Category Archives: How To Be Assertive

Just go to bed.

 Decide what works for you and then, politely go.

Have you ever said “Yes OK” when you know you mean “No way”? Well, I know I have and now, I rarely do.

Listening to a group of experienced, professional and successful women recently, the discussion was around how to go off to bed, go off and exercise, go off and be quiet, go off and sleep when you want to when you’re away on business. If you’re out either socialising or out at a work-related engagement, the question was how to manage your time and energy with other people pulling you in a direction and telling you what you ‘should’ do.

If this sounds familiar to you well firstly, you’re not alone and secondly you owe it to yourself and your precious life energy to learn how to decide what works best for you and then politely, assertively tell others that’s what’s happening. Not apologising or squirming in any way. Just assertively put a boundary around the time you need using your energy and a few key words.

You may be someone who is always up for one more drink, one more conversation, another game of cards, one more – whatever. That’s great and I really admire it, on one level. I find though, I get to a stage, especially when I’m travelling away from home, when I need to go off. Enough is enough and I’m ready for bed, for a rest, for a swim, to make a call, to be quiet.

I’m sure you know what I mean and then there’s the pull from others.

  • “Oh come on, stay and have another X” or
  • “Don’t be a party pooper, let’s go and have a Y” or – worse –
  • “Oh you’re so boring, we’re just getting going and you’ll miss all the fun”

Well, I know and use a few choice words, an energetic stance and then you can quietly – and assertively – go. I do.

Try these on for size if you imagine being at a conference, an event, a party and you’re told you must stay when you know it’s time to go:

  • “Thank you so much Amanda, I know you’ll have a brilliant time and I’m off to my bed so I can be on the ball in the morning. Have a great time” as you start to move, hold your hand out, smile and then, literally go.
  • “You have a drink for me Amanda and I’m going to go for a swim now so I can enjoy dinner together this evening. See you at the bar at 7pm” as you pack up your things, stand up and start to head away intentionally.
  • “I’d love to and thanks for asking me Amanda – I’m going to make a few calls first and then I may join you later” as you smile and move without apologising or feeling awkward.

What’s interesting in moments like these is how much better you feel being firm about what you want or need and not being told what you’ll do. You’ll also often find others wish they’d said the same thing as you but felt compelled to go along instead.

As a professional woman who knows building relationships is a key part of your success, you also need to know what you need. If it’s peace, space, rest, sleep then, it’s yours for the taking.

Going the extra mile when all you want it quiet is self-defeating and sometimes, as Walt Disney said “you have to leave them wanting more”.

Do you show them what you’re made of?

Remember your brilliance so others can reward you for it.

If you’ve ever heard yourself say any of the following, it gives us a sign you’ve forgotten some of the things that you’re really good at or you’ve forgotten some of the key pieces of your career and life journey.

If you ever think these things and then you don’t speak, you’ll know you’re undervaluing yourself or being undervalued or underselling yourself.

  • “I want to be taken more seriously”
  • “I’m often treated like a secretary rather than a director”
  • “I end up undercutting myself – I give people a price for my services or the salary I want and then I undercut myself and backtrack or apologise”

Are you able to hear one or more things you’ve either said or thought in there? I can promise you I’ve heard these phrases so many times in different formats, in different ways and places. I know just like I’m sure you do, that it’s because that person saying those things doesn’t own or express the value, the importance, the difference that their work makes. So, by definition, other people don’t appreciate it, feel how they value it or how valuable it is. how they think about it. It also tells me that they don’t recognise it for themselves. And by definition, they don’t recognise or ‘market’ their worth. Aha.

Now, I never really like to think about marketing myself but, let’s be honest – you do need to be offering yourself and putting yourself forward in the workplace. Showing people what you’re about. So, try this.

If you want to think about it in a marketing sense, think about a four-bedroom house an estate agent is selling and one of the bedrooms is being used as a study. If you’re going to try sell the house, you have to turn that study-style bedroom into a bedroom again because people will look at your house and value it as a three-bedroom house with a study rather than what it is that you’re truly offering which is a four-bedroom house.

