February 21, 2020
Women who attended AMA’s Women’s Leadership Workshop, held in January in Dallas, brainstormed on new ways of owning and exhibiting their power as they worked on improving their executive presence.
The American Management Association’s Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) 1-day event was being held for the first time in Dallas and was led by Tonya Echols, an executive coach and a leadership consultant at Vigere, and hosted, moderated, and co-facilitated by Lauren McNally, director of the WLC, and Tammy Swed, a learning solutions manager at AMA.
The workshop started with a guided networking session and team-building activity. At every WLC Women’s Leadership Workshop, the goal of these exercises is to give women the opportunity to build new relationships while gathering insights from women who might be going through the same challenges they are.
One of those challenges—lack of acknowledgment—came up a few times. “Women often feel they are not being acknowledged for the work they do,” Swed says. “How do we speak up and communicate our achievements with confidence?” She believes women shouldn’t just do their work—they should let others know about it and talk about their contributions. If women don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves, they can partner with other people in the organization to champion and amplify each other’s accomplishments, Swed suggests.
The morning was capped off with a keynote discussion between McNally and leadership expert Echols on “Strategies to Thrive in a Male-Dominated Workplace.”
After lunch, attendees participated in a skill development workshop led by McNally and Echols, “Executive Presence for Women: Communicating with Confidence.”
The WLC team guided attendees in looking at the elements that make up executive presence and the subtle things that can change how people perceive you, including verbal, nonverbal, and mental tools such as holding eye contact for three to five seconds or eliminating filler words from your speech.
Practicing and learning these tools can help increase your credibility, trust level, confidence, and more, McNally says.
Don’t be afraid of the word “power,” the facilitators told the group. Power doesn’t just mean authority, Echols points out. It also means feeling confident, owning your abilities, and owning your competence. And it’s about controlling the things you can control, such as your emotions and reactions—understanding what they are and knowing which circumstances can trigger them, she says. This often has to do with your values.
“For instance, I’m generally a ‘rule-follower,’ and I’m triggered when other people aren’t following the rules,” she says, giving the example of being impatient when people at airport screenings hold up others because they haven’t followed directions. In situations where you feel angry or impatient, “You have to be aware that it’s not about you,” she says.
As it’s moved into its third year, WLC’s Women’s Leadership Workshop continues to attract women who are seeking a powerful boost in being a better leader, becoming a leader, or leading without holding a leadership title.
“I think everyone is realizing that there is a societal expectation that’s been growing, that we need to even the playing field,” Echols says. “There’s big pressure to give women the skills to move up.”