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Client – “I find it difficult to speak in front of senior stakeholders”
Me – “Tell me more”
Client – “When I speak with my team members, I have no issues at all. I am totally comfortable expressing myself"
Client - "But I am not confident when I go in front of senior leaders”
Me – “And how does this impact you ?”
Client - "I think I am missing out on opportunities. But more than that, I do not feel good about myself”
That is a brief from a recent conversation from one of my coaching calls
My client is a senior leader in a tech company. She has been a high performer all throughout
A very confident and charismatic leader
Her biggest challenge today – speaking in front of senior audience
She is very hesitant to present her ideas or her point of view in front of her leadership team, even though she knows that she has great ideas or her point of view is right
In many cases, someone else ends up presenting the same point and gets the attention
And when that happens, she will come back from such meetings with a sense of frustration and literally beat herself down for not having spoken up
“Why did I not speak up?”
And now, she was feeling that this is impacting her a lot – missed opportunities to mark her presence and create visibility in senior meetings
This is not uncommon....
I have seen this issue with leaders across the board – even seasoned CXOs feel lack of confidence when speaking in front of the board or executive committees
Why does this happen ?
Why do you feel hesitant and less confident when you have to speak in front of senior stakeholders ?
There are 3 main reasons :
First, lack of preparation and practice
At first, this may seem so common sense and intuitive, but believe me, many leaders do not prepare and practice well enough for important meeting
..Sometimes, you may not have enough context of the meeting
..You may not be very clear about your own role in the meeting
..You may not be sure of what outcome you want from the stakeholders
..You may not have spent time to study what was discussed in the previous meeting and what were the follow-ups
..You may not have studied the audience
And you may not have practiced what you will actually speak and within what time frame
Many of the business and political speeches which you see in media are actually well rehearsed before they are actually delivered
When it comes to communication, there is absolutely no substitute for preparation and practice
But on the face of it, this is something you can easily work on, right ?
So we come to the second reason
Comparing yourself with others
When you go for a senior meeting, obviously people in the room might have more experience and knowledge than you
But that does not in any way make you less a person
That does not take away the fact that your opinion could be different and unique than others
On that day, on that topic, you may still be the expert
Treat everyone in the room as peers
No one can think the way you think
Finally, in many cases, while you might have prepared and practiced well, but you still do not speak up
That brings me to the third and probably the most critical reason….
Your own fear
“What will people think about me ?”
“What if I am wrong ?”
“What if I get questioned ?”
“What if my idea is not good enough ?”
You are afraid of the impression you might leave and the subsequent consequences
But if you dig deeper, you will find that this fear is actually stemming from your self-doubts and your belief about your own self
And that is the biggest issue….
You own beliefs
“I am not as experienced as others in the room”
“I do not have enough knowledge”
“I am not senior enough”
“I have no right to speak”
“I do not have the ability to respond to questions”
“My idea is not worth presenting”
“Who am I to speak in front of such a senior audience?”
“My opinion does not count”
“Maybe this is not the right time, I will speak in the next meeting”
“If I speak up, it will ruffle a few feathers, so better not to speak”
And if you take a step back really reflect on it, you will realize that your inability to speak in front of senior audience has in most cases nothing to do with them or the context
It is all about what you believe about yourself
That is what pulls you down and holds you back from showing up powerfully in these meetings
And in almost all cases, these are just your beliefs, not the gospel truth
Speaking up is not just about visibility and new opportunities
It is about how you show up as a leader - confident, courageous and decisive
It is about standing up for what you believe in
Sometimes, what you have to say could make a huge impact on the business strategy and subsequent decisions
Your voice and opinion is important. It matters
So here is what I want you to reflect upon if you are a facing similar challenge :
1) What stops you from speaking in front of senior stakeholders ? What is the fear you have ?
Complete this sentence : “If I speak up, I fear that_______”
2) Now take it a bit deeper. Ask yourself this question – “What is the belief I have about myself ?”
Complete this sentence “I believe that_________”
You can use the list provided in the email as reference
Once you have this discovery, then you can examine the belief further to see if there is any truth into it or not
With this level of awareness, the other things are relatively easy to work upon
3) So before going for key meetings, ask yourself these questions :
a) Have I researched, prepared and practiced my speaking points well enough ?
b) Am I familiar with the audience of the meeting ?
c) Have I anticipated potential questions from the audience and have I prepared a response for them ?
d) If I am asked a question for which I do not have a response, who will I actually respond ?
e) What is the outcome I am looking for from this meeting ?
Hope this helps in some way
I would be interested to know what came up for you as you read and reflected on this email
And if you are struggling in this area and need some support, drop me a note !