Strong Voices Interview #3: Sabine Altena - author, coach and speaker
We did another Interview with an absolutely inspiring StrongVoice: Sabine Altena. She is an author, coach and speaker with her own coaching business ("Sabine Altena - Discover your Wow"). As she is a queen when it comes to talking, we did an IGTV on Instagram, so you can hear her speak. So, make sure you watch it on our Instagram channel. However, it is in German, so we decided to summarize the key points of the interview here again.
Sabine started her career as an event moderator (on TV and radio shows), then switched to coaching in 2005 and founded her own training & coaching agency. Today, she offers individual coaching sessions, group trainings and speeches all focused on topics such as leadership, personality and communication (also female specific).
"If you once find your passion, then hold onto it, make something out of it - because sooner or later it will lead to success." - Sabine Altena
OUR QUESTIONS FOR SABINE:
During your coaching sessions and speeches, what is your main purpose? What would you like to give your (female) customers on their way?
My claim is "Discover your Wow" and I want my clients to discover theirs. Basically, there are two ways of getting there. The first one is from the outside. It's about how do I speak, how do I dress, how do I behave, which bag do I choose. All of this can lead to your "Wow" and it can make you feel better on the inside as well. The same is true for repercussiveness: It's a wonderful tool to know for yourself, that no matter what is going to happen, you will be ready. However, the more lasting "Wow" comes from within. And unfortunately, I cannot buy this one but I have to work for it. This "Wow" is about self-confidence, about self-care and about knowing yourself: What is good for you? What is not? Which are your strengths and weaknesses? And most importantly, although being aware of your weaknesses, knowing that it is more than okay that way. You need to see a beautiful core, even if you take all your accessories away. And that's where I want to go with my clients during our coaching sessions. Because if you reach this point, then everything else you need is a great handbag. Even repercussiveness becomes less important, as you have much less reasons to fight back. The higher our self-assurance and self-awareness, the smaller all doubts become and the less negativity we see in our environment's behavior.
And don't get me wrong: If we have this inner strength and on top beautiful accessories, then this is the absolute dream combination! But taking the outside perspective alone, you won't find lasting happiness in life.
What are the main difficulties of women, which you encounter during your coaching sessions?
A recurring question is definitely: How do I behave in a surrounding of many men, for example during meetings? I hear from many women, that they had a great idea but weren't heard. Then a male colleague came up with the exact same idea and everyone was stunned by his amazing suggestion. In situations like this, it's okay to hit the table sometimes and be a bit bolder as a woman - because men do this as well. It's all about the right mix. My new heroine in this respect is definitely the new Vice President of the US, Kamala Harris, because she does exactly what women need to do if they want to have a successful career. She has this great mix of absolute clarity and fascinating charm. Many women lose their charm on their way to the top, which is such a pity, because charm can be irresistible. And many women lack clarity as well. I often see women in my coachings, who are not really clear about where they actually want to go. If I ask them directly, they often don't know. On the one hand, they want to make a career, but on the other hand they are already overthinking the future. Many mention the wish for children at some point, believing that this cannot come together with a great career. So, I often notice that young women limit themselves completely due to some hypothetical future plans and false beliefs associated with this, thereby compromising on their career. In fact, this is nonsense, because it's all about the right setup and coordination, but still I experience this mental limitation a lot.
And which advice would you give these women to still get ahead in their careers? Do you have any tips on how to they can be supported better?
First of all, they need to actively request feedback and support - just as men do as well. The problem of us women is, we often have the attitude that the other person must know what we are thinking without us actually saying anything. Men on the other hand are far more direct and clearer. They just say what they want in order to get it. And women need to learn this as well, if they want to be successful in their careers. On top, they have to think big, not limiting themselves by overthinking and overplanning of what might happen in future. In the end, nobody knows how things come. So, I would always go full-speed first - you can still step back again if necessary.
In your Insta-Story, you asked this morning what it is, that gets us out of bed every morning. So, we wondered, what is it for you?
