You’re in a meeting with your boss and colleagues and before you know it, the meeting’s over and you didn’t say a thing. Sure, the decisions made were fine, but you can’t help but think how some of the thoughts you held back could have really helped your organization.
It’s tempting to sit on the sidelines and think a meeting could run on its own without you. However, the hard truth is that every chance you miss to add value in a decision-making process, you miss making a real difference at work that could lead to exciting opportunities.
The art of knowing when and how to effectively share and voice your ideas can be a bit of a balancing act. From holding back to oversharing, many struggle with knowing how to effectively convey their best ideas. That is why I’ve pieced together these seven tips on how to use your voice at work when it matters most.
Know what you bring to the table.
As you approach a meeting, it’s important to know your value and always keep in mind what you bring to the table. What perspective do you bring that’s unique to the group who’s been gathered for that dialogue? Are you a change agent – ready to ask the thought-provoking questions when it’s needed most? Are you detail-oriented with an eye for knowing the ins and outs of what it takes to get to the finish line? This preparation allows you to think through your options and narrow your focus down to how you can best contribute.
Many may know the feeling of being around someone who doesn’t have strong self-awareness. They may talk over people, not listen effectively or be strongly defensive of their opinions. Don’t be that person. Instead, ensure that everyone’s voice has been shared and consciously invite those who have not spoken up to share their points of view. You then get to know everyone’s thought process and can effectively lean into different sides of the conversation. Also, keep in mind that it’s okay to respectfully disagree while also sharing proactive ways to find solutions.
Don’t wait for permission.
If you wait for someone to call you by name to share your thoughts, you’ll likely wait a while. Instead of taking it personally, find the appropriate moment to insert yourself into the conversation allowing everyone to complete their thoughts before you begin. I’ve found that when this is done well, you’ll receive positive engagement and an extra boost of confidence.
Be clear and concise.
Once you have the opportunity to contribute, make sure to communicate your thoughts in a clear and succinct manner that effectively gets your point across. A key exercise to consider is to ask yourself, “If I could communicate this in 10 seconds or less, how would I do so?” And always remember, if they want to know more they will ask for more so don’t feel obligated to over-explain unless prompted to give a few additional points.
Confidently affirm and address other contributions.
Taking the time to affirm the thoughts of others in a meeting is a great way to speak up and voice your own opinion. It can be a simple as saying, “Susan made a great point,” or “I need more information on this before I can fully buy in.” It also is a great way to build team relationships.
Ask a ‘probing’ question.
Probing questions are typically thought-provoking in nature and allows the speaker to expand on a concept taking the discussion to a next-level conversation. These questions can often shift the conversation and decision-making process beyond obvious solutions and provide insight that may not have been explored previously. An example might be, “I find this to be a very interesting topic, could you expand on what you expect to happen when this decision is implemented?” The goal is not to put anyone on the spot or “stump the speaker,” but to explore ideas with a curious mindset.
Get constructive feedback.
Ask a trusted colleague who attended the meeting what they thought of your feedback. Ask them to share what they thought was communicated well and what they thought could improve. It’s likely they’ll have some wonderful things to say, as well as give you some quick pointers to use at the next meeting.
Speaking up when it’s needed most is certainly an art (not a science) that takes practice over time. There will be moments when you wish you’d said less or you wish you’d said more. Still, the important thing to consider is that your voice is needed to add value to your company and those around you. I hope these tips give you the practical guidance you need to use your voice in new ways.