Strengthen Your Authentic Voice By Removing The Noise
Have you experienced this?
You have an important message to deliver at work—pitching an idea to your senior executives, leading a strategy session with your colleagues or getting buy-in from your team on a new project. You’ve done all the necessary work ahead of time to formulate your plan by running it by key stakeholders, listening to feedback and making the appropriate adjustments for the perfect message. You’re knowledgeable, competent and fully prepared.
But when you stand up to speak and deliver your message, all of that preparation suddenly disappears. Something shakes your confidence. Whether it’s a question from others or your own inner critic, you start second-guessing yourself and your preparation. You wonder if you said or missed something and before you know it, that internal noise is hijacking your thoughts, your words and how you are showing up.
I see this situation unfold again and again with successful executives. They are smart, capable and accomplished, and in a single moment, self-doubt can cause them to freeze and stumble, undermining their hard work, expertise and credibility.
Have you ever wondered how some people don’t seem to have this problem? They are able to speak with confidence and deliver their message with ease even when they are asked tough questions or receive resistance for their ideas. What’s their secret sauce? How do they hold the room’s attention, stay calm and maintain confidence under pressure?
Here are three practical strategies to help you strengthen your authentic voice and remove the internal noise of insecurities. Consider using these strategies as anchors to increase the effectiveness of your communications with leaders, colleagues and employees.
Anchor On Your Purpose
Sometimes, when telling our story or sharing our passion with others, we get swept off course and realize we’re no longer following our own script. Before thoughts start swirling and words fumble, sending the exact opposite message as intended, take a moment to breathe, pause and anchor on your purpose.
You can anchor your thoughts with the following questions: What are my intentions? What do I hope to accomplish with my message? Keep in mind the audience’s perspective by not taking their response personally—you can reset your approach and influence differently based on your audience’s perspective. Sharing the leadership team’s vision and strategy with your team will be received quite differently than a collaborative dialogue with your leaders about how the company can make improvements. Each of us has an agenda. Tailoring your response to your audience and balancing it with your purpose will increase your effectiveness and influence.
If you get distracted from your purpose and start spinning out into anxious thoughts, remember to breathe, pause and ask yourself: Where is this coming from? What is really driving my thoughts and reaction? Is it my assumption, interpretation or belief about the audience that triggers my emotions or external factors beyond my control? Once you are aware of your triggers, you can make a conscious choice on how to respond.
Another tip is to take a short break and restore your focus. You can calm highly emotional discussions with a break and regulate your response in less than two minutes. According to neuroanatomist and author Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who named this process the 90-second rule: “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens; any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”
Anchor On Your Outcome
As you reflect on your purpose, be sure to tie it to your intended outcome, as these are the two sides of the same coin. If you’re struggling to communicate an idea, restate your goal and the connection to your purpose. Many times, resistance is an indicator of uncertainty. The core reasons behind why you want to achieve this goal may not be completely understood. Before responding to a question, try reframing your thoughts by assuming positive intentions, not ulterior motives.
Executives often leverage the S.M.A.R.T. methodology when building out goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. I think effective goals are actually S.M.A.R3.T, with three R’s: Realistic, Relevant and Results-oriented. When in doubt or getting resistance to your goals, try to ask these three questions. How can you articulate the reality for achieving the desired outcome? How have you clarified the relevance of this goal to your purpose? How can you communicate results and success indicators?
Don’t give in to the anxious or insecure thoughts. You’ve already done the groundwork to get to this point. Anchor your thoughts back on your ideal purpose and outcome.
Anchor On Your Talents
Pausing is the most important strategy to use when your confidence is shaken due to self-doubt or self-sabotage. Take a moment to remind yourself of your unique talents and strengths. Trust that only you can speak to and apply all of your insights, experiences, emotions and skills to this particular situation.
Resist the urge or pull to emulate someone else’s style or the organization’s culture for aligning to a particular profile. Instead, embrace your authentic you —it’s what brought you to the table. Remember your previous accomplishments and consider: How have you overcome similar obstacles in the past? How did you reset your thinking and find your flow? Tap into your natural gifts and tendencies, and communicate in a way that feels like your best you.
Regardless of your level of leadership, along your journey, you will step into situations where an external or internal influence questions your thought process, challenges your voice and creates discomfort with your style. Remember to pause in the moment and increase your awareness of what is shaking your confidence. Building your awareness is the first step. Leveraging your natural talents is the next step toward your desires to stay true to yourself and articulate your message authentically. The more you can engage with who you are and embrace your natural talents, the more you will increase your influence.