You might believe that your work should speak for itself. Work hard, drive results, and you will be recognized as a leader. Perhaps — at best.
I have met so many women leaders — including graduates of West Point, program leaders for NASA, and oil and gas presidents — who have accomplishments that are truly amazing.
But if you want to be seen as a leader, you need more than just tremendous accomplishments. In my study “ Communication essentials for female executives to develop leadership presence,” I explain that if women want to develop their leadership presence, there are certain areas of communication where they must focus.
In this article, I will talk about two of these areas — discussing achievements and focusing on tangible impacts.
1. Don’t be afraid to tout your achievements
In my 37 years of being a speaking coach, I’ve noticed that women tend to mention their achievements less often than men. This was one of the hypotheses I tested in my study.
After analyzing video interviews of both male and female executives from Fortune 100 companies, we found that, indeed, men were more likely to talk about their achievements in nearly every category we analyzed. The only category of accomplishment women were more likely to discuss was team building.
If you want to be seen as leadership material, you must be able to articulate your accomplishments with ease. And don’t be afraid of using first person pronouns.
In her book “Talking from 9 to 5,” Deborah Tannen found that women often say “we” in business situations where men say “I.” While focusing on your team is admirable, it can sometimes hurt your career advancement prospects.
2. Focus on tangible impacts
Another way women can improve their leadership presence is by articulating impacts in numerical/technical terms rather than more intangible terms.
My study found that men were roughly twice as likely to cite accomplishments that involved numbers, monetary impact, or specific products or processes. This result echoed a previous study that found women were more likely than men to “describe what success meant to them with reference to internal criteria … and intangible criteria, in particular personal recognition.”
Framing answers in terms of specific impacts is one way women can improve their upward communication skills — and improve their prospects for promotion.
Despite significant gains, women are still far less likely to hold leadership positions. But by focusing on these principles, women can improve their leadership presence and maximize their chances of reaching the highest levels of the corporate world.