Build Your Leaders

How to Flex Your Communication Muscle in Business

Most women and men have different communications, decision-making, and management styles. To be heard in today's business environment, many women have to learn to "flex" their styles to match those of their bosses, most of whom are white males. Here are five suggestions how:

One: Go for it. Don't wait for an invitation or permission, and interrupt if you must. Secretary of State Madeline Albright is reported to have said once that learning to interrupt is one of the most important things a young woman must learn.

Two: Get to the point, and stay on point. Business speak — like most men's conversational styles — is linear. Be succinct; avoid personal stories and too much detail. Be honest and direct without being unfriendly.

Three: Mirror their style. Turn up the volume, and lower the pitch. Maintain steady eye contact, don't nod your head or cock it to the side. Don't smile excessively or fidget. "Own" the space on which you stand or sit.

Four: Avoid disclaimers. Avoids "buts," self put-downs, unwarranted apologies, excuses, or upward intonations. Top management values confidence and conviction above all else.

Five: Remain flexible. "...female leadership characteristics, once a hindrance to success, are being accepted as valuable business skills that are imperative in a changing, diverse, and competitive workplace," writes Susan Wilson Solovic in The Girl's Guide to Power & Success. Some situations call for a "command and control" male communications strategy, but others require a "softer" female approach that is more collaborative.

Women are not the only gender being called to flex their communications style in business today. More and more businessmen are seeing that a collaborative communications style works better in some business situations: for example, recruiting and retaining the brightest talent, and creating and maintaining strategic business partnerships. And as women gain more power, men are finding that they have no choice but to adapt their styles to match those of women.

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313 Words

Copyright 2003, All rights reserved

The Career Engineer" Randy Siegel works with organizations to take high-potential employees and give them the leadership and communications skills they need to be successful as they rise through the organization. Purchase his book PowerHouse Presenting: Become the Communicator You Were Born to Be through, and subscribe to his complimentary monthly e-Newsletter at