Rise Up : How Your Body Language Can Accelerate Your Business Success

Our body language is crucial to successful communication and yet it is one of the most overlooked components of business strategy.  We prefer to focus on our business plans, our marketing drives and our spreadsheets, but we never stop to think about what our facial expression or posture is communicating or what our physical gestures and ticks might be saying about us. The fact is, no matter how impressive our words may be, if our body language is unconsciously sending out a negative message, we will more than likely lose the client, the deal and the opportunity.

 

Before we go further, let’s define exactly what I mean by body language. It is every single expression of your physical body apart from the words you use – though these are important too. It includes your breathing, posture, facial movements, gestures, voice, quality of eye contact and so much more than that. Your mind-set also plays a part in how your body language expresses itself. Conformist mind-sets that want to please are prone to apologetic thinking, which often straight-jackets your physiology. You literally shrink when you think badly of yourself, or you might puff out your body language to over–compensate for the weakness you feel. Emotions too are fundamental to strong body language. Though emotions are felt within the body, they always show up physically in how we move, stand, walk and talk. In fact, your emotions can be the deciding factor in how someone treats you. The body will never lie and you may think you are concealing how you feel, but the body broadcasts the truth for all to see. That is why the spectrum of our emotions needs to be fully felt and internally integrated if we are to have any hope of expressing ourselves with conviction. Given this complexity, we would be wise to work on all facets of our expression, including our emotions and mind-set, not just our physical parts.

 

Let’s consider for a moment a person who slumps, fidgets nervously, speaks in a flat tone and evades eye contact. Perhaps they’re facial expression is inscrutably frozen and their physical movements are closed and feeble. Psychologically, they avoid responsibility because they do not feel up to the job and will refuse to acknowledge their potential in case they stand out or make a “mistake”. Their body language reeks of fear and hardly breeds faith in their capability to lead or inspire.  We see such a person as metaphysically small, ineffectual and weak.

 

Now imagine a person who moves in a more open manner, occasionally making relaxed eye contact and at times smiling warmly. Let’s assume they stand tall with their shoulders back and chest open, and there’s a sense of ease to their movements.  Gone are the subconscious fidgets and micro-expressions that signify insecurity.  This person takes up their space and refrains from physically shrinking in fear. In fact, their entire demeanour demonstrates the courage and strength necessary for leadership. They face the demands of business, eyes forward, without bracing against disaster. And they are willing to undertake the sacrifices necessary to transform their unformed potential into something incredibly productive. This is a person who genuinely inspires others. We tend to feel safer in their competent presence and have more faith in their ability to lead.

 

Obviously, body language is much more nuanced than these two extremes and people can come across in a whole myriad of ways with all sorts of personal limitations. Thankfully though, there is always scope for development and many practical avenues in which we can help ourselves grow into powerful convincing beings. This skill has never been more pressing given the increasingly chaotic pace of business life along with people’s ever decreasing attention spans. We absolutely must start attending to the power of all our non-verbal communication if we are to create any impact at all.

 

One of the most direct routes to empowering your communication is through the quality of your voice. Your personal voice is hugely important in the workplace and will play a large part in your degree of success. The pitch, timbre, volume and cadence of your voice, the speed with which you speak, and even the way you modulate pitch and loudness, are all influential factors in how convincing you are, and how people judge your character. Being able to lower your voice at just the right moment is an art form, as any decent actor will tell you, and not only enhances your credibility but lends you an air of intelligence. Filling your voice with genuine feeling imbues you with passion and conviction.  And allowing spontaneity into your voice generates excitement and brings even the dullest material to life. If you allow your voice to dance in the danger of the unpredictable moment, you’ll snap even the most tired audiences out of their corporate slumber.

 

The difference between voice quality is very apparent in theatre actors. Two different actors will play Hamlet, but the one who convinces will be the one whose voice is the most resonant, authentic, expressive and rich. The same for business leaders: we prefer to listen to those who are more engaging as opposed to those who are monotone, inexpressive and flat. Aggressive voices that lack any sensitive undertones tend to push people away whilst softer voices that lack harder edges tend to imply weakness. Voices that fear disapproval tend to attract the very thing they fear and a flimsy voice with no emotion at all will simply not be heard. It is the voice that is strong, fearless, liberated and real that wins.  We must fill our voices with our range and depth if we are to be taken seriously, if indeed we are to take ourselves seriously when we speak.

 

But excellent speaking skills only represent one half of leadership expression. You must also attend to your listening skills - or lack thereof.  If we cannot listen to our peers, we will miss the hugely valuable information that others are often silently transmitting. It is precisely this information that will help us form our best response.  A good listener is the rare person who can set aside their own pre-occupations to truly see another. When you can clearly observe the person or people before you, you will start to notice not only what they say, but also what they don't say. You’ll pay attention to the subtle micro-expressions displayed on their face and you’ll more accurately decode what the other is really feeling underneath it all. Once you train yourself and know what to look for, it becomes relatively easy to determine whether someone is feeling calm or anxious, trusting or suspicious, angry or evasive, or even whether a smile is truly felt—or born from insincerity. You’ll even know if someone is positive or whether they harbour less than benign intentions towards you simply by witnessing what their body is saying. With these highly specific body language observations, you are much more likely to attune to the other person, and either create the secure bonds crucial to a successful working life  – or healthily power apart.