They kind of know it on one level, but one of the bedrooms is a study and they’re not seeing it as a four-bedroom house. They have to see it. And an estate agent said to me, “Never underestimate how people need to be shown that fourth bedroom rather than have to imagine it or be told about it.”

It’s the same with you and me.

Never underestimate or assume people get how special and valuable what you do really is. They have to see it or experience it or have it shown to them. Clearly. Don’t assume they can see it for you. They rarely can.

Show them what you’re made of. You owe it to yourself. Why wouldn’t you maximise the opportunities which are so close sometimes you don’t see them? If you help others see your value, they help guide you towards the opportunities too.

My ex-colleague James saw my gifts more clearly than I did and guided me on to the path to where I am now. He asked if I’d heard of coaching back in 2005 when it was virtually unheard of here in the UK. He said I’d always been approachable, smart-thinking, curious and able to connect with people quickly. He guided me to take that first step to what I’m doing now. Pay attention to what people see for you. It’s often pure gold!

Watch Your Pace When Speaking

It affects IF or HOW people listen to you.

Pace, what do I mean by that?

Being used to hosting webinars, tele seminars and Live Events, so much is about your rate and your speed of delivery. So many clients of mine race through their content, their ideas, their input and, the truth is, a lot of the time they’ll be tuned out by those who they need to listen to them most.

People lose interests, they can’t process the information quickly enough so lose your thread, they aren’t given enough time or interest to stay tuned in. It makes a big difference to if or how people listen to you if you take the time – choose to take the time – to vary your pace. Your speed. Your way of delivery.

Now when I’m speaking on stage, on group client calls, I’m very conscious of pacing myself, and in pace also comes your speed of response. Your speed of speaking, your speed of action, and deciding on a non-action. Just as well as how and if you decide to speak or respond.

Here are 5 quick and dirty scenarios and tips to help you pace yourself day-to-day both at work and at home:

  1. When you’re asked a question, wherever you are, take a moment. Draw breath. Don’t just respond as if you’ve had a tennis ball fired at you. Choose what you’ll say. Buy time with “hmm, that’s a great question, in my opinion …” or “tell me more about what you want to know”. Pacing the other person at the same time. Aha!
  2. When you’re telling a story, wherever you are. Pause, speed up with detail and then slow down with the point, the lesson. It adds impact and it gives you a chance to catch up with yourself.
  3. When you’re on a conference call. Know the organiser’s name and use it as you jump in. “John, that’s a great point” not just “err can I just say something?”. Even better, “Hi there John, this is Kay White from London, this is how I think we should go” etc.
  4. From the stage/a presentation. When you’re introduced, take a moment. 2 or 3 seconds to steady yourself, look at people, give them a sign which says, “I’ll start when I’m ready” and it’s amazing the difference it makes. An experienced musician, a pianist for example, sits, looks at the keys, moves on the seat, takes a breath, then starts. Not leaping on stage and starting straight away. The moment needs build up and the pianist knows the audience needs to settle too.
  5. When you’re running a meeting. Rather than feel you have to know everything, ask questions around the table, use people’s names to hook attention and to keep people on track “with 10 minutes left, let’s move on to X” – pacing yourself and your colleagues at the same time.

There are a myriad of other scenarios and tactics you can use. You get the idea though.

Pacing yourself, slowing it down, positioning and settling yourself before you dive in with your thoughts is strategic. It gets and keeps attention and it helps you be more present to what’s actually happening. Now that really is strategic.

Gratitude: 2 Small Words Change Everything

The lessons are everywhere. Just notice.

It’s such a small thing to say ‘thank you’ and these two small words cost you absolutely nothing and yet make a huge difference to if and how people remember you – and respond to you. Thanking people is often the difference that makes the difference as to whether people do what you want, get back to you, take on your opinion and it certainly affects the actual way they do what you ask them to.

