Jessica Chen is an Emmy Award winner, keynote speaker, former journalist, and CEO of the global business communications agency Soulcast Media. She is a top LinkedIn Learning instructor with over two million learners on self-awareness, personal branding, and executive presence. In this conversation, Jessica shares her knowledge of the essential qualities linked to emotional intelligence. This episode contains counsel for leaders on communication, storytelling, and self-confidence.
[2:50] Jessica recently became a new mom. Her little boy just turned one. Becoming a mother was a huge life transition for Jessica. She read parent books about it, but when the baby was born, Jessica learned you’ve just got to roll with the punches, taking care of a baby.
[5:55] Jessica teaches executive presence as how you make other people feel. It depends on the situation and the people. It is learning the soft skills of emotional intelligence. Unconscious bias leads to differences in application between men and women leaders and young and old leaders. Having self-awareness, and speaking clearly and precisely can help you show up and be heard as you want.
[8:38] Building credibility is learning how to talk about the things that you have done and owning that. That’s a part of showing up.
[10:17] Do you deal with a difficult boss? It’s hard to do good work when you’re micromanaged. Jessica asks, how can you reduce this communications friction? Ask yourself, “What does my manager care about?” Speak their language, consider to whom they are accountable, make them look good, and anticipate what they need. Care about what your manager cares about. Then they will feel you get it.
[12:19] If your boss is a bully, that is a terrible position to be in. If you have identified that your boss is completely treating you unfairly, that is not the right environment for you. Ask yourself what are your options.
[14:27] If you have lots of substance but very little style, Jessica has some tips for you. Put some color in your speech. Growing up as a woman in a traditional Asian family, Jessica was not taught to put color in her conversation. She was taught to do the work without disturbing anybody. That way of working is not going to help you build the visibility you need in a workplace with charismatic people.
[15:24] Style is what makes you memorable. We all have to do good work and perform in our job. It’s expected. What makes you memorable is your ability to add some color, meaning energy. The words that you choose to say and the energy and emotion you use can make you stand out with color and style. Finding your color and style makes you memorable.
[16:55] Jessica talks about brand. Jessica calls it your career brand. All of us need to think about building a career brand. It’s not about social media, although she says LinkedIn is a fantastic place to build your career brand and thought leadership. Thought leadership is important in people seeing you as an expert.
[17:47] For listeners not on LinkedIn, consider how you can build thought leadership within your team and organization. Seek opportunities to contribute to a workplace blog. Or simply be more visible by getting on board with some projects so people in other departments can see you.
[19:33] A person at a company can make a story good by humanizing it. Who are the people that the numbers in your presentation represent? Behind every customer number is a person with experience and a journey. Humanize the metrics to share the difficult journey the customer went through. Don’t just report the issue, find somebody to report the issue through.
[22:35] To influence your team to adopt a new process, tell the process through someone’s lived experience. Use a made-up name with a real event.
[24:03] Jan and Jessica both acknowledge and thank Dean Karrel at LinkedIn Learning for connecting them. Dean is the ultimate connector, asking for nothing in return.
[26:23] In the working world, you need to take a lot of information and condense it. The schools should teach conciseness and precision in our speaking. If you’re speaking too long, pause and ask yourself this question, “What’s the point I’m trying to make?” Then get back on track and get to the point. You can say it out loud: “What I’m trying to say here is, A, B, and C.”
[29:13] Jessica shares an aphorism: “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” In communication, capturing people’s attention should be your priority. Think about what your audience wants to hear and what they care about. You may have 10 things to share, but what are the three things you want everyone to walk away with? It takes more work to winnow it down, but it is well worth it.
[31:03] Good presenters connect their points seamlessly. They communicate the link between the points. It’s up to the presenter to talk about that. Use transition words, like “In addition,” or “this brings me now to this point.” Present the relationship between A, B, and C clearly.