 

This level of listening develops our Emotional Intelligence; the intuition to ascertain more accurately the reality of a situation. If you can listen in this way, you’ll understand others more profoundly and be better positioned to motivate them. In turn, others will feel understood and will more likely want to work with you. But when Emotional Intelligence is lacking, we misinterpret our colleagues intentions, invent unfounded biases about them and fail to decipher what really makes them tick. Whole teams can descend into unspoken resentments and unnecessary strife when team leaders refuse to pay attention, listen closely and facilitate difficult yet meaningful conversations. We can of course attempt to gather this information about our teams through the usual outdated and totally unproven “personality tests” that proliferate most organisations still today. But their results will be, as ever, inconsistent, inaccurate and totally meaningless. Hello Myers-Briggs. People are far more complex than any of these costly yet binary tests allow us to think.  And absolutely no amount of unscientific personality testing will ever beat the superior powers that Emotional Intelligence gives you.

 

It must be noted that while body language can offer more accurate insights into the emotional state of someone else, it cannot tell you why the person is exhibiting that emotion. We need to make this distinction. There is danger in assuming you know why someone is expressing a feeling. Yet many of us jump to these unsubstantiated conclusions - and we tend to assume the worst. Consider a high-pressured business meeting where you really hope to leave a good impression.  If you anxiously read into the reactions of another person’s face rather than simply observe their reactions, you can end up provoking a host of unwanted responses within, such as self-doubt and insecurity. If enough stress is produced, you trigger your pre-limbic neural defence system that sets you up physically for fight, flight or freeze. Your brain literally prepares you for life or death and forgets you’re in a simple business meeting.  Unless you can calm yourself down fast, you can kiss a good performance goodbye.

 

It’s imperative to nip this neurological chain reaction in the bud by reminding yourself firstly that you cannot ever accurately know what another person is thinking behind any expression.  So why worry? And secondly, by realising the other person is more probably preoccupied with their own performance to even notice yours too closely.  Both these mind-set reframes can help calm the nervous system and bring you back to reality. However, let us assume the worst; that the other person is unfairly judging you and it’s plain to see. The only appropriate response in this situation is to realise that their reaction speaks volumes about their proclivity to negativity and has no bearing on your self-worth. The ignorance and stupidity of others is no good reason for you to then start whacking yourself with an internal stick.

 

Let me repeat; Emotional Intelligence is about observing the micro-expressions of another without taking their responses to heart. This is a tough life-lesson. Many of us are programmed to think that the reactions of other people are somehow our fault.  We are like sponges absorbing people’s opinions as fact and loosing our self-respect along the way. The key to strong leadership is thus a much greater objectivity as self-defence; realising that we alone are responsible for our own behaviour, not the behaviour of others, and that their reactions are solely about them. When we can be this objective, we are less likely to react to others with charged emotion.  We can see people and situations more clearly.  And we develop equanimity; a crucial attribute given the endless variety of differing personalities we have to deal with in business, along with their many conflicting agendas and individual triggers.  

 

Emotional Intelligence also enables us to channel our anger assertively rather than aggressively or passively.  And this massively impacts how we come across in the workplace. Anger is a tricky emotion and most of us do not know how to express it healthily in our personal lives, let alone at work. Yet, it is the person who can constructively direct their anger, say no and stand firmly behind their convictions, who looks and sounds strong. They command respect because they respect themselves and their body language communicates solid boundaries. It won’t even matter how such a person is standing, moving or sitting; their inner resolve emanates a consolidated physical presence that cannot be exploited. They have no need to act overly aggressive or play passive because a simple glance, gesture or well-timed word is enough. If you cannot uncover your capacity for anger, you won’t be able to assert your boundaries and your body language will invite manipulation. You’ll be walked over, taken advantage of and worse, left behind. Others will put you down because you let them. And your resentment will build, which, if unexpressed, will evolve into bitterness and self-defeat. We cannot control or change others - that’s a fools game. The only sensible solution in this complex world of ours is to focus on changing ourselves, expressing our selves constructively and learning to become strong.

 

Anger can also be felt positively as passion, the bite needed to commit ferociously to your dreams no matter what obstacles arise.  Without that intention, your body language will express a spiritless mindset lacking the conviction necessary for success. Intention is power. You must know who you are, what you want and why it matters. You must define your heartfelt vision in order to refine your direction. In a play, the actor needs to know his super-objective otherwise they won’t know what they are fighting for or even why, and will soon enough kill any scene they unfortunately occupy.  When you are clear and firm in your intention, your body language falls powerfully into place. You start to sizzle with a vibrancy that inspires others more than a scripted performance with rehearsed gestures ever could: Take note most politicians on the planet.

