A question posed to me recently by a consultant who works with smaller groups and is called to lead and direct them into new and sometimes challenging directions:
"How do I deal with feeling the need to establish credibility as a young female with only a few years of experience to her name?"
Here are a few suggestions I posed to her:
Great question. I think the biggest tool you have to overcome this is your content preparation. Know your stuff and be ready to provide real, tangible value. Of course, you also have to establish your personal credibility, but if you have the knowledge part ready, you can do this through establishing trust in you as a person.
So, what does this look like? Here are a few quick techniques that come to mind. Many of them I am sure you are probably already doing - you might just not be applying the appropriate amount of weight to their importance.
* Learn names and find common ground with the group members.
* Ask questions about their expectations, their job role, etc. Express genuine interest in learning about their world.
* Make an effort to discover the "Elephant in the room" (if their is one.) Express your concern about it and get everyone's take on it. This shows your interest in learning from them, as opposed to setting up the sessions as a one-way conversation.
* Smile, be friendly, express genuine charisma.
* If necessary, mirror the participants' body language to connect with them in a passive way (if they are sitting, you sit. If they are chatting, you chat. If they are discussing a news topic, you join in.)
* Give value immediately. If they do perceive you as "a youngster," this will disarm them.
* Highlight the positive sides of being younger (while not talking about them in direct terms - i.e. don't say, here are five reasons why me being born in the 80s is a good thing) and how those traits are of great benefit to the relationship. A few that come to mind are energy, fresh perspectives, willingness to challenge the norm, etc.
* Be mindful of your body language. There are many small cues that communicates confidence. You should employ as many as you can: smile, calm demeanor, direct eye contact, responsive body language, asking questions, well-groomed, conservative attire, standing tall, sitting tall, leaning forward, taking notes, speaking clearly, using simple/clear/firm language.