Communication Skills

Relationships have to be nourished and fed. I’m not even talking about the romantic or friendship kind – I’m talking about work and professional relationships. You can’t just expect someone to connect with you or be able to work with you if they don’t trust you – and trust can’t just happen without connection.

And you can’t speed up a connection. It takes time.

You can make sure you’re making some real connection with active listening, specifically listening for gifts in conversation.

In our classes in NYC and LA, we focus on interpersonal impromptu communication – that is, the communication that you can’t necessarily plan for. It’s the stuff that happens, the conversations and the back and forth that make so many of us so nervous…and I would hazard to say we panic because we’ve “failed” in the past. Know what failure in conversation is?

Not listening.

Truly! When you don’t listen, you can’t contribute! And when you do listen, you can add and contribute and have a fun back and forth. Without it, you’re just talking at one another.

Since active listening is something we feel that improv elevates and expands, I want to help you understand an aspect of listening that I think a lot of folks miss, and it’s called listening for gifts. A gift is any bit of information that you can pick up and use to further a conversation. For example, say I spend some time telling you about the plants I have in my house, and I mention one of my favorite plants is a monstera. The gifts in my contribution are my plants, a house, and the monstera – all details you can use to either ask questions, make comments or connect in the conversation. For example:

-You could ask questions about plants, ask for advice on a plant you have at home or talk about your favorite plant.
-You could ask about where I live, what my house looks like or talk about your own house.
-You could ask about monsteras or talk about your monstera.

By taking these bits of information, you’re picking up the gifts and connecting to what the other person is saying using this information – instead of just shooting in the dark or having superficial small talk. Of course, there are better ways than others to connect and show that you’re listening – as an example if you’re always taking a gift and moving it to your focus (centering the conversation around yourself) you’re not a very giving conversation partner. We all know that person: they are always saying “Oh I did that too!” and it feels like one very long game of “anything you can do, I could do better!”

On the flip side, if you’re constantly asking questions and throwing focus away from you and your personal life/person, then you might be holding the people you’re talking to at arm’s length, which is an issue in itself!

The middle is generally the “best” place when using gifts – you want to both have time to ask questions and get the other person talking more AND you want to add your information to further the connection with the other person.

Gifts aren’t something that you’ll immediately understand and succeed in using perfectly every time – and you shouldn’t expect to be an amazing active listener. Take time to develop these skills and as always, reflect on your progress and let us know if you need help!

I am a little strict on the YES in YES AND.

ICYMI my obsession: it’s the idea of affirmation and elevation. You’re taking someone else’s thought or idea and you’re affirming it – whether you agree with it or not – and adding information in a way that equalizes the two versus elevating one over another.

As a quick example: 

Person A: I love nachos.
Person B: Yes, you love nachos and I think burritos are better.

Easy peasy.

The other side of YES AND is the YES BUT or NO BUT. There are a whole bunch of issues that come up when you use BUT in ideation, creation, conversation – what happens when you use it in a relationship?

You Elevate Yourself
The word BUT pits two things against one another – if you’re saying BUT to another person and their opinion, you’re essentially elevating yourself and your opinion. Think about it:

Person A: I want nachos for dinner!
Person B: Yes, you want nachos for dinner, but I want burritos.

You’ve made your “I” statement more important than the other statement. When someone hears a BUT consistently and feels like the other person is elevating themselves they’re going to stop communicating eventually.

You Shut Someone Down
The word BUT also shuts someone down. That last example with nachos and burritos? By saying “But I want burritos” closes the conversation off to more discussion. Alternatively, if you said “And I want burritos” you could easily add a “let’s compromise and do both!” or “maybe we can something else” or any other comment that can further the conversation. AND leaves things open for opportunities – BUT shuts it down.

You Don’t Listen
I see this more often than I like: when someone is constantly using the word BUT, they are only concerned with what they want to add to the conversation and say. They don’t think about what the other person is saying, what their opinion is – they just want to add their thoughts and have learned how to do so what the word BUT.

Next time you hear it, take a beat and think: did they listen? Are they shutting you down? Do you feel like they are elevating their thoughts over yours? They might not being malicious or doing it intentionally – often that’s the effect.

YESSSSSS

That amazing thing you’ve been waiting for HAS HAPPENED.

CELEBRATE!
THROW A PARADE!
CONFETTI ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

::Time out, Saved By The Bell style::

Your thoughts immediately start racing – what if you start bragging? It’s really hard to talk about accomplishments to loved ones much less to folks at work! What happens when you have to – or you want to – tell people about this AMAZING THING THAT HAPPENED? Better just not to do it right, hide it and not worry about what others think?