 

People find anger uncomfortable. They would rather bury their heads in the sand and pretend everything is ok than assertively command their space. Yet under the surface, their resentments silently fester. It is these unspoken resentments that drain meaning from our working lives and ultimately weaken our intention. Instead of speaking up for ourselves, we seek approval, play “nice” and simply exist at work with little emotional or physical backbone to buffer the inevitable pressure. And we need this buffer. How else are we supposed to assert our boundaries in the face of minor despots who dominate many working cultures?  When we cannot express appropriate anger, we will be bullied, controlled and pushed around. We’ll continue to sit in work meetings letting others talk over us, lost in meandering agendas with no clear objectives. Yet we’ll not speak up for fear of rocking the corporate boat. Sound familiar?

 

The stress our bodies feel is further exacerbated by work cultures obsessed with “never showing weakness”. Notice how many people clamour to look strong on the outside, strutting around the office acting very important, when the reality is they feel the opposite. No wonder many of us report feeling like frauds, as if one day we will be mysteriously “found out” to be un-deserving of our position. This tragic feeling has been conveniently named “The Imposter Syndrome” as though it were somehow a disease or an illness we have caught. Make no mistake; it is simply our natural human response to the corporate world hell-bent on labelling vulnerability as weakness when it absolutely isn’t. In trying to hide your vulnerability, you actually become more contrived, compliant and weak. When you don’t bring your full self to work, you diminish the person you could be and your creativity suffers; few buy into you because you don’t buy into you. Not only that, when we waste our working lives pretending to be someone we are not, when we don’t speak our truth, our subtle micro-expressions, tone of voice and physical ticks will give us away in any case. The body never lies. And it is these subtle expressions that reveal our inner truth no matter how hard we try to conceal it.

 

This self-repression starts the very moment we decide to speak. We shallow breathe, brace our chests, lock our knees and sometimes set our facial expression so tightly that no warmth or light can escape. Some of us look as if our jaws have been super-glued together. By the time we open our mouths, we've already sunk the ship. Subconsciously, we are simply trying to protect ourselves from danger and judgement. We don’t want to be “got”. But all this self-interference actually does is sabotage our expressivity, pegging us down the hierarchy of strength, making us more, not less prone, to humiliating judgement.  When we act like a frightened little mouse, people treat us as such. This creates a negative feedback loop further entrenching our feelings of inadequacy. We attract the very judgement we attempt to flee and our self-worth bleeds by the minute.

 

What to do? Well you might start by doing much less, or more accurately, interfering less with your natural mechanisms. There is enormous power in simply standing tall and breathing into your discomfort without trying to fix, modify or avoid it. Psychologically, you’ll be turning to face your fears rather than habitually run and you’ll own the moment rather than be governed by it. So simply breathe and pay full attention.  Before you communicate, become aware of yourself: what you are thinking and how you are feeling. If it’s nerves you notice, then that is how you feel. If it’s boredom or excitement, then that too is how you feel. If it’s absolutely nothing at all, then that is your truth also. There is no “correct” thought or feeling. Just let yourself be whoever you damn well are in any given moment.

 

The trick is not to fight yourself. By starting to trust your body and its feelings, you naturally breathe deeper and you begin to loosen the vice of your inner police state – that voice that keeps you on unnecessary high-alert.  Instead, you can feel centered and your nervous system will come to rest. And in this relaxed alertness, you’ll be able to pay yourself the attention you really need. You’ll start to notice if you are holding your breath and you’ll invite yourself to let it go. You’ll notice if you restrict your chest, and you’ll be able to let yourself soften. You could even notice that your mind is racing and rejoice in the fact that you noticed that at all. Most don’t. This in itself is a victory against your inner-saboteur who wants to scare you blind. All you need do now is witness the powerful calm of your breath as it goes in and as it leaves your body. In this basic act of witnessing yourself, your communication and body language will spring to life. This is the height of Emotional Intelligence – listening to yourself as you would listen empathically to others without fixing, forcing, interfering or judging – simply giving yourself the space to grow.  It is absolutely our ability to sooth our nervous system rather than deny its fragility that lends us this enormous power.

 

Human fragility is a fact we would do well to embrace, not deny. When we can admit our tender beating hearts, even just to ourselves, we can soften. We become more real and less contrived. Hey presto – stronger too. Because a soft body, free from extraneous tension, has enormous capacity for strength and flexibility. When we can lengthen our posture, open up our chests and remain calm, in spite of life’s unpredictability, we develop the grit, mettle and resilience necessary to succeed where most others wither. We no longer need to control every living moment for fear of our vulnerability seeping through the cracks; we know we are vulnerable and we know every single other person in the room is vulnerable too. This knowledge is the great leveller. Aware we all feel the same in the deepest crevices of our psyche allows us to let go of the stultifying repression that hardens our bodies against freedom of expression. We relax. What relief! We return to self, to Being, to presence, to strength. 

 

Clearly our body language can serve us magnificently - if we let it. When we trust ourselves because we’re no longer shaming our body language into submission, we can take the important risks necessary to growth. And a glorious thing happens:  our self-respect soars. We stop exhausting ourselves with endless approval-seeking and begin to truly know that we merit our position. We become a person of high value, rather than pretending to be one.  And we learn to attract better opportunities whilst repelling those not worthy of our esteem.

