To Sound Like a Leader, Think About What You Say, and How and When You Say It

Nancy started her day feeling prepared to brief her executive team on a high-stakes project she had been working on for the past two months. She had rehearsed her slide deck repeatedly, to the point where she had every level of content practically memorized. She arrived at the meeting early and waited patiently, yet anxiously, for her part of the agenda. The meeting began, and within a few minutes Jack, one of the cochairs, asked her to brief the executives on her project and recommendations.

Nancy enthusiastically launched into her presentation, hitting every talking point that she had meticulously rehearsed. With a solid command of the material, she felt at the top of her game and was relieved that she’d spent so much time practicing and preparing for this meeting. But just as she was about to move into her recommendations, Jack interrupted and said, “Nancy, I appreciate your hard work on this project, but it is not relevant to our agenda, and it doesn’t have merit for the business objectives we’re covering today.” Mortified, Nancy retreated to her chair and sat in silence for the rest of the meeting. She couldn’t wait to bolt from the room the moment the meeting ended to reflect on how this moment — which she expected would be a positive turning point in her career — had turned into a disaster.

What just happened here? While Nancy was prepared to participate in the meeting, she failed to think strategically. This is a common problem that trips up many capable managers, executives, and leaders when it comes to determining their role in communications, meetings, and other forums. Learning how to develop and convey a more strategic executive voice — in part by understanding context — can help leaders avoid finding themselves, as Nancy did, in a potentially career-damaging situation.

Read the full article & Harvard Business Review

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