Actually, this didn't change a lot during the last years. At this point, I would like to thank my parents, because they always supported me in my plans. They always let me follow my dreams and never restricted them. And I was lucky to find my dream quite early. When I was 15, I joined the school newspaper, with 16 I became "chief editor" there and with 17 I was standing in my first radio station - being totally enthusiastic. And it went on like that, because I had an enormous passion for this exciting radio life, which got me out of bed every morning. It's a great luck to find something like that. If you once find your passion, then hold onto it, make something out of it - because sooner or later it will lead to success. And by success, I don't only refer to monetary success, which of course is nice, but it's not everything. When I think about my career, I earn a lot more money as a coach now than I earned when I was a radio and TV moderator. But the experiences I made back then are so precious that no money in the world could compensate for that. So, it's always a matter of perspective to determine what success actually is.
How can people work on their charisma and body language, in order to appear more present and less monotonous/shy without losing their "true-self"?
One thing in advance: Many people standing on stages and giving speeches are rather introverted than extroverted. Being an introvert isn't a bad thing. It just means that you do not feel the urge of talking about yourself all the time, which can be quite annoying if you ask me. When it comes to presenting in front of a large audience, everybody is nervous. Some more than others, but this is also just a matter of practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You improve by repeating, trial and error and applying some basic tips and tricks. I have a nice example: A coachee of mine, who is highly professional but not the outgoing type, was very monotonous in his speaking style when we first started our online coaching sessions. So, we started practicing to fill his voice with more enthusiasm and power. And it worked: Now he greets me with such an amazing charisma at the beginning of each session. It's a trained charisma, yes, but no one notices that. On the contrary, everyone is pleased by seeing a friendly face, proactive cheerfulness and a smile. It makes conversations much easier and more appealing. And never forget, everyone gets a fast heartbeat when going out on a stage. I still have it too, but I appreciate it, because I know that the adrenaline is important to focus and concentrate. So, it's totally okay to have this feeling. And as soon as it becomes "totally okay" it also gets easier to handle it.
Which advice motivated you the most to pursue your career? Was it always clear to you or did you get some "kicks"?
I had many motivating factors and "kicks". One of the biggest was probably in my 30s, when I have been working for the radio and TV a long time already and thought I knew everything about communication. Then I started my coaching training and the people there made me realize very quickly that I actually don't know anything at all about real communication. It was one of my greatest realization that lifelong learning is possible and absolutely necessary. Whenever you get the feeling of knowing everything, then you've reached the point to learn something new and make another progress.
Another saying, which has been accompanying me for a long while now, is from the music band Queens: "the show must go on". I believe this is very important when it comes to performance and appearance. Whenever you are nervous, feel lost or don't know how to proceed - the show must go on. You cannot stop, go silent or run away. You have to keep going and I think it's really important to not feel rattled too quickly, especially not by the nonsense in your head saying you can't do it. Don't take your inner critic too seriously and simply go on - step by step.
There is another saying, that I really like, and which is true for many situations, especially when it comes to being seen: It doesn't matter what you do, just remember - "a lot" results in "a lot". Networking for instance, is super important these days. Getting to know many people matters, although there might be no direct link on first sight. So, if you have the chance to meet new people, then do it, because in the end you will benefit from it.
One final question for you Sabine: If you could give our beautiful Amelis out there one tip on their way - which one would it be?
First of all, the most important rule is: A powerful woman always needs a beautiful bag. And secondly, I would like to refer back to something I said earlier. People in your generation often talk about gratitude and self-love. However, at the same time I realize, that these words are not yet filled with action. You have already a quite good self-confidence when it comes to your education, which is a great start. You are energetic, charming, charismatic and smart - but still you have such a big focus on those things that are not good (in your eyes). Be it gratitude or self-love, it is said quickly but to really get there you need get to know yourselves and learn how to be enough for yourselves. Because even though we get to know amazing people on our way, if we break it down the only person who is always with us is us ourselves. So, we better get along with ourselves and learn how to be our own best friend.