 

Life is a gift; an opportunity to seize the things you dream of. So it’s time to take a deep diaphragmatic breath, know you matter, honour your desires and speak up before you have the chance to bully yourself into silence. Take a seat at the table; don’t wait for it to be offered – you may be waiting a long time. Respectfully assert your voice and watch your body language follow suit. Fine-tune your listening skills so you learn to read the body language of others. Then use the fullness of your voice to say something you actually mean. Exhibit your substance and gravitas, not your self-apology or arrogance. And treat yourself as you would a thoroughbred so you can move with your head held high; dignity bristling through your entire body. The alternative is the route of the coward, playing small with a gazillion well-worn excuses to validate your victimhood. Success is only for the brave who have the courage to uphold their inner resolve regardless of the judgement of others or the danger inherent in life. This is the person who wins.

 

Having spent countless consulting hours observing human behaviour, it is safe to say that our body language is delightfully complex, rich and highly worth developing. By connecting to your much forgotten body, you’ll be more in touch with a part of yourself that most people deny. And therein lies your power.  It is now more imperative than ever in this increasingly chaotic world of business that you dare to follow your physical and emotional aliveness. If you can shake off the surface layer of “niceness” that suffocates, you’ll reach an edgier, emboldened and more genuine you. Your cells will vibrate with an incredible luminosity no matter what is happening around you, and there can be no greater body language than that.

 

MEETING THE 11TH PRESIDENT OF TURKEY AND INSIGHTS ON PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH NO PREP!

(That's me addressing my Inner Critic!)

 

 

MEETING THE 11TH PRESIDENT OF TURKEY AND INSIGHTS ON PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH NO PREP!

Having set up my business just under 11 months ago, I have come amazingly far.
 
In that time, I've gone from running £10 meet-up groups in a dilapidated church hall on Exmouth Market to hosting Leadership and Pitching workshops for global corporate players in London, New York, San Francisco and Brussels.
 
A few weeks ago, I was in the EU training delegates to pitch their businesses to investors, and most recently, I hosted a conference to over 1000 delegates in Istanbul, where I got to introduce the 11th President of Turkey, firmly shaking his hand and giving him a little wink ofcourse!
 
I mention this not to gloat, but to highlight that I practice exactly what I teach. Think big, no half measures and always go for it!
 
I didn’t used to be this way....
 
I’ve played small for much of my life and felt highly depressed about my unrealised potential, finally hitting rock bottom in May 2017.  My relationship ended, I was heartbroken and generally felt pretty useless. I had little money, a job I hated and limited self-belief; I thought I was a failure.
 
Luckily, my beloved younger sister picked me up and took me to Istanbul to cheer me up.
 
Sitting in our hotel room one evening, she looked at me and said with absolute directness: 

"Come on Amy, just launch a bloody website and start your own business!".

I’d been talking about doing just that for three years; however,  I'd never done anything about it.  In fact, I had always found a myriad of ways and reasons to stall myself. Classic fear-based procrastination.
 
So, my wise sister ordered a couple of strong tequila cocktails, and we both worked till the early hours; she on her investment stuff, whilst I wrote copy for this new scary wonderful website.
 
By early morning, I’d finished my first ever webpage.  I took the plunge and hit launch!.
 
Now, that might sound easy enough. All I’m doing is pressing a button, right?
 
But it wasn’t easy. It had taken me years to get to the point where I trusted myself enough to put myself out there in what felt like a major way.
 
Pressing launch was a BIG deal. We drank another tequila cocktail to celebrate.
 
And, to my complete surprise, from that point on, my business grew exceptionally fast. Not because I know any special business tricks, or because I have some secret marketing sauce. You see, I’ve never listened to the so-called gurus or experts, and I barely use social media or self-publicise as, I’m actually quite introverted.
 
Instead, I believe my success to date is wholly the result of my renewed sense of conviction, spurred on - of course - by my sister that evening in a Turkish hotel. Sometimes, we don’t realise our own strength until someone who cares about and understands us reminds us of our potential. And, when that happened, it dawned on me that if I could haul myself up off the floor through some of the toughest moments in my life, then there’s no reason why I can’t make my business project a great success. Resilience is my middle name.  Think huge, act quick and commit 100 per cent!
 
And, most importantly, care... Always care about the quality of your attention.
 
That's my secret sauce.
 
Like most people, I have an inner critic that accuses me of not being good enough. However, I’ve also developed another much louder, brighter, sassier voice that looks the inner critic squarely in the eye and says:  'Sit the f*** down and shut the f*** up!. I’m in charge now, bitch!.
 
And that feels good.
 
What I've learned is that our personal and business success is directly connected to the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves.  The more you believe in and trust yourself, the greater the risk you dare to take. And, with courage on your side and the inner critic firmly relegated to the naughty step, you’re free to dream really big and act even bigger without fear of recriminations or personal attack. After years of living in fear of my own “good” opinion - as well as the opinion of others -  what a joy it is to no longer care. I can’t quite describe the freedom and sense of empowerment. And to think, I spent years hiding myself and even crying whenever I got asked to speak up.  I used to feel such shame.
 