To be noticed and remembered for the right reasons, we need to make people feel appreciated. An easy, effective and natural way to make people feel you appreciate them is simply to look for more ways to say ‘Thank You’ to them and to say it more. It’s so simple and it works in so many ways.

Once we start to look for how and where we can be more grateful, more appreciative of what people do and are doing, not just for us but around us, you’ll discover loads more opportunities to say ‘thank you’.

  • ‘Thank you for your help’
  • ‘Thank you for letting me know’
  • ‘Thank you for thinking of me’
  • ‘Thanks in advance for doing that by Friday…’

Telling people you know they’ll do something and thanking them before they’ve done it, that’s where commitment and consistency, those powerful influencers, live.

‘Thank you’ also helps even if you don’t like what you’re being told. Try saying “ah, thanks for letting me know” or “hmm, thanks for telling me that, now what about etc.” If you say ‘thank you’ first, it means that the first thing you say isn’t negative and crucially, it buys you some precious time to decide what you do want to say.

Defined in the dictionary as ‘a polite expression used when acknowledging a gift, service or compliment or when accepting or refusing an offer’, saying ‘thank you’ for something you don’t want or don’t want to do is a really key piece in learning how to say ‘no’ without upsetting people. “Thank you for the opportunity and…”

There’s a great knock-on effect from saying ‘Thank You’ more of course. It makes you feel better too. It’s that whole ‘attitude of gratitude’ and it truly works. Simple.

So many people mutter to themselves ‘Well, they’re just doing their job’ ie why should I say ‘thank you?’ or tell me ‘I was so pleased with how they did that’ and yet when I ask the person ‘did you tell them you’re pleased?’ they invariably say the person was either doing what they were supposed to or they just assumed the person knew they were pleased. Uh oh.

A client told me recently that, as a service provider, when a customer phones her and says ‘thank you’ after she’s sorted things out for them, they immediately get better service from her next time they need her help.

As she then said ‘everyone likes to be appreciated, we’ve all got a lot going on’ and as William Arthur Ward, the famous American poet said ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’

There you go, simple and easy. Thank you Amanda and I have a TON of Thank You notes to write after all the support, input, guidance and inspiration I’ve received recently!

Ownership – You Must OWN Your Skills & Experience

‘Career progression often depends on taking risks and advocating for oneself – traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.’ ~ Sheryl Sandberg

Taking ownership and acknowledging your own part in results is crucial to your visibility, confidence and others’ confidence in you. Along the lines of receiving rewards and putting yourself forward for financial recognition, taking ownership and staking your claim to results is key to your own personal expansion.

Women tend to be very generous to everyone else when talking about and demonstrating the results and levels of success in their team. “The team were amazing on the ABC Project and their commitment to get the job done never waivered” or “Bob really stepped up and made it happen.” Yet, if someone actually tries to acknowledge a woman as the successful contributor, she often brushes it off or accredits the success to someone or something else – a boss, a colleague, team, market conditions, timing or luck.

Do you do this? If so, it is so unfair on you. It is part of our expansion to allow our own success to shine through. You don’t have to be a selfish show-off. Let’s be honest, we all know one or two of those who takes credit for themselves.

However, we can include our input into the feedback, updates and lessons about work we’re involved in without being a show-off. In Principle 3 of my new book ‘It’s Always Your Move’, I’m going to give you structures to be able to say things in a way that is both comfortable and allows your part to shine. For now, just think about how comfortable you are with owning your own success, input and contribution.

