Making an Impact in the Workplace

By 01/03/2011 March 9th, 2018 News

Many women struggle to communicate powerfully and effectively in a male dominated workplace. It’s not uncommon for a woman to make a point in a meeting, and then hear a colleague make the same point several moments later – and have it appreciated and applauded!  Deirdre McBurney shares several key points, from her own career years as a female technologist in Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan and her work as Executive Coach. These strategies are designed to help you maximise your impact in the workplace.

1. Too many words!

Did you know that a typical female speaks 28,000 words a day while the average male uses just 10,000 words?

Many women start their sentences with an apology. Here are some examples that you might recognise:

I don’t really understand this area but have an idea that might possibly be of some help.
I don’t know if this is a good idea, but perhaps it might work if we were to…”

Starting with an apology immediately creates doubt in the minds of the audience. The use of negative language (“I don’t know” rather than “What I know is…”) dilutes the impact of a powerful idea.

Consider instead the following short and concise statements – which convey the same message as the examples above!

I have an idea.
An alternative option is…

2. Accept feedback gracefully

If you are given unexpected poor feedback it can be an emotional experience. However, being able to receive feedback and use it constructively is critical to success in the workplace.

Feedback can help us see understand how others perceive us – and enable us to do the best job that we can in our environment. Successful managers often solicit feedback periodically to ensure that they are performing to the best of their ability. In addition, asking for feedback shows that you care about doing the best job you can.

When receiving feedback:

  • Take a deep breath;
  • Absorb the words – taking notes can be useful later when you cannot remember exactly what was said;
  • Ask for a specific example  and what they would like you do do differently – this ensures that the feedback is constructive and helpful;
  • Thank the person for their time – perhaps ask if you can follow up with any questions later when you have had time to consider their thoughts.

In addition, many women find it hard to receive positive feedback. They often brush it off. For example, saying “It was nothing really” or “I didn’t really do anything.”   This undermines their own effort and success. Instead, try simply saying “Thank you” in a calm, confident and relaxed way.

3. Tone and Body Language – Own your space!

Be aware of your body language.  I have seen women curling up into a small space, folding their arms or leaning against a wall.  This can convey uncertainty and doubt.  Successful leaders stand tall, use a calm clear voice and are able to convey confidence and clarity.  This helps their messages and opinions to be conveyed strongly.  It also helps stave off interruptions!

Watch out for folding arms, twiddling with hair or earrings and sitting with your head tilted strongly to one side (which can be quite a childlike position).

Instead, own the space around you – Stand tall, keep your hands away from your face and hair and confidently own your personal space.

Deirdre McBurney is an accredited Executive Coach specialising in clarity, communication and assertiveness for technology professionals. She brings a wealth of managerial and leadership experience from her successful high profile career at Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan where she held a series of management positions, before accepting a non Executive Directorship at one of the UK’s top 250 mid sized companies. In addition, Deirdre has three young boys, volunteers at a parenting charity and and loves to help others to find the right balance between work and personal life. To find out about one to one coaching with Deirdre, please email her on or phone on 07879 603 470.