The less we care for the judgements of our inner critic, the better our results - and this goes for all areas of our life. In fact, there is no limit to how far we can go: the possibilities are endless - and it's exciting.
 
That’s not to say I always get things perfect or right.  Far from it. I’m actually quite a messy, often conflicted human despite my outwardly “together” appearance. However, if I waited until I was supposedly perfect before I committed to any dream or action, I would still be sitting in my pokey bedroom mindlessly looking through Facebook feeds wondering why I exist.  Instead, I’m now hosting one of the biggest conferences in Turkey and introducing their 11thPresident - and I don't even speak Turkish and can barely pronounce his name!.
 
Lets be frank: I made a few “mistakes” that weekend. I got words wrong, walked into a wall and said a naughty word on live TV!  What was even worse was that I got pushed onto the stage at the last minute in front of a thousand people and told to speak for half an hour  “to make sure no one leaves before the president arrives!”
 
What?!? Really?!?

Yes really, and I had no speech prepared! So, imagine the pressure....
 
But, as I myself have done over the past year, I walked directly towards my fear, stood centre-stage, looked my audience in the eye and smiled... And, as I always instruct my students, I stood tall, owned my space and took a very deep soothing breath. Only then, when I felt the power of my own presence, did I start talking  - or ad-libbing to be accurate!
 
What did I really have to loose?  It’s always only ever a personal conversation; albeit one on a bigger stage and to a larger audience. And, most importantly, I enjoyed myself, I involved my audience and I let them matter.
 
Also, no one in the audience cared about my mistakes. Why? Because I  didn’t care about my mistakes. They’re not a problem to me. In fact, I welcomed every slight error with a warm smile and a mischievous glint. Because I know that if I am at ease, my audience is at ease. Lightness of touch and a sense of humour is ALWAYS infectious.
 
What I do care about is human connection, well above seeking personal perfection. Because, that’s all that ever matters. That’s how I win. That’s how we all win. And that’s how I managed to connect with such a large audience for 30 minutes whilst making an entire speech up as I went along. I greeted my audience with warmth and made them feel important. Because they are.

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  - Theodore Roosevelt.
 

So what’s key when it comes to public speaking, presentations or general presence in business?
 

The answer is YOU!
 
You just have to be you. Find out who you are by taking risks and learning the resilience that comes with each daring experience. Let go of the struggle. It doesn’t have to be so hard. All you need do is simply TRY. Step out of your comfort zone and let yourself create, and with compassion, allow yourself to make mistakes. What’s so wrong with imperfection anyway? Share your humanity, and people will love you for it. Because it gives the rest of us permission to do the same.

THE POWER OF LISTENING TO ROCKET YOUR LEADERSHIP

It’s popular these days to want to become a better leader. Ambitious business executives are becoming increasingly aware of the enormous benefits of strong leadership skills. You influence more, win more trust and engage meaningfully with all those that matter.

However, a common mistake made by most business leaders is their focus on the talking aspect of communication. They tend to want to impress others with their dazzling communication skills.  

What they forget to do is simply listen.

Truly great leaders are not just dynamic and strategic; they are also intuitive listeners. They know that the best way to gain wisdom is not by talking incessantly, but by listening to themselves and others on a much deeper level. Such rare individuals are unusually adept at reading between the lines and also have an unusual ability to understand what is NOT being said. They can walk into any room, read the energy and apply the best practice to re-engage even the most unenthused members of a team.

No matter how articulate you are, if your engagement isn’t advancing your vision, developing your team, or otherwise adding value to your stakeholders, then it could be that your ability to listen needs fine-tuning.

Time to stop talking as much and instead create some space to listen. And, as you start listening powerfully, watch your team morale, performance and, ultimately, your business grow.

 

Learn to:

1. Engage: Good communications are two-way. Don’t speak at or to someone – speak WITH them. Don’t monologue, dialogue.

 

2. Understand: Listen to understand so you can attune better to what others think, feel and genuinely want to communicate. Develop a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s point of view.

 

3. Pause:  Embrace the silence in any conversation so that you not only signal strength, but become strong. In the pause, you can resist unhelpful outside pressure and better evaluate your responses.

 

4. Attention: Pay attention to the non-verbal communication of others. Hear with your eyes as well as your ears. Learn to read people accurately behind the words they use so you can choose a stronger response.

 

5. Opportunity:  Every conversation, no matter how difficult, has within it a story and potential opportunity for growth – but, only if you listen for it.

 

6. Challenge: Learn to embrace and welcome dissent. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you and develop you. Because being defensive only raises barriers. Even the most seemingly negative people may have something to teach us. And those we perceive to be our biggest enemy can actually become our strongest ally; but only if we look for common ground.

 

7. Empathy:  Create an atmosphere of belonging, connection and warmth at work. Build people up, never crush them. We are all vulnerable, even the most hardened. Learn to speak to the humanity in others so that you create respect, loyalty and a workplace that everyone loves to be a part of.