Wow does that feel awful though.

We started teaching our Unhumble class a few years ago for this very reason: folks have a hard time talking about their accomplishments. We’re told often (especially as women) to be humble, don’t brag – but why? Sure, there’s an issue when another person only talks about their accomplishments all the time, and never gets excited for another person. But what happens when people are proud of what they accomplished AND they care about other people? Should they not talk about things because of how another person might feel?

This is one of the most BS things that I’ve heard people say: don’t talk too much about accomplishments because you’ll make other people feel bad.

When I started Fearless, my other business, a woman told me that a friend of hers was constantly feeling bad when she saw other people in the group talk about their accomplishments. “But I’m just a [insert her identifier here.]”

That, my friends, is her thing.

I firmly believe that people don’t talk about their accomplishments to make other people feel bad. Sure, there are some sociopaths out there – and other people that will always think the grass is greener on the other side and ask “why her, why not me?” But I think we’ve been trained to play small for several reasons – none of which matter, as long as we work to undo this.

What does it mean to be UNHUMBLE? Well, simply put, it’s the idea of being proud of your accomplishments, talking about them, and not playing small in efforts to help someone else. Think about being humble: it’s being modest, without pride.

Shouldn’t we be proud of ourselves and our hard work?

I’m not saying be arrogant, thinking you are the greatest thing since sliced bread – I am saying that it’s not as black and white as you might think with bragging or not. I truly believe the difference between unhumble and arrogant is how much you care about another person’s successes and wins. If you don’t care, and think you’re better than everyone else – you’re probably arrogant.

I remember an entrepreneur group that I was taking part in a few months ago, and a newer full-time entrepreneur commented that she couldn’t seem to find people “on her level” to talk to. I still remember when she said that – the whole room took a moment and then more than half brought it up to me afterward. I was a little shocked myself, honestly, because she had JUST started running her business full time, and before that, was working in fairly well-paying jobs while doing her work.

This isn’t to say she didn’t work hard – this is to say that if you read our last blog on status, she was in the wrong end of high status, and shows the line between unhumble and arrogant. I believe that if she acknowledged some amazing entrepreneurs that existed (and were in the room!) maybe she wouldn’t have come across in such a way that damaged relationships. Assertive communication is great: elevating yourself over others unnecessarily looks like you’re overcompensating.

So what happens when you find that line between being unhumble and being arrogant? You might end up altering a few relationships – some people are not huge fans of people that take pride in their work.

Repeat after me: people will always like you. People will always dislike you. Sometimes, you’re going to be liked or disliked no matter what you do – so why not be enough for yourself?

If you’re proud of something, and you’re also proud of other people for their wins – you’ll start tapping into other people who are like you. There will be people that are not a fan of this newfound pride: find folks that are, and keep celebrating your – and their – wins.

The Status We Take

Work relationships can be messy. Think about it – you’re in a place where folks either “have” to be or “want” to be – and sometimes both. This creates some strange wants and needs when people are communicating, and even stranger relationship dynamics can develop.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of work friendships or relationships. It’s too messy, and if you know me, you might know that I’m always saying, “be more than your job!” Friendships and relationships are a big part of it: if you spend all day with people at work only to go home and hang out with them after work, you’re either going to be best friends or hate each other eventually. It gets weird and awkward when someone has to be an assertive communicator and the other person is more comfortable being passive, or if a conflict arises at work that feels a bit too close to the friendship.

Even if you avoid work friendships and romantic relationships like me, you’re going to bump into status issues in relationships that are strictly colleague-focused only. Status is a fascinating thing to explore: as it’s something that we’re not always aware of when we’re thinking about our communication and listening skills. It refers to how we view ourselves in reference to other people and taps back into early improv commedia dell’arte: from traditional kings and their status versus court jesters and theirs.

We can show our status in a few different ways when we communicate. For our purposes, we’re going to look at status in movement, posture, speech, and interaction with others. This might not be the case with every interaction you have: pay attention to when these traits come out.

Movement and Posture

If you’re the higher status person in an interaction, chances are your movements are focused, quiet and confident. You’ll have firm handshakes, directed gestures. Your head won’t be zipping around from person to person; rather you’ll move it only slightly and make clear eye contact. You’re standing upright but not still, open chest (meaning, not curled shoulders) and you look relaxed.

