In episode five of this season’s TeamBonding Saves the World podcast, Angela Lussier, CEO and founder of the Speaker Sisterhood, joins Rich Rinnisland to talk about why speak up culture is so important and the vitality of women speaking up and having a voice in the corporate world. To listen to the full conversation, the Speak Up Culture episode can be accessed here

Angela Lussier put it bluntly right from the start: “If you want to be a leader, you have to be able to speak.” Having a voice in the corporate world is critical to long-term success, and there are a few critical components that are necessary:

  1. Be an effective communicator.
  2. Have the ability to persuade an audience, change their minds, or inspire them to rise to challenges.
  3. Understand that effective communication is about more than just the words — body language and delivery are just as critical to successfully conveying the message.

“If you’re not willing to communicate and you’re not willing to be seen, then you’re in that group of people who stay in the same job for their whole life,” she stressed, “and [you’re not] able to contribute on a bigger level. So that’s how speaking training makes a difference for people who are trying to climb that ladder.” 

This is especially true for women in the corporate world, she noted, which is what led her to found the Speaker Sisterhood. Lussier — an award-winning professional speaker, author, TEDx presenter, and entrepreneur — actually got her start doing public speaking in the corporate world herself, where she quickly realized how critical that skill set was for long-term success. 

She also quickly realized, while teaching a course to women who wanted to be professional speakers, that organizations like Toastmasters didn’t necessarily have the full range of specific skills needed for women to succeed in communicating effectively in a corporate environment. And thus, the Speaker Sisterhood was born. 

“It’s a network of public speaking clubs for women who are finding their voice together in a sisterhood,” she noted. “This is a place for women to show up as themselves, and tell the truth and be vulnerable and do the thing that scares them most: public speaking. And in the process, really find their voice.” 

Overcoming the Fear

Angela Lussier found that for many women — even those who started or owned successful businesses already — actually speaking up about their goals, pitching to investors, and presenting their business ideas to others was a major fear that was holding many back. 

“And I thought — I have that skill set,” Lussier said. “I can help them. And so with all of those things coming together, I decided I would start this organization for women, and coincidentally, it was August of 2016 when we started. And a few months later, Trump took office, and then the Women’s March happened. And then the ‘Me Too’ movement happened, and there was a national conversation going on about women and their voices, and Speaker Sisterhood really took off because it was something we were finally talking about, and I had a solution for it.”

The initial idea was just to help women feel more confident presenting themselves in corporate situations, including at large conferences where they would have a chance to stand out from the crowd. But Lussier quickly noted a few other added benefits of empowering women in the workplace that are the result of the increased confidence in presenting themselves: better personal relationships. 

“They were starting to speak up more to their family members and their spouse,” said Lussier. “And they’re becoming better parents because they were really saying what was on their mind and feeling confident enough to do so.”

Building that total confidence paid off in other ways as well, not just in being able to speak to a crowd: Lussier found that women started speaking up about their own value as well. “Maybe they were undercutting themselves because they didn’t want to ask for too much, or they were afraid of losing the job because they didn’t believe in their worth. And now, by being part of the Speaker Sisterhood, they were building up their asks. Instead of asking for $1,500 for a job, they’d asked for $3,000 — and they were getting it.”

Gaining a Voice

While it can be difficult to put into practice, the actual skills needed to have a voice in any situation, corporate or personal, are actually fairly easy. And this applies to public speaking skills in general:

  • Go in with the right mindset.
  • Breathe.
  • Pay attention to your audience, their goals, their challenges, and how you can address them.

“When you answer questions like that, your presentation all of a sudden takes on a whole new life, because it’s about being in service to those challenges and goals, instead of trying to show up a certain way and be seeing a certain way,” said Lussier.

Lussier has a few tips for those looking to improve their ability to speak up. 

  1. Be present. Don’t just passively sit back and listen to others speak — share your ideas and opinions and engage in the conversation.
  2. Be self-aware. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and be confident in what you bring to the situation. Also, understand the difference between assertive and confrontational — you can insert yourself and your point of view without attacking anyone else’s. 

Finally, Lussier noted, it’s important to have a safe space to confront your truths and let go of the shame. This is where clubs like the Speaker Sisterhood come into play, where you can work through the fears and doubts, where they came from, and overcome them in an environment that is encouraging you to be the best version of yourself. “The thing we’re most ashamed of is the thing that everyone else can relate to,” she said, and getting that shame out in the open, confronting it, and letting it go is the first step to a more confident, successful career.

Listen to the Speak Up Culture episode of the TeamBuilding Saves the World podcast to hear Angela Lussier’s full, lively, and informative interview with Rinnisland. Learn more about her background, how the Speaker Sisterhood got started, the importance of a good mental health support system if you get involved in speaking up, and more. If you’re ready to join the speak up culture, visit speakersisterhood.com to join a club.

Anna Webber

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