I have been reading a lot over the last few years about communication and have been fascinated by what the books share as differences between men and women in this area. I have begun to make adjustments and pay closer attention to my habits, like not raising my hand to speak, watching my posture and what I am doing with my hands and my stance.
Yesterday, I slammed the table and stunned the room. Today, I am trying to figure out whether that is me and whether it matters or not. It was a safe place and I was fascinated by the result.
The setting was a non- profit board meeting for which, as a member, I was asked to facilitate. We are an all volunteer team and working on this board has provided a safe place for me to hone my leadership skills. The board is diverse. Of the 4 men and 3 women, 3 were born outside the US. I was facilitating a topic and the conversations were intense and veering off track. This particular conversation needed to move forward. After allowing everyone in the room to have their say, people again started talking over each other and getting off track. I slammed the table with both hands and said, “Hey, we need to move on.” The room got silent and we were able to mov
e forward with the meeting.
I never did that before and was fascinated with the result and the feedback.
At the next break, the feedback was very positive from Western (US and UK) colleagues. They said it was effective, it brought everyone back and they thanked me. A Far East colleague had the polar opposite reaction and advised I don't do that outside of a safe environment and went on to tell me to “be myself.” A colleague from the Middle East chimed right in and said, I think it's cultural” and we went on to talk about how America is viewed outside the US. I wondered if it were a man hitting the table whether the feedback would have been the same.
It was so interesting.
What tweaks are you making in your communications at the table these days?
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About the author: Debbie Brown is a Senior Sales Executive in Analytics, Software and Services . The majority of her career has been spent managing people and teams in software and services provided to the HR industry. Debbie enjoys sharing leadership best practices and as an avid reader is always happy to share great book recommendations. You can connect with Debbie on Twitter as @DebbieJBrown.
This month I attended a presentation conducted by Bill Joiner, co-author of Leadership Agility. Joiner conducted a five-year research project in which he interviewed over 500 leaders about leadership.
According to Joiner, leaders define agile leadership as “flexibility with purpose” and report what agile leaders do differently when confronted with a challenge – they focus, step back, gain a deeper, broader view, reengage and take action.
Using data from his study, Joiner broke leadership agility into several categories including;
- Expert – at which 45% of leaders operate
- Achiever - at which 35% of leaders operate
- Catalyst – at which just 5 –10% of leaders operate
Experts are respected because of their authority, take a tactical focus, micro manage and have a low tolerance for conflict. Achievers motivate others by making work challenging and satisfying, have an outcome-based focus, seek stakeholder buy-in, and have a moderate tolerance for conflict. Catalysts articulate an inspiring vision and empower others to make it a re
ality, develop organizational capacity to meet strategic challenges, create highly participative, empowered teams that lead change together, and have a greater tolerance for conflict.
As I listened to the presentation, I kept thinking about the current presidential candidates and how I would characterize their leadership styles according to this model. I went up to Joiner after the presentation and asked him my question. His analysis was what I had come up with.
What about you? How would you characterize the current presidential candidates based on this leadership model? Is one or the other an Expert? What about Achiever? Does either presidential candidate operate as a Catalyst? And how does understanding their leadership style affect your vote?
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About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
How does it feel when we (women) are confident of our looks and know that people look at us and are inspired by us? We feel good, of course!
What wouldn’t we all do to get that stunning look, burn some fat to carve out those wonderful curves that others would kill for and look good in business casuals at work? Who doesn’t enjoy dressing up? Looking good increases our confidence and helps us create a positive impression.
Looks matter when creating an impression. But can looks create a wrong impression? Does a “look” depict who you really are as a person? What if people start to perceive your personality and capabilities wrongly based on your looks – especially in the business world?
The other day few of my male friends were talking about a distraction during an official presentation that happened at work. No, it was not due to an annoying ring because somebody forgot to silence their phone or the noise of the photocopy/fax machine in the background. The reason for their distraction was the low buttoned shirt, big bosoms and beautiful curves of their new colleague making the presentation.
Do you think they caught any actual facts and figures from her power point presentation? Not. When I asked these fellows, they replied, “Even though we were trying to look past her physical appearance, it is the hardest temptation to resist.” And this gets harder when she turns around to reveal her cleavage and brings it into their sight.
Her looks were a distraction in the workplace. We can only imagine how many times these fellow might have taken a walk in front of her desk just to get a glance of her or how many times they must have had small talk over the phone with their male colleagues about it.
This woman, and others, are not being taken seriously in the corporate world because of their looks. There are opinions that women deliberately look this way to garner attentions and favor. Others question if women are even aware of how their “look” impacts the impression they leave with others.
What do you think? If a woman dressed in an “acceptable“ way, would that eliminate the possibility she would not be perceived in less than professional manner? That colleagues would know who she really was as a person?
Can the way a woman looks inadvertently send a wrong message? Should she care?
So often, when people vent their frustration about the boss, or the C-suite, I hear about how hard they work, how much they give, and how much they do not feel they are appreciated by those they work for. The gender factor accentuates it further because research confirms the male and female brains process what was said in emotionally different ways.
If you want to deal with it, read on.
The reality is I am learning that communication is a key factor in getting to the next level – especially if you want leadership to understand how you and your team are performing. And, you have a nano-second to spit it out for your audience in a way that they understand it. I find, all too often, that people are communicating their information from their own point of view to the audience and that is a career limiting and fatal error.
If you want to move up into management, or move into a senior leadership role, here is some advice on evaluating your style to ensure it is working for, and not against, you:
- Become self aware of your communication style and work on improving it (no one is perfect on this topic)
- Seek out people you trust before your next presentation and preview it to assure your are speaking to the audience’s need versus your own (Coaches are everywhere and happy to help – have you asked?)
- Read a book or two on the topic from some of the great thought leaders of our time. Two that I recommend are The Next Level: What Insiders Know about Executive Success and The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership.
The Next Level is a great handbook to have around. It’s a reference book with real-life stories that any manager or rising executive could relate to and I find myself referring back to it often. The main point of the book is to remind high achievers that what got you here is not what will get you to the next level. It identifies what behaviors and capabilities you need to shed, and what skills you need to pick up to perform well at the next level.
The Power of Framing is about communication, communication styles and how to hone in and frame up your message to speak to the audience’s need. It does an excellent job of bringing you through the dynamic of learning why that aspect of communication at an executive level (or really any level) is so important.
These are a few suggestions that have worked for me.
How about you? What are you doing to improve your communication style to get ready for the next level?