I recently had a lunch conversation which centred around C level people whom my lunch companion’s company thought needed help getting to that next (and near) top-level. Mostly Asian, with the company for a good stretch, all considered valuable and high potential.
What is the help they need? Accordingly to him, better English. Come again? All speak reasonably fluent English (and should add this company is US based).
The concern is that they were not able to speak English that can influence or impact with top management, and the rhetorical question is: can they learn to articulate better?
Of course that is the wrong question. It is not about English fluency; that is an archaic way of thinking about cross-cultural talent. The issue is how to have enough presence to be listened to, which requires more EQ and influencing skills than English fluency.
Here then are 3 tips to consider, both for companies and employees:
- Know who has power, and do not shy from it. Read the org chart strategically, and build alliances with people and groups that matter. Your boss may (or may not) be one with clout, but have a circle you build upon and consistently rely on.
- Know how to deliver. If you listen and watch carefully, you’ll know what the boss (and power bases) want, what puts a smile on their faces and a nod of their heads. Give ’em what they want. When you don’t agree, still give ’em what they want and learn how to politely lobby for your ideas–or when not to. Arguing over what you may think is a better idea gives you more rope to hang yourself.
- Know how to speak with precision, measurement, and resonance. Many people scoot or stumble through their talks, mumbling or mispronouncing, not thinking out their time in the klieg lights. Say it clearly, concisely, confidently, with some gravitas but not too much. It is irrelevant whether you are a native English speaker or not; it is your presence, deportment and delivery, not your accent. That is what lingers, not the tones–nor even the content. The impression does, and that is proportional to one’s presence.
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