Tag Archives: Play Big

Power of “Powerless” Speech, but not Powerless Posture

Assertive speech is assumed to signal competence and power, pre-requisites to status, power, and leadership in the U.S. workplace.

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

However, University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale demonstrated that warmth trumps competence in collaborative team work groups.

Fragale studied “powerless speech,” which has been believed to make a person seem tentative, uncertain, and less likely to be promoted to expanded workplace roles.
She defined “powerless speech” as including:

  • Hesitation: “Well” or “Um”, as known as “clutter words”
  • Tag questions: “Don’t you think?”
  • Hedges: “Sort of” or “Maybe”
  • Disclaimers: “This may be a bad idea, but … “
  • Formal addresses:“Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am”

In collaboration-based work teams, “powerless” speech characteristics are significantly associated with being promoted, gaining status and power.
Interpersonal warmth and effective team skills are valued more than dominance and ambition by team members and those selecting leaders for these teams.

Paul Hersey

Paul Hersey

In contrast, “powerful” speech does not feature these characteristics, is more effective when the task or group is independent and people are expected to work alone.

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard

As in Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, Fragale concludes that communication style should be tailored to group characteristics.

Li Huang

Li Huang

Likewise, INSEAD’s Li Huang  and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky with Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld and Lucia Guillory of Northwestern University demonstrated the impact of “powerful” body language – also called “playing big” –  on perceived power.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Although assuming “larger” postures is associated with credibility and authority, some situations benefit from assuming “smaller”, less powerful postures to establish warmth or to acknowledge another’s higher status.

Lucia Guillory

Lucia Guillory

As noted in an earlier post, Women Get More Promotions With “Behavioral Flexibility”, careful self-observation and behavioral flexibility based on situational requirements are effective foundations to establish group leadership.

-*How do you monitor and adapt “powerless” speech to work situations?

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Lean In: Sheryl Sandberg launches Book, Foundation to Advance Women in Organizational Leadership

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg distilled her calls-to-action from her much-viewed TED talk and 2011 Commencement address at Barnard College in her forthcoming book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, scheduled for release 11 March 2013.

She reviews why women in the U.S. hold few of the top leadership roles in organizations and government, and offers greater detail on her much-discussed encouragement to:

  • Think Big
  • Sit at the table
  • Don’t leave before you leave
  • Lean in
  • Be bold, be unafraid
  • Choose the right partner
  • Seek challenges and take risks required to pursue ambitious goals.
Sheryl Sandberg at Barnard

Sheryl Sandberg at Barnard

Sandberg draws on current findings from Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research and other top research organizations to offer practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, building a satisfying career, setting boundaries, and replacing the goal of “having it all” with a more achievable target.

Sheryl Sandberg at Clayman Institute

Sheryl Sandberg at Clayman Institute

Sandberg is currently establishing The Lean In Foundation in collaboration with the Clayman Institute and corporate partners, to provide:

  • Online community to share insights and tools,
  • Online lectures by recognized thought leaders to enhance critical career skills,
  • Career discussion circles for women, men, and organizations, so they can deploy women’s talents to solve society’s most challenging issues.

-*How far can you “lean in” without losing your balance?

Related Posts:

  • Self-managed career discussion circles

“Greenlight Group”: No-cost, Self-managed Support to Achieve Professional, Personal Goals

  • “Think Big, Play Big” at Cisco’s 2013 Women in Technology Forum:

“Everything is Negotiable:” Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again

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