*************

Great talkers are a dime a dozen but great listeners are a rare commodity. Listening genuinely and intently to another person is one of the highest compliments you can pay them. So, learn to become a truly great leader who knows the value of listening.

The Art of Charisma in Business

The business world is moving faster than ever before with innovation and continual change now the accepted norm. To keep up with this ever-shifting and complex landscape, it is imperative that business leaders, entrepreneurs and all forward-thinking change-makers learn to communicate much more powerfully. If leaders are to have any hope of standing out in a noisy world where so many compete for attention, they must learn to relate to others with conviction and passionate authenticity. These are the essential ingredients of charisma, without which leaders will struggle to leave any lasting legacy.

Genuine charisma is tough work. Few people take the time to sculpt charisma’s underlying conviction, resilience and depth: hence charisma’s elusive nature in our current age. In fact, much of what masquerades as charisma is often seductive yet hollow charm.

If you hope to be at the top and if you want to influence your clients, customers, staff members and colleagues, you must develop charisma and empathy as part of your leadership strategy.

So, let’s look at how we can begin to grow our personal magnetism. Far from being a magical and inexplicable trait, charisma can be broken down into a set of concrete, largely nonverbal behaviours that can be learned, practiced, and made natural.

Here are some of the ways:

1. Listen Openly to Your Team

Charismatic business leaders are magnetic because they listen empathetically to their teams and colleagues, regardless if they like or dislike what they are hearing. If you can stay calm and show equanimity regardless if the news is to your personal taste or not, then you have the markings of a truly charismatic leader.

When managing a team, it is your responsibility to approach your employees and ask them how they are doing. Do not wait for employees to come to you with praise or complaints. People don’t always feel confident about approaching a manager or leader to express their feelings. So, it’s up to you as a leader worth your salt to check in with them regularly. A happy team is a coherent team.

Don’t keep your team at arm’s length. If you put up a defensive wall, you cannot expect others to trust you. Paranoia breeds paranoia. Genuine charisma is rooted in trust. You need to be able to tolerate dissent without being triggered into emotional reactivity. Otherwise, you may as well surround yourself with sycophants and rule through fear. This is not the basis for charisma, but is instead the basis for tyranny and negativity.

2. Know Your Customers and Clients

It is also crucial to check in consistently with your clients and customers — even those who might not have good things to say. When you ask your customers for their input and listen to their feedback, you can adjust your product or service accordingly. You also show people that your business serves them — and isn’t just about you.

A charismatic leader makes a great impression on their clients and customers by learning about their individual tastes and preferences. It isn’t possible to cater to all, and some people will always be disappointed no matter what. However, when interaction feels more personal, customers will be drawn to your brand not just for its product, but also for its people. You won’t get it right all the time, but the empathetic touch will forge lasting bonds that are priceless.

3. Listen More Talk Less

As a business leader, it’s important that you don’t just feel empathy, but that you show it. Empathy results from an action you take.

You increase your empathy by making listening, rather than speaking, the focal point of your interactions. As a leader, you must often be the one to start the conversation. But you must also be the one to do most of the listening once the conversation is underway.

A good way to prioritise listening is to ask people about their feelings and opinions before you talk about your own. This is something you can do, not only with customers, but also with your staff and colleagues. And the most inspiring leaders listen to understand as opposed to listening simply to reply: they do not need to hear the sound of their own voices.

If your team feels unheard, they will feel invisible. Work becomes intensely lonely and productivity inevitably suffers. Any leader in such a scenario will rarely leave a favourable impression.

Charisma is imperative. Listen to your teams. Give each and every team member the respect they deserve. It does not mean you always have to agree. But it does mean you have to make everyone feel as important as you are deemed to be. People inherently want to do well. And for this to happen, they need to feel acknowledged. It is up to you as the leader to ensure this.

4. Be Purposeful Even When You Don’t Know

Another part of what makes people charismatic is their level of clarity and conviction. A confident business leader communicates their ideas clearly and succinctly. If your explanations drift on for hours, you will come across as vague. People will assume you either don’t know what you’re doing or, much worse, have something to hide.

Likewise, it’s important to have the confidence to admit when you simply “don’t know”. A leader is human and can’t know the answer to everything. There is great humility and emotional intelligence in the admission that we do not know right now. People appreciate such honesty and will be more inclined to have faith in your leadership, as long as you commit to finding a solution.

Even more powerful is a leader who can admit when they have made an error in judgement. As long as you are determined to find a positive way forward, this is all that matters. Such authenticity is rare in a world where so many hide behind bravado and facades to cover up their flaws. A humble leader is a charismatic leader.

5. Develop Your Substance

Leadership without empathy is narcissism. Those who are all charm without substance come across as arrogant, self-centred, and disingenuous.

Grandiose, actively self-promoting, skilled orators definitely have vision and also an ability to attract and inspire the weakest in the work community.

This is the worst kind of leader. Their true aim is not to unite people but to divide and conquer. They deliberately split consensus and often take great pride in being both loved and hated at the same time. Such leaders do not leave a lasting positive legacy. They are inherently weak, and as much as they would like to influence, they will always fail long-term.