On the flip side, if you’re embodying low status, you’re less directed and almost unsure with your movements. You might be nervous, jerky, stiff or tight with your movements. You’re not making eye contact, and you’re looking around – and moving your head around – a lot. Shoulders are probably curled and tight, and you might be bent over and stiff.

Speech

Speech is a big tell with status, only followed by posture in my opinion. With high status, you’re talking in a deeper, relaxed and normal pitch. You might yell or whisper if it’s appropriate to the situation. On the flip side, if you’re taking on low status, you’re probably quiet, mumbling, high pitched or talking fast. In women, this is where we hear and see the “head voice” come out – that voice that folks call “shrill”? Lower status tell.

Interaction With Others

This one is a doozy: when you’re taking the high status, you’re touching people all the time. You’re laying a hand on someone’s shoulder, picking lint off of someone, and connecting. You also might be staring another person down if you’re USING your high status. Low status is going to shy away from touching others and pulling back from unwanted contact.

The doozy comes in when people have issues touching too much: I witnessed an interaction where a woman hugged a friend of mine and he pulled away. The next time she saw him, she tried to hug him again, and he firmly said “no” – to which she said, “Oh I knew you were uncomfortable!”

Then. Why. Hug. Again. You. Sociopath.

I think people can “bully” and take advantage of physical contact – or simply just not read the room and understand their status isn’t a confident high status…but an intimidating one. Which leads us to…

So what does this all mean?!Status is equal parts fascinating and intimidating: high status seems like a confidence move, right? Yet in that last example, the high status of the woman was negative! It’s not a choice to move high or low status: it’s a constant dance to how you want to be perceived and how you want to use status for your advantage.

Here’s an example: you’re coming into a job interview. What status do you want show? Probably high in some areas and lower – but not low in others!

Here’s another: you’re going into a meeting with your boss. High or low? Again, a combo of both will probably yield the best results. What if you’re the boss – again! – probably a combo.

Your homework: pay attention to those relationships you have at work (and beyond!) and see them for the status. You might be surprised! 

When My Confidence Broke

A few years ago, my confidence broke.

I didn’t see it coming. It also didn’t happen quickly, like a breaking bone.

Rewind my life a few years, and you’ll find me hiding at home, avoiding interactions. Things like meetings and calls were way too much to handle. I had to stay home “for the dog!” “to save money!” “because I had a headache!” – and none of these things were true or necessary.

This wasn’t “just” a confidence thing – I had massive PMDD induced depression and I stayed home. When I got better – ie therapy, meds and caring for myself – I still wanted to hide.

My confidence was broken.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. Social situations were scary because I had no idea how to navigate them anymore – before my depression, I would have a few drinks and be fine. Alcohol was a social lubricant for me, as it is for many people. When I started getting better, I didn’t want to go back to drinking, so I didn’t.

Only now I had to navigate being a social and public person, minus the alcohol, plus massive self-awareness after therapy. Did I mention I had no confidence left?

You’re probably wondering why I am teaching folks to be the best version of themselves and to speak confidently.

Well, I got my confidence back. It wasn’t a day, or a week or month or even a year. I am 100% still working on it. It started coming back when I started to hold myself accountable to other people. I couldn’t keep promises to myself, so I just started showing up for the other people who needed me. Maybe they didn’t need me as much as I thought they did, but let me tell you – thinking that I needed to show up for others because they needed it? That worked.

When I showed up for others, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this. Showing up for someone else all the time and leaving my needs for whatever time was left? Woof. It was almost ironic, the thing that got me out quickly became the thing that was making me feel stuck all over again.

So I started showing up for myself. I learned how to set boundaries, and weirdly enough, it made me feel more confident. For the first time in my people-pleasing life, I was telling people no, standing up for myself and cutting ties with toxic individuals.

I was finally doing what I spent so much time teaching.

And while I’m not “fixed” or back to being the most confident person in a room – if I ever was – I can safely say that I’m not hiding. And here’s the thing: if I can come back from where I was and rebuild, you can build your confidence too. Promise.

Amid new year resolution land, new you, are you finding yourself attacked by your inner critic? Here are a few common situations – and the start of solutions. Remember, you can’t fix your self-doubt voice in a day – so give yourself time and grace to improve!

You ignore your successes and focus on your failures…
But it’s so easy to fixate on failures! Never mind everything else, look where I screwed up.

This one hits personally.

