This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on the power of visual presence in shaping your leadership identity.
Think about last week at the office. If you’re like most, you probably:
- Sent and received a minimum of 100 emails per day.
- Sent and received dozens of voicemails.
- Took many calls in your car or from your cell phone.
- Were on multiple conference calls and webinars, plus daily meetings.
- Commented on various social and professional sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
- Instant messaged, texted, Skyped, and Google Voiced. (If you have children, you were probably checking on their social media, texting, and Skype activities.)
In today’s business world, the methods, the speed, and the sheer volume of communication can be overwhelming. The one thing all of these communications have in common? They are completely second nature. And because they’re second nature, we rarely see them for what they are – opportunities to be strategic and showcase our leadership identity through our verbal presence.
Your verbal presence combines many factors:
- How you organize your thoughts
- Tone, pitch, and speed of your voice
- How articulate you are
- The clarity of your message, both in content and punctuation
- Your ability to be concise and on point
- Your ability to use the language of your business and industry
Verbal presence is about both the substance and the packaging of your message. I’ll share with you a few simple devices you can use to turn your spoken and written words into a leadership advantage. You’ll be perceived as a credible, confident emerging leader.
TAPS is a formula you can use to quickly formulate your thoughts in almost any situation:
- Take a breath and pause. This is a public speaking trick that works wonders, especially when we’re put on the spot. Taking a breath helps you physiologically and mentally. And while it may seem like a lifetime to you, the other person won’t even notice that quick second of space.
- Assess and select one key point to make. The key word here is one – a single point, not several points. This is a critical mistake I see women make all the time. This part of the formula requires you to be decisive – another key leadership trait.
- Provide support. This is where you can elaborate a bit, sharing 2-3 supporting pieces of information for your point. Again, keep this brief. The human brain only keeps a few pieces of information at a time in short term memory. Your ability to be concise also conveys your confidence.
- Summarize. If necessary, add a quick summary statement after you provide your supporting comments. If you are asked further questions or for more information, it’s an opportunity to follow-up and share even more of your expertise.
Below are some tips to stand out with written communication, and especially email. A few assumptions you should make:
- Your message is sandwiched between dozens of other email messages.
- The recipient is likely reading your message on a mobile device.
- He or she will open it quickly, scan it, and close it in less than 30 seconds. Then he or she will decide if it merits a reply.
With those assumptions in mind:
- Create a substantive, short subject line.
- Use a brief opening sentence to set up the body of the message.
- Make your point right away.
- Use 2-3 short bulleted statements or phrases for any supporting information.
- Summarize with your request or call to action.
- Review before you hit send.
- If the message warrants it, specify when you’ll follow up.
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