The day I learned I was invisible.
I will never forget the day it happened - in part because I was totally unprepared for the possibility that I was insignificant. I had been told to work hard, do well, and show up for important moments. No one ever told me that HOW I showed up would make the difference between being seen and heard, or being, well, invisible. Another person at the table who could just as easily have been somewhere else.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
There I was, sitting in a strategy meeting with leaders of our team. They had invited all of us, so there was a wide range of experience in the room. I had been working exclusively on this project for weeks, and knew the specifics well. Still, I was reluctant to speak up. I wasn’t new, but I was far from seasoned. I was trying to prove my worth and I didn’t want to risk sounding stupid.
As I listened to the conversation, an idea came to me. I sat with it for a minute- and yes - it was really, really good. This was my moment! I went for it. I jumped into the conversation and offered my suggestion. Except…. there was no response. None. It was as if I hadn’t spoken at all.
“Maybe it was a terrible idea after all,” I thought to myself as I felt my face redden.
No less than two minutes later, Rob, an associate sitting two seats away from me sat up taller in his chair. “Excuse me,” he said, “I have an idea.” And he proceeded to say, verbatim, what I had offered just moments before, claiming it as his own. “That is actually brilliant,” said the senior partner. “Let’s talk about that a little bit more.”
Wait- what? I literally said that exact thing two minutes ago. Am I invisible? What the actual f*ck is going on?
It turns out, I kind of was invisible.
I had done absolutely nothing to make my presence known or to command attention. I was so worried about doing well, being right, and being seen as competent that I was missing the most important ingredient of all. A powerful presence. Keeping my head down and working hard got me good reviews and made me an asset to client facing partners, but it also made me invisible. To the point that they didn’t even hear me or notice when I finally spoke up at a meeting and shared a great idea.
I was not okay with that. For a little while, I blamed the partners for ignoring me. I blamed Rob for not giving me credit. I blamed my colleagues for not standing up for me. It was everyone else’s fault that my talent wasn’t being appreciated. But then I got real. I knew that if I wanted to make an impact, it was on me to figure out how to be seen, heard, and valued. I worked hard at it.
Within 6 months, I went from being invisible to earning the trust of one of our biggest clients and being the youngest associate in the firm to try a jury case. I was asked to be on the recruiting committee. I began consulting on jury selection. Over time, my opinion was sought often, and I was given the task of mentoring others. I got more and more meaningful work, and often found myself in a position to speak up and make a difference.
Learning HOW to show up powerfully changed my life, and for the past 15 years, has inspired me to help other people express themselves clearly and confidently. For the first time ever, I am offering an interactive, online training course on Power Presence beginning May 6th. It will teach you how to own the room.
Registration is now open. Click below for details!