I can remember being so down that a book proposal I submitted to agents was getting turned down, agent after agent. This was after my book came out to great reviews, and people were (and still are!) getting excited. And all I could think about was my proposal being turned down. Didn’t matter that I had a book out, I was headed to SXSWedu in the spring – all my self-worth was tied up into that proposal, and I clearly couldn’t do anything right.

Except for all the other cool stuff I have going on including my fricken book.

…so try celebrating mini successes…or any success.
Spend as much time with the wins as with the losses. Seriously – if you spend days on your “loss” (or like me, a week being terrible to myself) then you should be able to spend that much time with a win.

Sound hard? Yeah, because the negative can be oh-so-easy to focus on. Flip the script.


You’re focused on being perfect…
Perfectionism is one of the biggest causes of imposter syndrome. You think you have to be perfect, get it 100% right and be amazing all the time, right?

See even writing it out and I bet you reading it sounds weird. Would you ask your friend to be that “perfect” and never make a mistake? What about your partner or family? Probably not. Give yourself some grace and remember that you’re human.

…so try failing on purpose.
This is probably giving you anxiety just thinking about it. Hear me out: try a new hobby. Recently, I tried to make macarons – you know those almond French cookies that are bright and beautiful and expensive? Found a recipe, grabbed the ingredients – I cook all the time! This will be fine!

They. Were. Terrible.

Stuck to the pan undercooked terrible.

And you know what? It felt great to be “huh, ok I’m not good at this right now (and maybe never!) For now, I’m going to spend money on someone else making macarons.


You feel like taking help is a failure…
I can do it myself! I don’t need anyone’s help!

There’s so much therapy tied in there.

If you’re feeling that you can only do things yourself otherwise it’s a failure of your character or hard work, take a breath and know that you’re not alone. While all of these are very specific kinds of imposter syndrome, this one is a big one: the individual. You feel as though you have to be able to do it yourself, not lean on others, and that’s the only way you’re not a fraud.

…so try asking for help.
Do it. Ask for someone to do something for you. Even if it’s a small task that you know you could do with more hours in the day. Take a breath and ask someone to do it and look! Your world won’t end, you’re not a failure because you asked for some support. This doesn’t even have to be a thing you need – it can be a simple ask to start getting you in the habit of not doing everything yourself.


You’ve surrounded yourself with jerks…
This is a hard one – sometimes our self-talk isn’t OUR self-talk – it’s a reflection of what other people say to us. It comes out in our darkest moments – and sometimes just too often in general.

If you’re not sure if it’s someone else, take a moment to listen, really listen, to the people around you. Are they making you feel bad? Are they saying things that you’ve ALSO been saying, and when you dig in, the negative self-talk comes from them?

…so try giving them a time out.
Be busy. Block their texts. Stop talking to them. Being around people like that does nothing…and if you understood how much they projected their insecurities on you, you wouldn’t take them seriously.

Be well, friends.

 

At this point, we all know that public speaking is feared more than death. No surprises there, but in all these years that we’ve been throwing out these stats, why are we still here? It might be something to bring up the human reactions of fight or flight – why we succeed or freeze when we’re in situations of public speaking and presentation skills, but beyond that, we still have to do it – whether we like it or not. Because of that exciting fact, it’s in your best interest to get better – here are three tips to nail your next presentation, all focused and grounded in improv:

  1. Practice like you play

    I performed off-Broadway for almost 10 years, toured with a few national tours based in improv and performed in my fair share of Chicagoland improv. We rehearsed for everything – even in my NYC years, we rehearsed every single Wednesday evening in prep for our weekend shows, and it showed when we didn’t. Worse, it showed when we didn’t take rehearsal seriously and just screwed around the entire time.

    When you practice in a lax manner, you’re going to play in that same lax manner.

    If you’re practicing whatever you’re going to do that matters to you in a way that shows it DOES NOT matter, do you know how that’s going to look when the moment is here? It’s going to look like it doesn’t matter to you. Worse, if you don’t practice? It’s going to show.

  2. Warm-up prior

    Before every show I’ve ever done, we warmed up. Anything from running around to get energy up to quick thinking games to singing and getting in the moment. Why warm-up? Well, would you warm up before a run? Yeah? Same idea! We use muscles to speak and when we’re talking for an extended period of time and don’t warm up, we end up losing our voice, tripping on words and forgetting what we’re supposed to be doing because we aren’t tapped into the moment.

  3. Raise your stakes

    No one wants to see an ordinary moment in an improv show. They want to see an ELEVATED moment that is heightened from the every day. When you raise the stakes in improv moments, you suddenly start to care quite a bit more and things matter.

