Speaking with authority at work is something I have developed over the years. Here are my ten top tips on talking with authority at work.
Remember that Assistants represent their boss at all times. This is not the case for your colleagues. In any form of communication, try to channel your manager’s authority by using the same tone that they take in emails or conversing over the phone.
Christine Jahnke, a speech coach and the author of The Well-Spoken Woman, said:
“Once you are in the room, recognise that you belong there.”
This is such good advice for assistants.
There is a reason we are in the meeting, even if we are there to take the minutes. Speaking with authority is mostly believing in your voice and having the confidence to voice an opinion. This is easier said than done, but the first step is to think that you belong in that room!
Plan what you are going to say before you say it.
Assistants are already well trained in getting information to their boss’s in small doses, in-between meetings and on the hoof. So we should be quite concise and articulate anyway. Planning what you say before you say it will add to your message’s clarity and make you look like you know what you are talking about – the key to speaking with authority!
Take a breath!
This is something that I am still working on. I can speak very quickly, so I have to work on my pace, and I have to remember to breathe! A measured pace when conversing or speaking to a group of people will make you appear controlled and thoughtful.
I often find people who have confidence in their authority rarely flaunt it.
I usually try to add humour and personality to my communications in the hope people assume I am confident in my authority. I find this works as an Executive Assistant in charge of who sees my manager. I know I have the power to decide what meetings he takes and what goes in his diary, so I try to project ease when dealing with these tasks.
I think it makes my colleagues and our clients connect with me on a level that we might not have if I was just articulate and polite, and I think it makes me look naturally authoritative when it comes to diary management.
Speak to your manager about your authority. How much do you exactly have, and how many decisions can you take without their consent? With the power that you have, try to own it! Take pride in your decision making, think of yourself as the expert in that field and remember that you will be judged on the performance of those tasks.
It is easy to get upset when your authority is being challenged.
This will happen at some point in your career as an assistant – trust me! The best advice I can give is to try your hardest not to let it upset you. Don’t let the person know you are angry or hurt. This will, unfortunately, undermine your authority.
When you feel your blood boiling, say that you will take what the other person has said on board and respond later. Then hot-foot it to the privacy of the ladies room to sort yourself out! We have all done that. I certainly have! As much as you want to be liked at work, the most important thing is that you are respected, so keep a check on your emotions and have confidence that your authority in the matter at hand will be enough.
I am terrible for this but speaking with authority does not come with lots of ‘errrrrr’ or ‘uuummmmm’ or ‘I think’. It also doesn’t help if you fidget or play with your hair. Again traits that I have – I did have the nickname ‘Bridget the fidget’ growing up! I’m still working on this one, but you really will sound more authoritative once you have cracked it!
In areas where you have no authority, don’t try to speak with authority. There is no need to overcompensate. Stick to the tasks and decisions that you know you have control over. Your influence will undoubtedly be diminished if you are overstepping your boundaries.
The best piece of advice I’ve had about speaking with authority is to remember the power of silence. We have all been in conversations when we have been nervous and try to fill as much silence as possible.
It does come across as lacking confidence in an obvious way. So instead you should make your point then stop talking. A pause before you answer a question is good too because belief in your authority means that you are about to say something worth waiting for. Trust me this works!