Durban - The working woman’s toolkit, Own Your Space, has hit South African shelves.
Written by CNN editorial producer Nadia Bilchik and thought leader and mentor Lori Milner. The book tells you “How to” get ahead by distilling motivational books that have come before it and including fresh and plentiful comments or tips and advice from high-powered South African women.
If in the workplace, you’re constantly fidgeting, pulling at your skirt, drumming your fingers, checking your phone, biting your nails, twirling your hair and tapping your pen... stop! It’s time to own your space.
Here are a few pearls of wisdom I gathered from the easy read:
* Accept that change is as natural as breathing, and embrace it. We can’t get stuck in our old ways. Indeed, if we want to keep moving forward, we need to keep ourselves current. Sometimes we even need to reinvent ourselves, but always with our end goal in mind.
* We can all learn to express ourselves more clearly, speak with conviction and, in so doing, build a more compelling personality. One of the surest ways to become a better speaker is to be thoroughly prepared. Make sure you know everything you can within your area of expertise. Take the time to research the latest trends, find out what’s happening elsewhere and what other companies are doing. This way, when you speak, not only will you have something interesting to say, you’ll also be speaking from a solid knowledge base.
* Manners matter: Say please and thank you – even when somebody’s doing something they’re paid to do. Remember people’s names, use the titles they worked so hard for and never, ever interrupt when someone else is speaking.
* Words you can do without: Don’t cloud your language with fillers like “um”, “uh”, “you know”, expletives (those four-letter words you weren’t allowed to use on the playground are just as inappropriate in business) or slang. They detract from your physical presence. Fillers can make you seem indecisive while slang and expletives can be interpreted as disrespectful, unprofessional and even aggressive.
* Actively remember that emotions are fleeting – they shouldn’t be the foundation of your decision-making.
* When you find yourself faced with conflict, whether it’s a nasty person or an offensive e-mail, the first step is to take a step – backwards. Don’t react immediately. Do yourself (and everybody around you) a big favour: employ that tried-and-tested, calming measure of taking a deep breath. And another. Count to 10 if you can. Picture a tranquil ocean scene if you need to. Give yourself some time to think straight. Just don’t go off on a negative rant because you might just say something you’ll regret or send an e-mail that’ll hover around in cyberspace forever. You’re not going to look very professional. You might actually even lose credibility.
* If you try to treat everyone the same way, that can cause a lot of conflict, because people need to be reassured and encouraged in different ways and they need different levels of explanation.
* Your personal brand is equally affected by your virtual presence: how you answer the phone, reply to e-mails; how you text, tweet, WhatsApp; and how you choose to present yourself in cyberspace collectively becomes a reflection of the overall perception you choose to create.
* Google yourself every few months. You might be surprised at what comes up. It could range from listings in alumni organisations to being tagged in old photographs from a forgotten December holiday, your old nursery school, or that staff party you wish you could forget. When it comes to cyberspace, you need to start controlling what your prospective employer, an HR professional or a colleague in your company will see.
* No matter what your preferred communication channel is, remember that it’s all relevant to how you are perceived in the professional world.
* Be aware of who and what pulls you away from the important work you’re doing. Negative people who constantly gossip and complain can be a huge drain on your energy. If you can avoid them, do.
* Whenever you’re doing something that requires your full attention (like something on your smash-it-out list), turn off all automated e-mail, Twitter and Facebook alerts, and silence your phone. Spare yourself those random interruptions and schedule a few times each day to check and respond to e-mails, texts and phone calls. That way you’ll avoid responding to other people’s needs at the expense of your own.
* Choose to be mind-full. To be fully present and aware. Ellen Langer’s research on mindfulness has influenced thinking across several fields, from behavioural economics to positive psychology. She says that mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you actively notice new things, you place yourself wholly in the present. It’s the essence of engagement and makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. And rather than being in an energy-consuming state, mindfulness is actually energising. Langer suggests we aim to actively notice five new things every day.
* Busy and stressed have somehow become inextricably linked with success. Decide you deserve some sacred time each day. Give yourself permission to relax, refocus and recharge. When you’re rejuvenated, you can return to your responsibilities with greater focus, commitment and enjoyment.
* In an incredibly moving campaign called #LetGo by Sanctuary Spa in the UK, Jenni Trent Hughes urges us to “Get present to your presence”. Take a long hard look at yourself. Is there a sparkle in your eye? Is there still a slight skip in your step? How often do you find yourself laughing at absolutely nothing?
* If some-one sends you an e-mail, thanking you for a job well done, forward it to your boss with a note that says, “This makes it all worth it.” By acknowledging your success and the role other people played in it, you are building your brand as a leader.
* You’ll never be successful at asking for something substantial if you don’t inherently believe that you deserve it. Know that you deserve it. Fewer things are more important in helping you getting paid what you are really worth than your reputation for speed and dependability.
* In the iconic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
* Be the kind of person your boss can count on to get a job done quickly and well.
* You could strike Amy Cuddy’s two-minute power pose before that big meeting, the public speech, the once-in-a-lifetime job interview, or that difficult phone conversation. Close the door, give yourself two quiet minutes and hit a power pose:
Put your hands on your hips, stand with your feet wide apart, your shoulders back, and your chin up, and gaze confidently ahead.
When you release your pose after two minutes, embrace the rising feelings of strength, composure and confidence within yourself and take them with you wherever you go.
So what are you wearing right now?
The clothes we wear tell other people stories about ourselves, and if we want to utilise every tool at our disposal, we need to be aware of that. What does it say about you as a professional? Does it say, I’ve got it together; I know what I’m doing; I am capable, confident and competent or I don’t really care; I’m a mess; I don’t really have it together, are you communicating a different message?
You could be highly capable, but that message can so easily be lost in a sea of assumptions based on the way you dress
There’s a reason pilots wear uniforms. Would you feel as confident on the plane if your pilot was wearing tracksuit pants and a ripped, oversized jersey? Dress for the job you want, not the job you have: Dressing like a leader makes it much easier for others to picture you in that position.
* Use a full-length mirror: It’s important that you’re able to see how you look, head to toe. Are you conveying the right message?
* The blazer-and-heels effect: In our experience, whether they are worn with jeans, pants, or a skirt, a tailored blazer and a pair of heels can instantly give you an aura of being pulled together and having authority. The blazer adds structure while the heels bring a little height and elegance.
* The professional look: Our advice is to strengthen your air of professionalism by avoiding dressing provocatively (with regard to your hemline, cleavage and undergarments). Good grooming gives the impression you’re in control.
* Fragrances and accessories: A signature scent can be good, and accessories can be wonderful expressions of you, but keep it subtle.
* Add a dash of individuality: Even in a highly corporate environment, there are creative ways you can represent your personal brand. Scarves, brooches, glasses and shoes are a great way to bring a pop of colour and personality.
* Be authentically you: Not a make-up and heels kind of person? Then ditch the make-up and heels. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
* Embrace your femininity: It is our experience that the amount of credibility and authority you want to convey is directly proportional to the formality of your attire. The days of 1980s power suits are over; you can still wear something that is feminine but maintains a credible presence. Remember that your outer appearance needs to be a reflection of who you truly are.