I believe a factor which comes into play in owning your own success is the natural tendency women have for collaboration and collaborative relationships. It’s primal, and I love that we’re like this. However, for the purposes of your own career success, you need to be able to toot your own horn without blowing your own trumpet. If you don’t, others will question your ability to operate on your own instincts, produce results and own your skills, experience and wisdom. We want you to be brilliant – not shy away but to show us what you’re capable of doing. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being real. Sometimes the best lessons are when things ‘hit the fan’ …

It can sound like this: “Yes, Project ABC was tough. One of my biggest lessons when we hit a wall on the budgets was to go back to the drawing board. I pulled in a few favours from the finance team to check all our numbers and spending levels and then made the decision to reduce the amount of overtime authorised. It focussed our minds and I’m proud that we brought the project in under budget. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to constantly check the numbers rather than let the excitement of the project run away with us.” See what I mean. You’re showing up without showing off.

Of course, the paragraph above is fictitious, but you can sense there’s a level of me and us in there which is comfortable, informative and truthful as far as how you own your part in the success and outcome of something. There’s a level of risk, naturally, of putting yourself squarely in the frame. But I believe the risk is far greater by undervaluing or underplaying your part in things. Your sense of yourself and how rooted you feel in your experience comes from acknowledging you actually have the experience. A lot of it, in fact.

(Extracted from Principle 1 – Embrace Your Expansion from my forthcoming book ‘It’s Always Your Move’ Purposeful Progress for Corporate Career Women, featuring The 8 Principles of Your Career Success CycleTM available from 4th October 2018)

Go On, Prove It.

‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.’
~ A. A. Milne in ‘Winnie The Pooh’

You know how it is when someone asks you to talk about recent successes and you stare back at them blankly? Or when you’re coming up to your crucial personal review time and you’re scrambling to remember what’s happened over the year? Or what about when – yikes – you finally decide it’s time to update or actually create your CV or resume? Do you stare at your screen wondering what you’ve been involved in or made happen in your current role and previous roles?

A game-changing switch you can make is to track proof of your experience, skills, successes and lessons when you’re looking at your career in the long-term and not just for the job you have now. Proof gives you an invisible cloak of confidence. That means keeping a log of what you’re doing and how you are making things happen. It is immediately reassuring and inspiring to be able to tap into the evidence quickly.

Too often we are being Betty Boo and busy ‘doing-the-do’. We forget to track our progress, the developments and the feedback we receive. As a business owner myself, one of the most reassuring things I can do when I’m feeling either stuck or questioning what I’m planning is to go to my Success Swipe File. This is a place where I put feedback I’ve received, notes from clients, Facebook posts and other success stories. It contains hundreds of stories, things I’ve created, tried, taught, shared, started, stopped and learned from.

My new book ‘It’s Always Your Move’ has been written based on just some of what’s in my own Success Swipe File. How else could I share with your how these ideas and inspirations work if I hadn’t tested them and had the feedback of women just like you to reassure us both that it all works?

So, my suggestion is to create your version of a Success Swipe File and track dates you started things, developments, who said what, email blurbs when someone thanks you or gives you feedback about what’s happened; and where you’ve got evidence of income generated or saved, percentages of growth, savings, market share and the like.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect science, but it does need to be continually updated. What this does is frees you to know that when the day comes, you can draw upon evidence – hard proof if you will – that will enable you to discuss developments, rewards and opportunities from a place of confidence and certainty. Who knows when your next interview or appraisal may be right in front of you?

You won’t need loads of notice because you will be able to quote what people said and clients’ successes as a result of your work and industry developments that your work feeds into. All these and more will be immediately accessible. More than anything, your confidence and certainty will be far deeper as you approach appraisals and interviews, reviews and opportunities because you understand the extent of what you do and – crucially – what it’s done.

(Extracted from Principle 1 – Embrace Your Expansion from my forthcoming book ‘It’s Always Your Move’ Purposeful Progress for Corporate Career Women, featuring The 8 Principles of Your Career Success CycleTM)

 

Worthiness – Your Sense of Being Enough

“You are enough.” ~ The Universe

This is one of those words, worthy, which can set your teeth jangling.

Am I worthy of this? Who am I to be worthy or deserving of doing this or of having this? It’s a self-reflection moment and a decision that you make for you all about you. Being enough. Smart enough, experienced enough, clever enough, fun enough, kind enough and so it goes.

