Develop Your Leadership Presence (HBR)

What about when you are pushed in front of the microphone or given very little prep time for something like an introduction of a guest speaker?

This question came from Tonya in response to my previous post on developing your leadership pitch.

Here’s the quick answer, you walk to the microphone and you smile. You take a moment to size up the audience and then you say what you have to say briefly and to the point. Most importantly, as they advise running backs who score touchdowns, act like you have been there before. The great ones hand the ball back the referee; the wannabes whoop and holler.

At the microphone, remain calm. Why? Because you are in control! Your stomach may be churning and your palms may be sweaty, but you must realize the microphone is in your hands. This is a little secret that I share with people I coach: people have to listen to you. Whether you croon or wax eloquent, the audience is at your mercy.

You are the master of your destiny, or at least the next five minutes. When you keep that thought in mind, you will realize that yes, you can do this. You can speak in front of an audience and you will be okay.

Such behavior is how you cultivate your leadership presence, a topic I address in, Lead Your Boss, The Subtle Art of Managing UpI define leadership presence as earned authority. You may have a title, but you need to earn the respect and trust of your coworkers. Presence is rooted in fundamental competence, and for anyone who aspires to lead, presence is essential. Developing this is a long process that goes far beyond speaking in public.

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First posted on 10.21.2009

VIDEO: To Win the Confidence of Others, Speak Up

Leaders need to inspire the trust of those they lead. When the heat is on, leaders need to radiate calmness, clarity and most of all confidence.

Belief in yourself is essential to leadership that must be communicated through words and example to others whom you are asked to lead. They are looking to their leader for direction as well as for hope and often inspiration.

A leader who shakes in his boots is not someone whom others want to follow.

First posted on Smart Brief on 12/23/2013 

How to Create Clarity Amidst Uncertainty (HBR)

Companies have the right to demand that employees pay attention to their jobs — it is a base requirement for performance. However, as the 2009 incident involving two Northwest Airlines pilots illustrates, when other issues are pressing, employees lose focus.

As the story goes, the pilots were trying to figure out the new Delta scheduling system that now governs what flights they’re assigned. (Delta acquired Northwest in 2008.) In doing so, they overshot their destination by 150 miles and did not respond to repeated queries from flight controllers. As reported in the New York Times, pilots’ lifestyles are affected by what schedules they work; every pilot works diligently to sign up for a schedule that best suits his or her needs.

Earlier in 2009, Northwest was correct in telling pilots to “Leave distractions about personal, corporate or other external issues outside of the flight deck.” But this overlooks a basic element of human behavior; it is not easy for people, even trained professionals, to turn off issues that are bothering them.

Pending mergers, suspected layoffs, or even management changes at the top cause employees to focus more on the unknown than what they know — their jobs. I have seen far too many organizations paralyzed for weeks, even months, when uncertainty hangs in the air. It is management’s job to get employees back to work. Here are some suggestions.

1. Raise the issue. Ignoring significant issues, like mergers or layoff rumors, is foolhardy. Employees think about these things, so you as a manager need to address them. Very often, rumors are rumors and can be punctured. That’s the easy part, but when rumors are reality and organizational changes are pending, unease sets in. Understand that as a manager you cannot make the issue go away, but you can be front and center explaining what you know. You also must assure people that you will be the first to announce changes as soon as you know them (and are permitted to disclose them).


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First posted on 10/29/2009

VIDEO: Take a Hard Look in the Mirror

Change is easy if we are not the one altering our thinking or our behaviors. But within organizations, no one is exempt from change; everyone must do his or her bit to advance the process.

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change,” Confucius once said. Most of us know plenty of the latter but few, if any, of the former.

And change is possible when you acknowledge the obstacles but refuse to allow them to overwhelm you.

First posted on Smart Brief on 12/22/2013

How to Use Humility to Drive Performance (HBR)

I’ve written before about the importance of humility as a leadership trait. But, as was recently pointed out to me, humility is an important trait in employees, too.

When people act humbly, they are acknowledging their limitations and accepting that they cannot go it alone. This mindset is valuable to a team because it serves as an invitation for others to help. Humility, however, is not an excuse for slacking. It also means having the willingness to help others do their jobs when the need arises. It is a means for allowing different personalities to coordinate with each other.

Rick Hensley, an executive with Messer Construction, reminded me of the importance of this trait in employees after I mentioned humility in keynote address I recently delivered at Miami University. Rick, a vice president for information technology, has developed a “personal humility index” that he uses when interviewing job candidates.

Among the things Rick looks for are self-awareness, a “strong sense of modesty,” the “use of we and team versus I and me,” and the candidate’s desire to develop different levels of employees. Rick wants candidates to “see themselves as others see them.” Trustworthiness, along with integrity and honesty, are essential.

Fostering humility at work requires leadership and putting what you believe into action. Here are some suggestions.

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First posted on on 11/05/2009