Master the Art of Owning the Room (It Could Get You Promoted)

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Holding power in a room requires possessing a point of view. Even if you’re expanding upon and ideating live, your POV is a way to create differentiation and clarity.

Too often, professionals fail to express their point of view and opt to play nice and be polite instead.

Having and stating an opinion is often intimidating for people in lower-level positions, who may think they’re being paid to not have one because that is their “manager’s job.” Yet stating a factual POV gets you noticed — and promoted — if you can articulate it well.

Your goal is to command any room with your voice and presence, even when you’re not the center of attention.

1. Play to your strengths.

Look at the quirkiness and strengths that helped you rise to your current level. Think through what you need to unlock (strengths) and unload (bad habits). The book StrengthsBased Leadership, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, is a favorite tool because it identifies your strengths as a leader.

To understand what I mean by “unlock and unload,” consider one of my clients: She’s been identified as the front-runner in the succession plan of the CEO role of a multibillion-dollar corporation. While she is very accomplished and has honed her command and control skills, she hasn’t mastered the art of balancing “I” and “we” when sharing information.

A tension exists between the two words, and both can be overused. When you overuse “we,” it is hard to understand what you want or who you are speaking about. In my client’s case, she overuses “I,” which comes across as an ego play. The result is that her peers avoid her, and, therefore, her habit could undermine her ability to succeed to the CEO role.

Although her strengths are concentrated in a differentiating posture, she must learn to unload some of her “I” and practice unlocking her “we” to create alliances. This is a basic version of political savvy — a requisite for being considered.

2. Ask the darn question.

Ever been in a meeting and said to yourself, “Darn, that was my question”?

When unprepared, people all too often don’t want to speak up because they don’t want to feel silly, stupid, or incompetent. Why would you want to tarnish your reputation by appearing as if you don’t know enough about the discussion?

The reality is, the higher you rise in an organization, the less visibility you have on the details. This is one reason organizational structure exists: so that people can roll data uphill. Another way to look at it: It is a director’s job to help the C-suite see.

Companies known for having a “debate culture” hammer ideas out collectively, looking for avenues and breaking things apart to find the best solution together. Questioning, conflict, and differences create better solutions because they agitate people and ideas together.

Get in and ask questions, no matter how simplistic they may sound to you. If you need clarity, it’s likely someone else does as well.

3. You–not a PowerPoint slide–must own your message.

When you speak, you have to be able to deliver your POV with confidence and presence.

When using a PPT, it is your responsibility to own the stage, not your PPT’s. What this looks like is you pausing and allowing people to marinate in your words — not the slide.

Try this: When you really want the audience to focus, hit the “B” key on your computer to black out the screen. In Europe, this is the “N” key. You’ll then become the center of the room — the visual. With all eyes and ears on you — the speaker — the audience is listening to you and not reading the slide.

From walking into a room to closing a meeting, own it. Each moment counts toward you being considered a credible leader.