Women in Tech forum leader Angie Vaux talks about her tips and tricks on the art of communication.
Angie has years of experience in the tech industry herself. Women in Tech forum connects women to other women seeking to further career prospects in the sector.
She will be sharing her personal tips on how to communicate effectively especially with senior colleagues as well as C-Suite.
1. What is good communication?
The first aspect of communication is conveying your point to someone else. When we don’t know what to say we can use filler words which impairs our ability to create impact. In charged conversations, the amygdala in our brain is activated which makes it harder to think clearly. By taking a pause we calm our nervous system down and enable ourselves to feel calm before replying instinctually.
2. How can you communicate powerfully with leadership?
Senior people are usually time poor and have to make decisions in short time horizons. Nevertheless, they’re still human! Here are some communication tips:
● Be succinct
● Lead with data: ‘I have read the report which outlines that 80% of the third sector is…’
● Use LinkedIn to build a rapport and personalise invites to events (connect with them first, engage with their posts then invite them)
Another important thing is to find out how people like to consume information and deliver it that way i.e. some people may not like being contacted on their phone. Every interaction you have needs to add value to the person you’re speaking to.
3. What if you don’t know the answer?
People are typically happy to express their viewpoint so just ask them further questions to clarify. It also helps to:
● Create a bank of filler statements for example: ‘that’s a great question’
● Power of the pause – take a pause to think
● Paraphrase back what the person has said
● Ask for clarification – responding with a question or asking them to elaborate can help you think of what to say
4. How to find out someone’s communication style?
Ask the question. Some people may want a thirty slide powerpoint deck, whilst other people will want a one page summary. Some people may just want a short email update. Find out how they like to consume information. If anything they’ll thank you for it as you’re catering to their preferences.
5. Any communication tips?
Everybody has different ways of consuming information. Some people are visual so it’s helpful to have a visual. Some people like to receive information, digest it and come back to it. It’s effective to have different ways to communicate your message.
Effective communication is reciprocal. The message needs to be delivered and perceived the way it was intended to. You have to ask for feedback and check in to ensure your message was communicated properly. This feedback loop continues until you have the verification that it was delivered in the right way.
6. How can you sense check if a message has been received the way you want?
You can ask people what their view is, what their thoughts are and if there are areas needing clarification. Senior people want updates on results not activity. After delivering the highlights people will ask for the details. You will always need the detail after people have processed it.
7. Are these techniques gender neutral?
I think it applies to both men and women. The gap can often be in projecting your voice. Oftentimes women won’t project their voices as well as men so when communicating it may not deliver the same impact.
Whilst communicating, voice and writing are just two aspects; we also have our body language and our facial expressions so build rapport with everything you do.
Establish and set boundaries early on. Affirm them and work with people in a non-confrontational way so you’re not labeled as ‘the aggressive woman.’
8. How to stop someone talking over you?
This will depend on what you’re comfortable with yourself. Secondly who your audience is.
If you’re in a room full of assertive people then it’s important to carry on speaking. Leaders should set ground rules for the meeting i.e. not speaking over each other.
If you have advocates and seniors in the meeting then you then ask for their help prior to meetings. Ask them: ‘can I count on your support if I get talked over in the meeting?’
● Voice projection: if you are softly spoken it’s easier for people to speak over you but if you deliver with impact it can help you gain attention.
● Come with some interesting statistics. This will likely gain people’s attention’
9. How can we best communicate our wins without sounding arrogant?
It’s important to showcase the work we do so we can talk about it in performance reviews. Keep a success folder with a compilation of your successes.
Do a highlight in slack channels etc. Success story, process flows, Lunch and learns to help spread your learnings and help other team members.
10. What are the top three things you wished you knew?
Asserting boundaries. I am by nature a people pleaser and perfectionist which can be positive in your early career. But it gets exhausting for yourself and others around you. You can’t constantly strive for one hundred and hold people to such high standards. We need to recognise that sometimes 80% is good enough.
Setting boundaries – the ability to put some firm boundaries helps. This creates psychological safety for everyone else. This reduces burnout at work so that you can balance your life.
11. Advice for people to communicate boundaries with colleagues?
Pick one or two simple boundaries. Ask your manager for support. Having a buddy to give you feedback will give you confidence to move forward.
12. What’s your advice on being an assertive woman in the workplace?
Take time to build rapport with colleagues. Having that foundation helps when asserting yourself.
I balance my directiveness with humour. Sticking to the facts and removing the emotion which may be sitting behind the words.
13. How to overcome imposter syndrome?
80% of the population, regardless of gender will experience this at all points in their career. It’s important to exercise self-compassion – treat yourself as you would treat a friend.
Keeping a success folder can validate your successes for you when you don’t believe in them.
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women – is a research led book written by a leader in the field of imposter syndrome.
14. What is the best career advice you’ve received to date?
My old boss used to tell me: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason so you can listen more than you speak. Listening is a great way to glean information.
By exercising curiosity you’re learning about someone and you’re getting those cues/nuances which are so important to relationship building.
15. What are the top book recommendations focussing on women in leadership?
Oftentimes these books will talk a lot about mindsets and how a negative mindset can lead to not achieving your goals. I am currently reading:
● The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain by Gina Rippon – talks about the scientific difference between men and women’s brains.
Some classics for women in the workplace:
● How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, Or Job Book by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen
● Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
● The Fix by Michelle King
Confidence and communication are all themes which run through these books.
16. As a leader what gives you a sense of power and confidence when dealing with a vendor?
Researching them beforehand. Being able to understand their unique challenges and their values.
My nan was engaging, inspiring and empowering
Kamala Harris – she is promoting female diversity in the workplace excellently
Any woman or man who is an advocate for women and pushes boundaries!
18. Any advice for a rookie to prove that they can take more responsibility but don’t have experience yet?
Step up in meetings because leaders have followers. If you don’t have a strong leader then someone else will unofficially step up and take lead. Irrespective of your role you can step up and lead.
You’re the architect of your career – start behaving like it. Step in the shoes of a leader. Look at how you communicate amongst yourselves.
When your boss goes on holiday, run your bosses team meetings and be second in command. You will gain credibility and learn a lot.
Be a corporate citizen – an emblem of the company’s values…
19. How to minimise filler words?
Be clear on your message, do your preparation and pause so you get a chance to think. Don’t feel the need to fill space. Be comfortable with silence.
20. Does watching yourself help?
It’s really helpful. Awareness is the first step to change. Work with a trusted buddy and have them give you feedback.
A colleague can be more compassionate as well as critical. It’s good to have a balance of good and bad. We all have things to work on. It’s an ongoing journey so self compassion is a great tool to exercise.