The room started to buzz as everyone hopped in and eventually my client said she had something she wanted to shed in the room. She shared how the week before she was in an executive meeting with her 11 peers, all of whom happen to be men. It was her turn to present on the health of the company and as the Chief Revenue Officer this update was her responsibility. She said that every part of the business is healthy, except one, and that is owned by a man who she knows has worked double time trying to turn his numbers around, yet the downturn in the economy was not kind to his efforts. While she tried to present the opportunities coming up that he could harness, the echo in the room began to sound like a chant to get rid of this man. My client tearfully explained how in that moment she no longer felt like she owned her voice. She didn’t pushback on these men. Instead, she caved and committed to letting the man go.
The meeting with the man did not go well as she didn’t believe he deserved to be let go and he saw right through her. Nonetheless, she continued with her position, the one her peers insisted she take. After a night of no sleep, my client went to the CEO and asked for help walking back her decision. Thankfully, he listened to her voice, although it was hoarse and shaky, and helped her find the words to undo her decision. Although she then had the conversation with the man to let him know he would be staying, she admitted that her initial conversation significantly eroded the trust that he had in her.
After my client shared, I asked her what she thought led to her not being able to exercise her voice in the meeting. She explained that the initial comment made by one of her peers sounded personal and she wanted to be sure she didn’t look like she was trying to save him for personal reasons. Instead, she wanted it to be because it was the right business decision. Every time she tried to point to a business reason, she felt like the room was tearing her down and, eventually, they did just that. My client admitted that her leadership focuses on people first, while her colleagues lead with command and control. Her business reasons often have people intertwined in them as she can’t separate them from her decisions.
Before we moved on from this discussion, my client asked if the group could help her brainstorm how to prevent this from happening again. This list is a result of that brainstorming session.
Believe in yourself
First and foremost, it’s essential to believe in yourself and your abilities. Recognize that you have valuable insights, perspectives, and expertise to contribute to any conversation. Don’t let imposter syndrome or self-doubt hold you back from speaking up and making your voice heard. If you ever feel like you are doubting yourself, put the decision on pause and call a close friend who can help you get back to believing in yourself.
One way to boost your confidence and feel more comfortable speaking up in a room of men is to prepare thoroughly. Do your research, practice your presentation or talking points, and anticipate potential questions or objections. The more prepared you are, the more confident and authoritative you’ll appear.
Speak with conviction
When you do speak up, speak with conviction and authority. Use strong, clear language and avoid hedging or apologizing for your opinions. Be respectful and firm in communicating your ideas and perspectives.
It can be helpful to build alliances with others in the room who support your ideas and can amplify your voice. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others and build relationships based on shared values and goals.
Don't be afraid to disagree
Finally, don’t be afraid to disagree with others in the room, even if they’re more senior or experienced than you. Challenging assumptions and pushing back on ideas can be a powerful way to drive innovation and progress. Just make sure to do so respectfully and constructively.
Work with me
Not too long ago, I, too, struggled to keep control of my voice amidst my peers who didn’t share the same leadership values I had. This is why I love the work I do, pulling together women who are working together to help each other own their voices. If you wish you had this support, click here and schedule a time for us to talk. You don’t have to go it alone anymore.