Be Bold, Not Abrasive

I don’t talk a lot about my job on this blog. I realized this as I started writing this post I should do more. I call myself an Alpha Female after all due to juggling a full-time career & being a fitness personality. I’m really blessed at my job at Kobo. I still call it a dream marketing job two years later as much as I did when I landed it. I’m blessed in my second year at this company to be supported in leadership skill development and wanted to share my review of a course I recently took to develop personality presentation & communication skills.

When searching the world wide web for a course that could help my leadership skills I found the Women of Influence: Be Bold, Not Abrasive, Advancement Centre course. I have been told on more than one performance review that I can be blunt, straightforward or direct at times. I’ve learned to soften my tone after being let go from a former ad agency job in 2011. I wrote a blog post (Why Being Let Go Can Be Good For Your Career) that you can read if you’re curious. I’ve made leaps and bounds since then but I believe communication style & presence is something you can always improve upon and want to continuously become better so I signed up ready to learn.

I headed off to the Spoke Club last week for a full day of learning, armed with old-school pen and paper.

Be Bold Not Abrasive

Here is the online description of the course:

In our recent study, Solutions to Women’s Advancement, self-initiation was exhibited by top-performing women although many still say they feel apprehensive and uncomfortable when promoting themselves. Women often cling to the outdated assumption that their accomplishments will speak for themselves, not realizing the importance of using self-promotion to communicate achievements.

Our research also identified that failing to “make bold requests” can be an additional pitfall for women. To men, bold requests are a no-brainer, whereas women can get concerned with assessing their own abilities and readiness. “Be Bold, Not Abrasive” engages in how you can create a presence that is both confident and humble, a skill crucial for executives at all levels.

Recent trends indicate that executive women are increasingly being able to navigate the system with their authenticity intact. A top-performing executive explained, “I’ve learned by watching how men self-promote and behave in negotiations, and I grew to understand how my mindset was unconsciously influencing my own actions and being misinterpreted by my male colleagues and clients.” When women lack these self-promotional and negotiation skills it hurts individual female executives, the presence of women in senior positions, and organizational effectiveness. In this highly experiential course, executive communications coach, Shoana Prasad, guides participants through a process to help them define their executive presence, articulate their greatest achievements, find comfort in delivering their value proposition and make bold requests.

The course provides:

  • A discussion of common communication pitfalls women experience
  • Identification of the personal communication habits that may undermine your executive presence
  • Steps to aid in negotiating with confidence
  • Assistance in defining your current executive presence and how you want to be perceived
  • Development of key messages to sell yourself
  • Communication strategies & techniques to help manage your executive presence
  • On-camera & hands-on coaching to help you bring your executive presence to life through your visual, vocal and verbal communications

So here is how the day went. I arrived and we introduced ourselves around to the other women at the table. We were 8 in total including the Women of Influence intern. We also had to introduce ourselves in a roundtable format and let the instructor/executive coach know what we hoped to get out of the course. I’m afraid I may have stereotyped myself too soon into the course by announcing I was “abrasive” and wanted to learn to tone my sharpness down vs allowing the women at the table and instructor to make their own judgements during vocal exercises. I know that I speak very quickly at times and can sound staccato in nature. I’m usually very succinct with my thoughts and how I communicate them in meetings to ensure the efficiency of time and based on previous performance reviews I’ve painted myself into a corner. Looking back on the day I believe I should have not announced my executive style and used the on-camera & hands-on coaching to evaluate me as is versus how I think others see me.

During the course we learned about different communication pitfalls women have like offering ideas as questions, apologizing for no reason and tilting their heads to show that they are listening. We also reviewed different body language habits in meetings or presentations. Some women tend to break their wrists when speaking and our instructor coached us on strong wrists but speaking with palms open vs. fists. Some women cross their ankles when presenting to feel safe and blocked off but we were coached and it was reaffirmed to me why I stand with feet shoulders width apart. Women tend to nod or head tilt when listening while men apparently only nod when in agreement. Watch the next time you’re in a co-ed boardroom and see if you notice this tactic amongst either gender. I can’t wait to try some body language techniques in person. So if you’re a coworker reading this and see me presenting with open palms in the future I’m trying to get you to be open to my ideas 🙂

Overall here are my personal takeaways for the day:

1. I tend to air on the more masculine communication pitfalls and may need to learn how to be a bit more soft depending on the audience. I use a very strong tone and can definitely learn to read an audience and know when to soften it a little bit. But only a little because I like my presence at the boardroom table.

2. Talking with open hands when expressing an idea opens the speaker up to your thoughts. It comes across as more open vs. closed. I definitely like this idea.

3. Ask for feedback with a statement vs. a question. Example: Old way of doing things – Can I get your feedback on my presentation? vs. New way of doing things – I’m interested to hear your feedback on the presentation I left on your desk.

My constructive feedback for the course:

I’m a bit upset we didn’t cover everything in the course description. We missed aid in negotiating with confidence, communication strategies and techniques to manage your executive presence that I didn’t notice in the course description until I revisited it for this blog post.

I learned a great deal and definitely got a few takeaways that I can now implement in the office and with my personal work brand. As part of the hands-on coaching, we presented our key messages or a purpose communication tactic. Although it was lovely to spend time watching the Women of Influence intern practice her on-camera key messages, as a paying attendee I would’ve rather have covered more material and helped the intern out after the actual time of the course. I definitely didn’t feel comfortable enough speaking up in the room at the time as the intern was the sweetest thing and it really was nice to see her succeed.

Finally when I spoke on camera to deliver my communication tactic of “this is my purpose” and “here is how we will get there” I was coached with two speech tactics to soften my tone that I didn’t find helpful at all. Our coach asked me to try whispering to tone my voice down and also asked me to try stringing my words together which just caused me to get a higher tone and add an uptone to my words. Back to the drawing board… maybe I need a speech coach.

The spark of curiosity in body language  & speech patterns has definitely is definitely there and I can’t wait to continue to learn more.

One thought on “Be Bold, Not Abrasive

  1. Hi Robyn –

    Thanks for your commentary on the Women of Influence Be Bold, Not Abrasive course. I’m glad you were able to walk away with some new learnings. I’m sorry the course didn’t meet all of your needs.

    These such courses and any personal learning development is a works in progress – an evolution. The more we stay open and accountable for our commutations and how they may perceived by others, the more productive, happy and financially viable our workplaces will be.

    Best –
    Shoana Prasad

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