    In real life, if you start to raise the stakes, things start to matter a bit more and you start investing more energy and care into what you’re saying. Don’t let this slide all the way to feeling neurotic about everything – because it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake – at the same time, if you invest more energy and care into what you’re doing, it’s going to show.

BONUS: Fail often. The more you fail in public speaking moments, the more you learn, and the better you get. If you keep playing it safe, you’re going to end up in the same place you started: being nervous about public speaking.

Upcoming Classes: Speaking and Presentation Skills

25 Jan 1pm 3pm Saturday, January 25 1 pm -3 pm Shetler Studios, 244 W. 54th Street (12th Floor), New York, NY
8 Feb 1pm 3pm Saturday, February 8 1 pm -3 pm Shetler Studios, 244 W. 54th Street (12th Floor), New York, NY
15 Mar 12pm 12pm March 15 12 pm -12 pm Online Program,
21 Mar 1pm 3pm Saturday, March 21 1 pm -3 pm Shetler Studios, 244 W. 54th Street (12th Floor), New York, NY
31 Mar 7pm 8pm Tuesday, March 31 7 pm -8 pm Online Program,
31 Mar 11pm 11pm March 11 pm -11 pm Online Program,

Persuasion is a highly desired leadership skill – but why is it so hard for so many people? I think our clients want to be persuasive but worry that they are being manipulative, abrasive or another negative quality – but why?!

If you want to be successful and effective as a leader, you’re going to have to be good at selling yourself and your ideas – basically persuading other people. Selling is a skill that everyone needs to utilize at one point or another, even if it’s advocating for yourself. Here are four improv-based ways to up your persuasion skills at work:

  1. What does your audience want

    I tap into what the audience wants a lot because it matters – look, I’ve been on both ends of a bad improv show where the performers are simply performing for themselves and not paying attention to what the audience is looking for. In this case, think about how they process information. If they need facts and figures to believe you, give it to them! If they need some kind of emotional story, tap into the feels. Focus on what they need, not what you want.

  2. Show that you care to make them care

    Apathetic performing? Not going to work – you have to be bought in, care as much as you want the audience to and give it 100%. You’re not going to get the audience – or in this case, the people that you want to persuade if you don’t care about what you’re talking about. Understand why you care and why they should care, and let that be your guide.

  3. Keep Going

    When we’re tapping into wants in improv, we’re always telling students to think like a toddler – keep changing tactics and don’t give up. Same with persuasion! Start with little wins and bits of progress and you’ll work your way up to getting farther and farther along – and you definitely need to change tactics if the first few don’t work. Persistence pays off.

  4. Raise the stakes

    If something can be done at any point, then what’s the point of acting now? While some folks might be inclined to agree, others need a nudge or a sense of urgency. When you create urgency, you raise the stakes – in improv, no one wants to watch something everyday and ordinary – we want to see a higher stakes moment. If you want someone to do something, create a demand and a need – and one that needs to be acted on now.

I used to be terrified to speak up for myself.

Funny huh? I teach folks how to be confident and speak up for themselves, and yet a few years ago I was such a people pleaser that I never spoke up for myself. I let everyone else get what they wanted and sacrificed what I wanted in the process.

I’m not quite sure what broke me – I do know that it wasn’t some movie moment where I got fed up and yelled “I’m looking out for me now!” and stormed off from the narcissist I was talking to. That would have been a pretty amazing story, but it was much more of a slow burn to finally look out for myself. When it clicked into place, I haven’t looked back since.

Here are four things I tapped into that helped me speak up for myself – and a client story to go along with it. Give them a whirl and see how they work in your life!

  1. Figure out what’s actually bothering you

    Getting to the source of the issue is a tough one. A client of mine was really upset a few weeks ago because of a negative review on her performance report. She was near tears when she came into our coaching session, and I wasn’t convinced it was actually THAT that was upsetting her. Turns out, the more we talked the more she realized that it wasn’t the report that was bothering her, it was the massive amount of work that a coworker kept throwing on her that led to the missed responsibility, that led to the performance report ding.

    It’s often not the thing that sets you off. The core is usually deeper! Take a moment to WHY your discomfort or anger. When we talked about it, I first asked, “Why are you mad about the performance report?” and she replied, “I didn’t deserve it!” and my response, as you might guess, was “Why didn’t you deserve it?” It only took a few “whys” to end up at the source.

