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Women as Powerful Communicators


April 2007

If ever there was a time for women to lead, that time is now. Dr. Lois Frankel, best-selling author and coach, shares five communication behaviors from her book, See Jane Lead.

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April 2007

Women as Powerful Communicators

Tom Henschel

We all need powerful mentors. Dr. Lois Frankel is one of mine. I often provide clients with her international bestseller, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. I promote this book not merely because she references me and some of my coaching tips but because her counsel is insightful and practical. And it’s not only for women—we would all benefit if we could implement her advice.

Lois’s latest book, See Jane Lead, is being published today. I asked if she’d share ideas from the book about looking and sounding like a leader and she agreed.

Don’t skip these tips if you’re a man. You probably have women whom you’d like to develop. These ideas can help. I support these tips no matter what your gender.

Here’s what Lois has to say:
If ever there was a time for women to lead now is that time—and YOU are the woman.
That’s the premise of See Jane Lead. Throughout history women have made outstanding leaders–we’ve just been too modest to call or think of ourselves as leaders. A combination of nature and nurture provide women with the quintessential qualities needed to lead in this day and age. But when it comes to communicating like leaders, we’ve got a bit of work to do.

  1. Get to the point.
    You’ve heard Tom Henschel say this many times—and it’s a particularly important message for women. Whereas men use about 8,000, women average nearly 20,000 words per day. Consciously cut down your verbal communications by following Tom’s “headline” model: give your most important point first, support it with just two or three sub-points, then stop to ask if there are any questions.
  2. Use the “I” word more often.
    Women tend to avoid starting a sentence with “I”—they feel it’s too egocentric and not egalitarian enough. But choosing the right time to lead with “I” makes it clear who the point belongs to and strengthens the remainder of the message. Of course if you are speaking for others, using “we” is totally appropriate.
    (Read more about this skill, Speaking for Yourself.)
  3. Turn questions into statements.
    Women have learned to ask questions in lieu of making affirmative statements. It’s a back door approach to getting your point across. The only problem is, when you ask a question you’ve got to be prepared for an answer you might not like. So rather than soften your message with a question, make a statement followed up with a tag-line like, “That’s how I see it and I’d like to hear your opinion as well.” This allows you to engage in appropriate dialogue or negotiation.
  4. Prepare for every presentation you make–and every time you open your mouth it’s a presentation.
    Thinking out loud may be OK for brainstorming sessions, but if you want to sound credible and confident you must mentally prepare what you’re going to say before you say it. It only takes a moment to mentally rehearse a concise statement, question, or point—and that moment will pay dividends.
    (Read more about this skill, Sounding Well-Spoken.)
  5. Give yourself permission to be feminine.
    For too long women were taught they had to sound more like men to be taken seriously. Nothing is further from the truth. Women are great at essential leadership behaviors such as influence, negotiation, coaching, team building precisely because they are women. We use less muscle, coercion, and punitive methods than men and it’s why this generation of workers respond positively to us. Command and control leadership no longer works. Ask someone to jump and they no longer say “how high?”—they ask “why?” And women take the time to answer that question and many more.

That’s Lois’s advice. I hope a lot of it sounds familiar!

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