Today I want to share with you a couple of insights about crafting your message of impact and delivering it effectively.
We’ve discussed before how important it is for you to talk about your work and impact. It gets the word out about your capabilities and plans so you can:
- make yourself known and get recognition,
- keep the right people informed about your potential,
- help enable your forward motion and upward mobility, and
- expand your network.
The first step is to create your message. Craft a clear and concise message – actually write it down – that details your recent work and its impact.
As we talked about in Episode 30 on self-advocacy, make sure your message includes what you’re working on, what your role is, the impact you’re having, and your plans.
What I want to address in particular today are a couple of the challenges in crafting your message of impact. These include speech patterns and confidence in delivery.
Remove Diminishing Speech Patterns from your Message of Impact
I love puzzles. Including word puzzles. And I’ve always had a fascination with word usage and grammar. (Grammar Girl is one of my favorite podcasts.)
There are clever ways to use words and phrases to convey underlying meanings. But these underlying meanings can work against you.
Women – especially women in the workplace, and including women engineers – tend to “soften their communication” by using diminishing words and phrases. Tara Mohr refers to it in her book Playing Big and in this Goop article.
Here are 4 of the main culprits that Tara Mohr refers to. These are pitfalls you should avoid in your message of impact:
It’s an unconscious thing. It stems from our cultural backgrounds and maybe some underlying feelings of unworthiness. We talked about the trance of unworthiness in Episode 21.
- Inserting the word “just.” As in “I just want to say…” or “I’m just here to share…” With this word your sentence sounds apologetic or defensive. It sounds much better without it.
- Other diminishing words include maybe, kind of, a little, only, sometimes, or probably. Pay attention to how you use these words. Leave them out if they lessen your message.
- Inserting the word “actually.” As in “I actually have a question…” or “I actually led the team…” With this word, you’re conveying surprise at your action, as if it were unlikely. When in fact it’s not a surprise that you have a question or that you led the team.
- Starting with qualifying phrases, like “I’m no expert, but…” or “You all know better than me, but…” These phrases discount what you’re about to say. They undermine you before you’ve finished your statement.
- Saying “sorry” when there’s nothing to apologize for. There are all kinds of examples of this, from apologizing for asking a question to apologizing for being here. It presumes you’ve done something wrong or impolite, which of course you haven’t.
Make sure there are no apologies in your message of impact.
Speaking from experience, these habits are really hard to break. They’re so ingrained for many of us. (Yes, you’ll hear them in my podcast!)
If you’d like, we can address breaking these habits in a Strategy Session.
Work on changing one habit at a time. Start by being aware of them. Enlist others to remind you. Start changing your language to be clear and more straightforward.
Another challenge I’d like to mention in this category is the “I vs. we” argument. There’s been a lot of criticism of the overuse of “I” in team settings. Because it implies that an individual is taking credit for what the team did. I acknowledge that.
At the same time I believe that women tend to overuse “we” and not take enough credit for what they do as individuals or as leaders of teams. There’s a balance here.
Yes it’s appropriate and important to give credit to the team. But you also must be able to articulate what you’ve contributed and what impact has been made because of you. So be mindful of that.
Deliver Your Message of Impact with Confidence
Finally, a successful message of impact is delivered with confidence. Here are a few more tips in that regard.
It’s important that your message has clarity and strength. Edit it down so that it’s easy to listen to and the impact is evident. Practice it until it’s a natural conversation for you.
Strategize where and when to share your message, such as in:
- An elevator speech,
- Interviews and one-on-one discussions,
- An introduction to a presentation you’re giving,
- Mentoring sessions, or
- Casual conversations and networking interactions.
Strategize who you talk to about your work and impact and how often. People like your boss, colleagues, and mentors should hear your message frequently. But also reach out to other people of influence, potential influence, and connected influence.
Lastly, update your message of impact periodically to reinforce your vision and draw support for it. Your message of impact will provide information for others, affirmation for you, and opportunities leading to your dream career.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll talk about how you might be playing a role in your own exclusion. Be sure to tune in for Episode 38.