Recently I helped save a client’s career after she had accent softening. Ultimately my client had the power to change her situation, but I am delighted I was able to support her to make radical changes to save her career!
My client was a highly intelligent executive who was working at a senior level within the financial sector. Whilst the quality of her work was respected, people did not engage with her; listen to what she wanted to contribute or have a conversation with her. In fact her colleagues and team would try to avoid having conversations with her. She spoke English as a second language, and whilst she was fluent, she had a very strong accent, which made it very difficult for others to understand her.
The situation was rapidly becoming a significant problem for her. And then she had her annual review, which included 360 degree feedback. This was a wake up call to her. The observations included:
“When I see her in the building I avoid her because I can’t understand what’s she’s saying.”
” I don’t want to have a conversation with her because it is embarrassing when I can’t understand her”.
“It is so embarrassing when you see everyone’s reactions when she is speaking in meetings”.
“When she appears in the office, everyone suddenly looks busy so they don’t have to speak to her”.
“Being in her team is challenging: we all struggle to understand what she’s saying then when we misunderstand she gets frustrated. We also try not to giggle when she mis-pronounces some words”.
This was devastating for my client to read and was a jolt to do something. It was clear that there was a barrier created between herself and her colleagues/team members, who were unable to understand what she was saying in conversations.
I was engaged to work with this client, to ensure her communication skills improved. The work included:
Specific work on pronunciation of words/sounds to make her speech clearer.
Identifying situations where her speech becomes less clear (e.g. when she was stressed).
Non-verbal communication to engage her audience (e.g. body language).
Specific mannerisms that her audience might mis-interpret as arrogant/not interested, when in fact this isn’t the case.
Developing active listening skills to ensure her audience believe she is interested in what they are saying.