Sunday, February 15, 2009

how speaking up affects your image

Speaking up in meetings can be an issue for many women--and it's the most common opportunity for "public" speaking. But how does it affect how you are seen by your colleagues? A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that many equate speaking up with competence in workplace groups. Two experiments were set, the first asking teams of four to organize a nonprofit environmental group for a cash prize. Members of each group, along with independent observers and the researchers, rated participants (who were videotaped) on a range of leadership qualities. From the TIME magazine coverage of the research:
Consistently, the group members who spoke up the most were rated the highest for such qualities as "general intelligence" and "dependable and self-disciplined." The ones who didn't speak as much tended to score higher for less desirable traits, including "conventional and uncreative."
To test whether those who speak up are actually more competent, a different set of teams of four were asked to solve math problems from older versions of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). Once again, speaking up in the group mattered:
When the work was finished, the people who spoke up more were again likelier to be described by peers as leaders and likelier to be rated as math whizzes. What's more, any speaking up at all seemed to do. Participants earned recognition for being the first to call out an answer, but also for being the second or third — even if all they did was agree with what someone else had said.
Researchers divided groups into all-male and all-female participants for this pair of experiments. (I'm looking for similar studies that mixed genders for a similar experiment, so we can look at what TIME calls "the wild card of gender.") Does this inspire you to speak up more in meetings? At a minimum, it should inspire you to focus on speaking skills as one part of your leadership arsenal.

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