As a woman, are you making yourself known in a professional, positive manner and leaving an imprint? Are you aware of the non-verbal, verbal, interactive, and communicative cues that you are giving that could be undermining you? Do you know how to navigate common and awkward workplace situations with credibility, clarity and confidence, so that you're seen as a leader in the organization? These are the questions asked by Laura Katen, President of KATEN CONSULTING, a NY-based professional development training company.
KATEN CONSULTING conducts group programs and coaching sessions for various organizations on the topics of professional presence, individual and team presentations, communication, and business & social etiquette.
Her book "How to Communicate with Confidence, Clarity, and Credibility: For Organizational and Individual Success!" is the perfect companion to what KATEN CONSULTING teaches.
Since Laura offers help to anyone who seeks to be more successful in business and in life, we asked her specifically about being a woman in the workplace. How actions, non-actions, misconceptions and perception impact success.
Q: What are the three biggest mistakes you find women make when trying to communicate effectively?
A: Number one: closed body language. Often times, women undermine themselves by making themselves look "little" through their posture and mannerisms as opposed to exuding confident postures and gestures. This directly impacts their level of credibility.
Number two: women, in general, often don't smile enough or laugh and smile too much. Both affect the level of comfort and substantiveness with which women are viewed. By "smeyesing" (making sincere eye contact and smiling) women exude an approachability and connectivity.
The third biggest faux pas, when it comes to body language, is the handshake. Often times, for a myriad of reasons, women tend to give a weaker handshake than what is professionally expected and universally desired. Without opening their mouths, they have immediately undermined their capability, leadership quality, confidence, and credibility.
Q: What have you seen to be some of the benefits when women take on these tips?
A: Once women increase awareness to not making these faux pas, it has exponential impact. There is a certain substantiveness with how women start to carry themselves. This affects how they speak, how they interact with others, whether they initiate versus follow etc. When women exude a professional presence through their appearance and body, voice and words, and know some of the quick tips and strategies for exuding substantive credibility, doors open and influence-power is created.
Q: What would be something specifically in their careers?
A: Often, I find that some top workplace concerns for women include not knowing how to say 'no,' when to speak up and interject when attending a meeting, and how to stop somebody from interrupting them. Often women have been conditioned to be caregivers and nurturers and not go-getters. So when you can, create a foundation internally, whether it's a change of mentality, a change of body posture, a change of vocal intonation, or simply the words you use. When you change those qualities, you're strengthening those parts of you that lie within. Your mentality changes to become more confident and say, "Yes, I can ask for this. I can pursue this. I do know how to navigate that."
Q: What would you say is a good way to say 'no'?
A: Whenever you say 'no,' or anything that could be perceived as negative, you want to: first, acknowledge and validate. If your manager asks you to take on another project...thank him/her for thinking about you and feeling that your expertise or your ability falls inline with what they need. Second, when at all possible avoid the dead-end 'no' - instead offer options. You might respond with "the timeline that you're looking towards achieving is not going to work with the other projects you have me working on. Can I delegate aspects of it?" Or you might ask "Is this project a priority for you because there are a few other agenda items you've given me and I want to make sure to give my focus to what's most important to you. Is it a priority project, and if so, which tasks can I put aside for a later date?"
If it's just something that you don't want to do - like move from New York to the San Francisco office, then share how much you appreciate the offer. Explain that the it's not the right timing for you personally. Saying 'no' always depends on the type of request and your comfort-level around it.
These 4 questions are just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to what Laura and her team teach and the impact her programs can have, and have had, on a multitude of organizations and individuals. If you would like to reach Laura, please visit the 'Contact Us' page on the KATEN CONSULTING website www.katenconsulting.com
Kirsi Bhasin is the founder of My Orange Villa, a company whose mission is to provide a highly focused way to help busy professionals overcome exhaustion and fatigue and be happier and healthier. Kirsi has been featured in TIME's MONEY Magazine and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. Kirsi is an expert member of Dr. Oz's Sharecare community of top-ranking health experts and has worked with leading companies both in the U.S. and abroad.