Worthiness is a tricky one to measure because it’s often a sense you have and no one sits you down and tells you – and even if they do, you don’t believe them. If you say to yourself “I don’t deserve this” or “people will think I’m too big for my boots if…” then this is where your worthiness muscle needs exercising, strengthening.

At the root of worthiness is how comfortable and how deserving you feel for what you attract and make happen in your life, good or not so good. To understand your own sense of worthiness and deserving is to be able to ask yourself “Who, if not me?” and “If not me, why someone else?”

You’ll often find there isn’t anyone else you know who should be doing or contributing or handling what you are, it’s just you need to get used to the feeling. The sense of it. The sense of you being enough, more than enough, to handle it. Imperfections and all.

You are already enough. Now, decide to believe it and act on it. That’s where the magic is!

Extracted from Principle 1 ”Your Expansion” from my new book.

Release date: 4th October 2018

How To Be A Good Leaver

Be grateful (and don’t burn your bridges)

“Don’t burn bridges. The person you throw under the bus today could be driving it tomorrow.” ~ Glenn Shepard

Whatever your reason for moving on, there’s always something to be grateful and gracious about. Even if you’re leaving because you can’t stand another moment longer with your team or doing what you’re doing, you can still be objective as you leave. You will have learned so many lessons and been exposed to all sorts of people and experiences which will have taught you something – even if it’s that you never want to do that again.

In my own corporate role, I lost track of how many people left to go to the competition, full of anticipation for the new and, at times, sarcasm of the old. Then, the situation changed. The company you leave buys or merges with the company you went to. The boss you left to get away from joins the company you joined. The team you didn’t want to work with any more are brought into your company. Like magic, here you are again. I’ve seen all these things happen and remember how uncomfortable they were for those who burnt their bridges.

My suggestion is to do your absolute best to look for the positives in what you’ve experienced where you are and to seek to be objective as you leave. Prepare a few notes to take to discussions you might have to keep you as positive and clear as you can be.

When you’re talking about what you’re going to do and why, remember you never know where you’ll meet again and when or if you’ll need the connection again. That’s strategic as well as energetically strong and you want to be a ‘good leaver’ as you set off.

Who knows when, and where, you’ll meet again?

Extracted from Principle 7 ”Move On With Grace, Style & Gratitude” from my new book.

Release date: 4th October 2018

What’s your “unfair” advantage (and do you even know about it)?

Working with career women keen to raise their visibility and influence at work, this is one of the first places I start with them. “Let’s find your unfair advantage or your Secret Sauce” I say. I start with this question.

“What is it about you or what has happened in your life that you’ve struggled with?” The reason I ask this question is that it’s often exactly these sorts of things that actually make us who we are and – if we recognise them – become an “unfair” advantage to us.

When I asked myself question, I knew what my “unfair” advantage is.

Being 6ft tall since I was 14. Growing up I was often teased and asked “what’s the weather like up there Lurch?” and “is there enough oxygen up there for you?” oh, and one of the best ones can still be “Ooooh, aren’t you tall?” – I’d often (and still do) say “oh, thank you for telling me, I hadn’t noticed!” In my teens, I used to get to parties and immediately take my shoes off saying my feet hurt. In reality, I wanted to be smaller, to blend in more.

Now I recognise being tall means I’m noticed, I’m remembered and often when growing up, was assumed to be either older or wiser (or both) than I was. My height gives me a natural presence, which, in business just as in life, helps. I had no choice; I was – and still am – 6ft and the choice was always how I deal with it – what I make it mean to me.

It could have been easy to have slouched, to have tried to hide it by wearing flat shoes all the time but actually, I really like being tall and wear high heels as and when I want to – oh, and I’m married to someone a fair bit shorter than me. So what? It’s all about your perception and how you perceive your “unfair” advantage.

I’ve asked a few other people recently, just off the cuff, what they’ve struggled with and now could be their “unfair” advantage. They’ve all been able to tell me what theirs is.