To be a truly brilliant leader, the aim is to be confident, not arrogant. A great leader needs to be more concerned with contributing to their employees’ lives rather than gaining validation, admiration and an army of mindless followers. Ironically, the less we chase validation, the more validation we receive simply as a by-product of our generous endeavours.

A charismatic leader thus uses their power responsibly. They have been gifted a position of great prestige and know they must use their power wisely and magnanimously.

I will close with a key point. If you remember anything from this article, remember this; that true charisma belongs to the one who does not ever follow but forges his or her own path through the mystery of this one life, always staying open and hungry to learn from their own unique mistakes, helped along by a generous dose of humour in an ever unfolding journey to their truest self.

9 Tips for Women Leaders to Convey Executive Presence.

Much of how women (and men) are perceived as leaders is tied absolutely to the way they communicate. In a male-dominated environment, particularly at senior management level, it is imperative that women learn to speak up and demand their place at the table. Without killer communication skills, women will fail to distinguish themselves.

Enter Executive Presence….

Ifyou are a woman and want to be a leader, executive presence is crucial as it is the only thing that will drive you forward.

But what is it exactly?

People often refer to executive presence as charisma or the X-factor, or they sometimes refer to historical greats who are famed for attracting popularity through their presence alone. However, none of this is helpful.

So, how do we begin to embody charisma when it’s such a vague term and could mean different things to different people?

Executive presence is an art, like negotiation skills or acting. It’s fundamentally about developing your own original voice. It’s an art because it is deeply personal and must be refined and mastered over time through experimentation, failure and repeated execution.

 

9 Practical Tools to Increase Executive Presence:

1. Embrace Your Unique Value.

Nail your mind-set. Do not go into meetings doubting your own value. Prepare in advance; develop your own unique perspective based on your individual, hard-won experiences. Then walk in knowing you are an asset to be treasured. Without you, this company would suffer a great loss. Know that.

2. Be Self-Aware.

Nail your body language. A killer pitch can be destroyed by lousy non-verbal communication. Don’t slouch. Don’t wave your arms about like you are drowning at sea. Stand upright and poised. Breathe deep, slow and regular. Look people in the eye and genuinely engage. And be calm and purposeful with your hand gestures. All of this engenders trust. You look like you can handle anything. And you can.

3. Think Before You Speak.

Most people waffle on without a thought for whether they make sense or are saying anything truly useful. So, cut out the preamble and meandering piffle. Consider your ultimate objectives and choose your words carefully to meet your needs. Don’t hurry to deliver the message. Take your time, be deliberate, and say much less than you think you need to.

4. Breathe.

Take deep breaths, deep into your belly, both before and during your presentation. This will relax you, increase your poise and calm the jumpy mind. Also sigh before you enter any high-pressure scenario. It works, as a deep, gut-felt sigh gives you permission to let go of any pent-up tensions that may have built up. When you sigh away tension, you release both physical and emotional repression, even if just for a moment. And, as you let go, your mind clears, your body relaxes and you become more relatable.

5. Use the Power of Silence.

Silence is an incredibly powerful tool and should never be underestimated. However, most of us feel awkward in a silence and are thus compelled to fill it. When you dare to pause, it puts you more in charge because suddenly you’re not the one making so much effort to drive a conversation forward. By taking a more detached role, you give the impression of authority.

A well-chosen pause also allows the listener to digest your message. At the same time, you give yourself the opportunity to assess your listeners’ behaviour. When you do that, you can tailor your words and actions accordingly and you became a class negotiator.

6. Meaningfully Engage with your Audience.

Powerful communication is far more than one-sided delivery. You need to relate and engage with others. You need to make the audience feel like they matter to you. And you do this by asking questions, gathering feedback, listening to what your audience says, reading their verbal and non-verbal cues and discerning what response to choose in light of these complex factors. When you do that, you become a rare leader.

7. Assert Boundaries.

Know where to draw the line. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to assert boundaries and refuse to people-please. Not everyone will like you but you will be OK with that. To a degree, you have to stop caring what others think, as no one gets anywhere in life wasting time on other people’s negative or destructive criticism. However, stay open to constructive feedback: just shut out all the rest.

8. Employ Wit.

Never forget your sense of humour. I’ve often heard women say they are afraid to be playful at senior level in case they won’t be taken seriously. Yet this can backfire, as people who take themselves too seriously are ironically taken less seriously by their peers. A study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humour.

Your sense of humour is a reflection of your wit and intelligence. If you feel you don’t have wit, it’s a skill that can be learned just like any other. Humour is also important to diffuse tension, as well-placed humour will be appreciated and respected.

9. Dress the Part.

I don’t believe in prescribed uniforms. Wear what makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to power-dress or wear a hoodie with glitter boots. Because, all that matters is that you wear what you wear with the utmost pride and confidence. It’s how you wear something, not what you wear, that is important; so, own it.

In the corporate world, there are obvious limits. You can’t wear an elephant suit to work as much as it would please you. Nevertheless, you can always find a way, no matter how small, to assert your individuality through your choice of dress. Be creative and imaginative.

