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Speak Up: Start by Asking a Question in Meetings

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By Guest Author Ora Shtull, Executive Coach

Women like to talk. Big time. We gab, we share feelings, we tell stories. In fact, some studies show we talk more then men.

So why is it that when we sit at the meeting table at a law firm, a corporation-or even a law school class-we go mute. We’re often at a loss for what we should talk about, when to talk, and how to talk so people will listen. You need to speak up to succeed.

I was intrigued to see this very problem addressed in a recent Ms. JD essay by Masooma Javaid, a rising 3L at George Mason Law School, who found herself in a law class that was sixty percent male. “I spent my first semester listening quietly to them. I failed to speak up. I still cannot explain why I never said anything…” she writes.

I have encountered this problem again and again as an Executive Coach, who has worked with female executives at Fortune 100 companies for over 15 years. It’s one of the reasons that I am incredibly passionate about helping women enhance their Leadership Presence and take the ride to the top.

As a coach, I help leaders communicate with more impact, more oomph. If your goal is advancement, you need to get cozy and comfortable with contributing more vocally. Here’s just one suggestion from my book, The Glass Elevator: A Guide to Leadership Presence for Women on the Rise. And it’s simple. Make a point of contributing once during every meeting (or class) you attend.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to say anything brilliant. If you are at a total loss for what you might contribute-or even if you’re not-ask at least one question. That’s right, simply ask a question. Your question should be a reflection of genuine interest that results from mindful listening. Here are some examples.

– to get a handle on the situation
– to get at the root of the problem
– about the impact of the problem
– about possible solutions
– about the potential pay-off for the various solutions

You get the idea. You’ve just learned one way to communicate with oomph.
How easy was that?

Ora Shtull is an Executive Coach who has worked with high-potential leaders at Fortune 100 companies for over 15 years. After discovering a direct correlation between nine leadership presence skills and workplace success, she became dedicated to helping women master these skills so that they soar professionally. She is the author of The Glass Elevator, A Guide to Leadership Presence for Women on the Rise. Ora lives with her family in New York City. To learn more about Ora:

Photo Courtesy of Georgia State University


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