  • One friend – “Being Scottish – I’m remembered, I’m different and people like my accent”.
  • Another – “My dyslexia’s made me be so much more creative”.
  • My husband, Snowy – “My dad dying when I was so young helped me know how to look after myself and appreciate how hard my Mum worked and the value of relationships”.

Think about your “unfair” advantage. What is it that’s shaped you and how do you allow it to positively influence your life? If it doesn’t, how could it? What could you make it mean?

A great way to find out if you don’t instinctively know is to ask 3 different people who know you well. Literally ask them “what do you think is my unfair advantage” and just stop and listen to what they say.

Often they’ll all come up with the same thing, my friends all did. Others often see – and appreciate – things in us, or about us, that we don’t.

When you become clearer about this, recognising if and how you allow it to be your “secret sauce” is a BIG part of communicating who – and how – you are, everywhere, you are.

As we all know, how you put yourself across is a key part in how others connect and respond to you and what you’re noticed/known and remembered for. Instead of hiding your secret sauce, celebrate it, embrace it, own it and work it in a way which works for you. It gives you unshakeable confidence in yourself because only you really know the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learned. Only. You.

How & Why To Take A Chance on Yourself

Say “Yes” before you’re ready and then get ready…

There are so many ways to say something and every way means something different to your listener as you say it. Imagine you’re in a meeting and someone asks if anyone is able to take on a new project or put some figures together. You think to yourself, ‘I could probably do that’ but you may sit on that thought and say nothing and wait for someone else to offer or you may put yourself forward. The trick here is, if – or let’s say when – you do decide to step up and offer, it’s how you put yourself forward.

To use assertive, positive language when you’re going about your business sends a message, very clearly, to those around you that you’re someone who gets on with things and who can be trusted to do things.

A lot of people struggle with the difference between coming across as aggressive instead of assertive. Assertive is ‘self-confident, self-assured, firm’ and aggressive ‘hostile, belligerent, forceful’ and there’s a different energy about the two, of course there is.

As a savvy communicator, you’re going to be far more effective if you come across as clear, firm and self-confident as you go about your business, rather than belligerent or, almost worse, wishy-washy using indecisive language. It casts doubt.

Say ‘Yes’ before you’re ready is about trusting yourself and working out the details as you go. Not waiting until you know everything. By then, normally, someone else has jumped in and you’re still getting ready to get ready.

One of my friends used to say “When opportunity knocks, grab it by the forelock because the back of its head is bald”. Say “Yes” and work it out, get help and guidance, find out more – as you go.

So, you could offer to help on this new project in so many ways and depending on how you say it, your message lands differently:

  • I suppose I could do it’ – I suppose meaning I might be able to, if pushed. I could meaning I can, but I’m not saying I will
  • I might have some capacity to do it’ – I might doesn’t mean to say I will
  • I’ve got enough on my plate’ – unhelpful, defensive, bordering on stroppy
  • I’ll try to do it’ – I might be able to do it but I’m not really sure I’ll be able to
  • Leave it with me. I’ll do it.’ – I’m able to do it and I will do it << Yes, I’ll do it.

We all know which one of those simple phrases gives the most reassurance, gives the most credibility and which one you’d want to hear if you were asking for help. There’s a completely different energy about the last phrase – you can feel that the person saying it is capable and certain.

Being more assertive as you respond positions you with other people as someone who’s confident of their abilities, someone who can get things done, put forward for interesting projects, promotions, and then gets promoted.

Those 7 words ‘Leave it with me. I’ll do it’ will raise your game.

Hedging your bets with ‘might be able to’ will only put doubt in other people’s minds about whether you will or won’t and whether you’re capable. Someone else may get the chance and not you.

When you put yourself forward to do things you become someone who offers time, help and input, and to make it most effective for you use assertive, positive language. Leave as little doubt in people’s minds as possible.

I’ll leave that with you.