 

The winning thread that runs through each of these tools is YOU.

Your originality sits at the core of your ability to communicate authentically and powerfully. So, continually nurture and refine yourself, your voice and your inner strength.

Executive presence is inherently a developmental process of daily emotional weight-lifting, a process of becoming your real self when it is easier and more tempting to run with the herd and jump on the bandwagon of mediocrity.

As Jungian psychologist James Hollis states,

“We are not here to fit in, to be well-balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, clunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.”

Have You Got The Guts To Be A Radical Entrepreneur?

 

We have heard it time and time again: to achieve any sort of huge success, we need to get comfortable with failure.  The road to genuine achievement should never be easy. It will be littered with obstacles, huge set-backs and sometimes even disaster. Life can be brutally cruel as well as kind. And often there are no well-defined answers despite all those experts vying for the number 1 guru spot. The question is: are you game for the challenge in all its messiness? Or will you simply sit timidly in the wings wondering at what could be?

 

For any entrepreneur worth their salt, true success is enormously hard-won but well worth the fight. Human nature is such that we do not appreciate the wins that come too easy. Think of the countless stories of those winning the lottery overnight only to blow the entire jackpot soon after. 

 

Most people are desperate for the quick wins at the expense of diligently mastering their business and creative craft. They would rather be “known” well over adding genuine value to humanity.  Many people take advantage of the current attention economy by catering to peoples worst instincts in place of their own self-mastery and authenticity. It creates a generation of weak-willed and fickle try-hards who simply can’t stomach the struggle needed for genuine success. You can hear this lack of backbone in their empty voices and see it in their flashy smiles. 

 

 

It is the difficulty inherent in reaching our goals that gives our lives the meaning we crave. We get repeatedly knocked back but we pick ourselves up regardless, championing purpose over the expedient. Even when our faces are mired in mud and our spirits feel broken, we somehow find the willpower to drive onwards. This continued battle nurtures our grit and grows our substance. We become a force to be reckoned with because we are. 

 

This is the definition of courage. 

 

In all truth, you could give up the entrepreneurial life tomorrow and find a cosy corporate job with a stable pay-check. You could dedicate yourself to someone else’s goals, driving their company to the next level whilst keeping your own dreams on the backburner. To cope with this sacrifice, you could quietly count the minutes to the weekend when you finally escape the office prison and self medicate like all the rest. Then you get to start the whole charade again on Monday. Welcome to the rat race.

 

Those who do take the leap into true entrepreneurship are brave. You have to commit to the long haul and work consistently and faithfully with absolutely no guarantee of success. You have to relinquish the secure financial future of the corporate world and try to make it on your own. And you have to dig deep into your own potential to develop the mettle to face repeated failures and disasters. They will hit you hard.

 

Leading your own company into the marketplace is tantamount to leading an army into battle.  The market isn’t pretty. It doesn’t care about you. And only the best fighters win.

 

Self-doubt is a universal affliction. Most of us will tragically waste our precious lives worrying that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. We will relentlessly obsess over our mistakes and fear getting it wrong in case we are met with the disapproval of our peers.  It’s a hard habit to break. The fact is, we are all emotionally hard-wired to fit in and our greatest dread is rejection from the tribe. But we have to recognise that our programming has passed its sell-by date and its only purpose now is to rob us of our passion. 

 

When we remain a slave to our default programming, we waste time second-guessing the opinions of others. As if their opinions even mattered! The end result is always a self-numbing. We are too busy people pleasing to even know what we ourselves want to do, say or feel. 

 

How can we ever become a true leader with an original voice when we are lost in this eternal follower mode? How can we create legacy and lasting impact with our business and creative ideas when our words sound so trite? 

 

And how do we even begin to tackle this?

 

It starts by taking full responsibility for our lives, both business and personal. When we finally cease looking outwards for all the reasons why we can’t, we stop playing the victim. What’s left? We can only turn within. 

 

And when we do that, we enter into the present moment. Want to be credible, inspiring and command respect? Get radically present. 

 

So few people dare to live in the present moment. It can be scary and unpredictable. But when we speak, behave and conduct our businesses from that place, we become infinitely more poised and authentic. In a world full of pretenders, we stand out. 

 

The rarest of people delight in challenging the status quo. They don’t care for approval. Instead they question, defy and excite. For them, failure isn’t deemed so bad. In fact, they invite failure in, knowing that the difficulty inherent in the struggle puts them in a stronger position to win long-term. They execute with passion and they courageously fight for themselves to the very end. This is a radical entrepreneur. This is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Are you such a person?

 

 

If you liked what you read, please like and share to help your friends see the story. 

Originally published at www.amytez.com/blog

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There is No Spoon

There is No Spoon


"Do not try to bend the spoon — that's impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth: there is no spoon."
 

Do you remember that line from the Matrix film? It's in the scene where the pre-pubescent kid explains to Neo how he manages to bend the spoon with just his googly eyes.

"The truth is: there is no spoon."

Meaning, it's all in your head.

And as soon as you understand that, you can figure the Matrix out and start bending its rules.