[33:02] Jessica prefers to prepare carefully rather than be thrust into a high-pressure situation where she has to think on her feet. But she had experience in her journalism days of being thrown into a breaking news situation and having to report the story as it unfolds. Sometimes on the scene, it is sufficient to report what you have already done. That may be what people want to know.
[34:03] Communicating the process is a part of communicating and people appreciate it.
[36:20] Jessica taught a LinkedIn Learning course on Speaking Up at Work. If she could go back and add one thing to that course, it would be along the lines of building an inclusive speaking environment. How can we all take a proactive approach to making others feel more comfortable speaking up? How can we pave the way for the more quiet person to raise their hand? The loudest person often gets the attention.
[38:34] Western society values people who are able to speak up. Eastern culture doesn’t tend to put as much value in verbalizing thoughts but the people still have thoughts. Folks who are working with Asians or other minorities on their teams need to be open-minded about some of these assumptions. Being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t care or they’re not engaged. They still want to contribute.
[40:00] It can be detrimental to generalize. There are so many different Asian ethnicities. In general, Asian men and women both tend to be humble and show respect and pursue harmony. Being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of value to give.
[41:28] Past guest, CEO Colleen Abdoulah had a rule at her company, “Hold your views lightly.” Jan and Jessica agree that having self-awareness and open-mindedness about the people in the room and not assuming certain things about them. There is a diversity in thinking and a diversity in processing. That can help us be more inclusive speakers.
[43:19] Jessica sees people struggling with confidence in how they show up in the workplace. They don’t feel confident speaking up in a meeting and being perceived the way they want to be perceived. Jessica’s specialty is teaching the communication tool to show up and speak up better. She tells them she is happy they are acknowledging this friction and are taking steps to build their confidence.
[44:29] The only way to become more confident is to put yourself in these positions and continuously practice while doing it consciously.
[46:38] Jessica’s advice to senior workers who are reluctant to speak up: “These days, there’s always such a reaction to people saying things. … Trust your experience. … Clearly demonstrate your understanding of a thing you want to express. Qualify and quantify what you want to say and then package it in a way that shows your expertise. People will listen. … Own it and provide examples.”
[49:21] Jessica’s challenge to listeners: “I truly think communication is one of the most important skills for workplace success, regardless of what level you are at. I would challenge the listeners to think about ‘How can I improve my communication skills this year at work?’ … Whatever it is, there’s always going to be great ROI if you invest in your communication skills.”
[50:33] Closing quote: Remember, “Great is our admiration of the orator who speaks with fluency and discretion.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Quotable Quotes“If I’m doing a presentation and I want to get my team excited … [I] can leverage some of the soft skills to get them to feel that way.” Click To Tweet “All of us need to think about building a career brand. But it’s not in the way of social media, especially if you’re working in a typical office. … Though, I will say LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to build your career brand.” Click To Tweet “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the point I’m trying to make here?’ … Clarify and get back on track. … Sometimes you’ve just got to remember to reign yourself back in.” Click To Tweet “Every good presenter is able to connect their points seamlessly.” Click To Tweet “How can we all take a proactive approach to making others feel more comfortable speaking up? How can we pave the way so that the more quiet person on your team feels comfortable raising their hand?” Click To Tweet “The only way to become more confident is you just have to put yourself in these positions and continuously practice while doing it consciously, of course.” Click To Tweet “Communication is one of the most important skills for workplace success, regardless of what level you are at. … There’s always going to be great ROI if you invest in your communication skills.” Click To Tweet
- Sponsored by: Darley.com
- Rafti Advisors. LLC
- Self-Reliant Leadership. LLC
- Jessica Chen
- Soulcast Media
- Jessica Chen on LinkedIn Learning
- Jeffrey Pfeffer
- Dean Karrel on LinkedIn Learning
- The National Western Stock Show
- Deepa Purushothaman
- Colleen Abdoulah
These are the books mentioned in our conversation with Jessica