By Leslie Dickson, an EO Cleveland member and president/CEO of VoicePro
I have spent the last 19 years of my career working in the area of spoken communication…you know, the thing we all do for a living. My business has recently gone global, which means I am teaching business professionals the same skills that have been successful in North America, all over the world. You know what I am finding (and it is fascinating)? Even though certain components are culturally specific, effective communication truly is universal in nature.
Take, for example, executive presence (a critical component for effective business communication). Everyone I talk to agrees that it is important. In fact, it is necessary in order to be successful in business – regardless of your industry or culture. Have you thought about it? Is it a quality you covet? What would life be like for you if you had “it”?
Most people I talk to want “it.” The first step in achieving “it” is in the definition. Really ponder this for a moment. What does it mean to you? Maybe you define it as confidence. Or, maybe it’s connection with the people you are talking with. You might see it as a balance of openness and strength. Of course, it is all of these things, and more. Where it gets tricky is in your ability to convey “it” no matter how you define it.
Here’s the universal dilemma: When it comes to our communication with others, or our executive presence, we evaluate ourselves based on our intent. Others evaluate us based on our observable behavior.
So, when you have this elusive quality known as Executive Presence, you have consciously narrowed the gap between your intent and your behavior. Easy enough, right? Wrong! Even though your intent is to be clear, have you ever had someone misunderstand you? Even though your intent is to be open and receptive, have you ever argued with feedback someone offered up? Do you worry more about the content of your message being right, even though your desire is to make the needs of people you are talking to a top priority? If you answered “yes” to any of these, here are some suggestions for better matching your behavior with your intent:
1. Avoid Auto-Pilot Mode. It is easy to just rush through the day and not really think about what you are doing. Especially if you are under stress (never happens, right?) You are better off making choices in the moment, rather than wondering how you got there when you are done. So, pause. Let go of the past and the future. Take a breath. Be aware, notice and adapt.
2. Say “Thank You” to Feedback. The only way to continue to learn and grow is through the feedback of others. So, instead of thinking of feedback as negative, change how you define it. Begin to think of feedback as a gift – even though it might be tough to hear at times. Feedback is one of the best ways to gain insight into your behavior and how it compares to your intent. So, listen for what you can learn about you, and begin to adapt your behavior. When the feedback you receive is close to your intent, you know you are on the right track.
3. Make it About Others. Whenever you are communicating with other people, be sure to give them something of value – something they can use (skills, information, steps to take, etc.) If you focus your attention on how you are doing (getting the content perfect or coming across in the best way you can), you are creating a self-centered, “it’s all about me” approach. Not too appealing to the people you are talking to. Your ability to influence others will be minimized. Make it about them – every the time – for a positive impact.
No matter where in the world you live and work, know that your Executive Presence is essential. And, once you master this elusive quality, it will translate into other languages, cultures and businesses. My experience working in Southeast Asia, Australia and the Netherlands has proven this to me.