  2. Do your homework and write some notes

    After we tapped into what was really bothering her, we started to bullet point out ways to talk to her coworker. She knew that she should have been more assertive in saying no in the beginning (more on that later) but since she couldn’t go back and say no, she had to move forward and say no. Instead of placing the blame on the coworker, she decided to develop a plan to say no for future situations where work might get passed off on her.

    Taking a few notes in advance and taking time to dig into what you want to say – and removing emotions from it – is critical to get your point across. She was so furious she cried, remember? Going into a situation with that level of emotion is only going to end poorly, or cause you to forget what you’re about to say! Jot down critical points.

  3. Pull them aside and make time

    Nothing good comes from those movie moments. This one is straight and to the point – don’t just attack someone because you’re ready to stand up for yourself. There is a chance that person isn’t a complete and utter sociopath, and they aren’t being malicious with you – and while you still need to stand up for yourself, you don’t need to drop a giant bomb on your relationship with this person.

    My client reached out to her coworker with a meeting request – when they asked for the purpose of the meeting, she said it was about changes to her workflow. Short and simple always wins.

  4. Use statements like “I think” – assertive communication

    We planned for this moment by creating assertive statements from her notes. By using phrases with “I think” she created factual statements (because, she thinks it! It’s a fact, and she owned it!) These are also hallmarks of assertive language – an I statement and ownership of thoughts.

How did it all go? Well, she no longer has to do the work of her coworker – and again, it wasn’t some big movie moment. Whether her coworker was aware of it or not, they accepted that she wasn’t taking on more work than she could handle, and she started to build the habit of speaking up for herself using these four easy steps. If you’re feeling a bit too much like a doormat, try these! As usual, figure out how to adapt and edit to make it work best for you, and let me know how it goes, or if you get stuck, always feel free to reach out!

Lead Like A Women

Originally Published in Forsyth Women Magazine

In 2017, Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer created a third cofounder for their online e-commerce platform: Keith Mann not only got more email responses from potential investors and partners, he got more respect. Never mind he didn’t show up, ever – and ONLY communicated via email. Gazin and Dwyer faced everything from investors refusing to acknowledge them by name to developers threatening to delete everything if they didn’t get a date. No wonder they created Mr. Mann.

Unfortunately, this is consistent throughout leadership and entrepreneurship: women are just 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and those statistics are reflected across the board. Women aren’t being seen as leaders in organizations, and if they get there, they often end up feeling imposter syndrome. As funny as Mr. Mann might be, it’s not a recommended strategy for leadership. Here are three ways you can start leading like a woman:

  1. Find your best qualities
    Repeat after me: stop trying to be a second rate version of someone else. You’re wasting the first-rate version of yourself. Not all leaders have the same qualities! Gone are the days of every leader wearing a suit and walking in with their briefcase and coffee in the morning, off to sit in their office and order from on high. Leadership looks different on everyone!

    Take a few minutes thinking about a leader you admire. Write down a few of their qualities that you also possess. You can definitely strive for being better and improvement: build your foundation first with your qualities. Maybe you’re an amazing delegator or a great listener. Note those qualities and bump them up! You can build additional skills on top of your foundation: you need something to build on first.

  2. Listen first, talk second
    No matter what kind of leader you are or strive to be, you need to listen. Spend as much time as possible developing your active listening skills – and using them! If you find yourself losing some of those critical listening skills, step back. When someone is talking, try to remember two bits of information and figure out one question to ask to get more information about what they are saying. Before you even start tasking yourself while you’re listening, be sure you’re actually listening and showing it through non-verbals: nodding, making eye contact and facing another person are simple and powerful ways to show that you are indeed listening to the person talking.

    If you know you are not a great listener, remember listening is a choice: it’s not something that you naturally do. When someone is starting to talk to you, take a breath and make the choice to listen.

  3. Professional Development
    Remember that list you made about the qualities you admired from a leader in your life? Take stock in that and start growing. Professional development programs can be in person, online, created by you or by someone else – the sky is the limit! Do your research before you jump in.

    The larger focus with professional development: growth. Great leaders don’t stagnate. You have to keep learning, evolving and changing with your team. Professional development isn’t simply recreating another great leader: it’s staying up to date with what’s happening in your field, with your team and with leadership as a whole. Find articles, read books, have a conversation and talk to your team. Pay attention and again, make a choice to be engaged with the process. Your work doesn’t end when you get the leadership position, it begins.

Now that you’re at the end, the jig is up: there is no way to lead like a woman. You have amazing qualities that you need to succeed!

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