Owning Your Worth, Voice and Seat at the Table

Owning Your Worth, Voice and Seat at the Table

Picture the prototypical “boardroom” setting—a heavy wooden table surrounded by tailored suits, closed-off body language and voices booming with authority. As an ambitious woman ascending the corporate ladder, you may encounter these traditional halls of power built initially for voices unlike yours.

Rather than questioning if you rightfully belong at the table in elite circles, know that you unequivocally deserve a seat. Your talents, vision and leadership style add invaluable diversity of thought, contributing to collaborative solutions. But owning your influence first requires shedding socialized instincts to minimize yourself and meekly hoping others make space.

Channel these tips to proudly own your place at even the most imposing decision-making tables:

Hold Head High Entering the Room

Walking into exclusive company leadership conversations, intentionally override instincts to downplay your credentials, squelch your voice or deflate your physical presence lest you be “too much”. Fight the urge to preemptively apologize for taking up space.

Instead, embody the confidence displayed by long-time members — keep your posture tall, make direct eye contact, exchange assertive handshakes, speak at a consistent volume and claim your rightful seat unapologetically. Allow your assured vibe to signal, “I know I belong here”. First impressions hugely impact whether others take you seriously from the outset.

Stand Firm on Your Perspective

Once discussions commence, resist reflexes to automatically defer to other voices in the room—tempering suggestions if they feel disruptive, relaying ideas only via questions, or waiting until spoken to directly before offering your two cents to avoid perceived overstepping.

Remember, the seat you occupy comes from your distinct value. Leaning away from bold opinions diminishes your power. Similarly, allowing interruptions or trailing off mid-sentence trains others you accept being deprioritized.

Instead, deploy tactics sponsoring allies use to assert authority. Firmly talked over colleagues by saying, “Please let me finish my thought,” without antagonism. If interrupted, calmly pick up your precise last sentence after the person concludes rather than rewinding entirely. Your ideas deserve to be fully voiced and heard before reacting—welcome debate in response once you conclude. But claim the initial airtime you deserve.

Spotlight Your Assets

Once you land on ambitious ideas or solutions related to the objectives at hand, resist diminishing your suggestions preemptively due to lack of direct seniority, title, or historical influence. Avoid couching ideas in questions (“Would it perhaps be impactful if we...?) or self-deprecating language (“This may be far-fetched since I’m newer but...”).

Such cushioning undercuts the strength of your offerings. If input merits consideration in the high-stakes discussion, present opinions with conviction. Let strengths in creative problem-solving, technical capabilities, market insights, operational fluency, or leadership abilities shine. Share data evidencing how your solution effectively drove outcomes elsewhere previously, if applicable. Declare ideas, not opinions upfront backed by your unique expertise.

Embody the authority levels of those at the table. Be the CEO of your unique vantage point, unapologetically leveraging your assets. The group needs your fullest leadership, just like any member to identify the smartest paths forward.

Reframe Pushback Positively

Should your assertions meet resistance due to novelty or misalignment with institutional inertia, reframe kneejerk judgments as healthy debate. Consider skepticism about unfamiliar concepts default before compelling data changes minds.

Rather than taking critique personally, welcome respectful challenges as an opportunity to defend ideas on merits and clarify misunderstandings. Provide additional context, evidence, or reasoning without getting defensive. Handled artfully, initial pushback builds collaborative muscle and trust in your abilities over time as the value of your vision gains appreciation.

Keep challenging limiting mindsets. With poise and savvy persuasion, bold leaders expand constraints on what’s possible. If needed, identify potential proof points or initial experiments to lower risk, signaling you hear concerns. Frame out how your solution ultimately benefits shared goals in complementary ways despite requiring shifts.

Build a Broad Sponsor Coalition

While individual power grows over time through consistently stellar contributions, acceleration requires supporters beyond your own voice. The career sponsorship needed for leadership roles in elite circles concentrates heavily amongst those fitting standard molds.

Thus, wide sponsorship becomes instrumental for talent, unlike the usual suspects to secure seats at important tables. Identify advocates across hierarchy levels, departments and demographic groups to widen your influencer sphere. Leverage both strong ties who know you intimately and weak ties barely acquainted possessing peripherally helpful sway.

Regularly keep your mentors and allies updated on your evolving career aspirations, progress and calls for support. The more voices affirming your leadership readiness simultaneously, the harder you are to ignore when critical decisions occur.

Owning your influence requires shedding doubts, embracing your essence and backing ideas boldly in both familiar and formidable settings. But the result is a more enriching work environment for all when diversity of thought and leadership is welcomed. May you continue advancing into echelons of impact - with heels, heart and confidence. 

The Editorial Team

The Editorial Team

Hi there, we're the editorial team at WomELLE. We offer resources for business and career success, promote early education and development, and create a supportive environment for women. Our magazine, "WomLEAD," is here to help you thrive both professionally and personally.

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