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Business Communication

Executive Presence: “Gravitas”, Communication…and Appearance?

Executive Presence is considered essential to achieve leadership roles and effectively perform in them.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Organizational advancement assumes measurable knowledge, skill, competence, coupled with less quantifiable “authenticity,” “cultural fit,” and “executive presence.”

To more clearly define these less tangible prerequisites of executive advancement, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and CEO of Center for Talent Innovation, conducted 18 focus groups and 60 interviews to systematically investigate behavioral and attitudinal aspects of Executive Presence (EP).

Interviewees opined that Executive Presence accounts for more than a quarter of factors that determine a next promotion, and includes three distinct components:Executive Presence

Gravitas” – Authoritative Behavior

    • Confidence, composure,
    • Decisiveness,
    • Integrity,
    • Emotional Intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, interpersonal skills,
    • Clear personal “brand” reputation,
    • Vision for leadership

Communication

    • Strong speaking skills:  Voice tone, clear articulation, grammatical speech conveying competence, credibility,
    • Presence”, “bearing”,  “charisma” including assertiveness, humor, humility,
    • Ability to sense audience engagement, emotion, interests

Appearance

    • Attention to grooming, posture,
    • Physical attractiveness, normal weight,
    • Well-maintained, professional attire.

Harrison Monarth

Executive presence can be cultivated with Image Management, argued Harrison Monarth.

He advocated self-marketing tactics including:

– Creating and maintaining a compelling personal “brand” to influence others’ perceptions and willingness to collaborate,

– Managing online reputation, and recovering when communications go awry,

-Effectively persuading those who disagree, and gaining followers,

-Demonstrating “Emotional Intelligence” skills of self-awareness, awareness of others (empathic insight).

He focused less on appearance as a contributor to career advancement than Hewlett and Stanford Law School’s Deborah Rhode, who summarized extensive research on Halo Effect.
Rhode and Hewlett acknowledge the impact of appearance and non-verbal behavior on various life opportunities including career advancement.

Deborah Rhode

Rhode estimated that annual world-wide investment in appearance is close to $200 billion in 2010 USD currency, and she contended that bias based on appearance:

  • Is prevalent,
  • Infringes on individuals’ fundamental rights,
  • Compromises merit principles,
  • Reinforces negative stereotypes,
  • Compounds disadvantages facing members of non-dominant races, classes, and gender.

Executive Presence is widely recognized as a prerequisite for leadership roles, yet its components remained loosely-defined until Hewlett’s systematic investigation, Monarth’s consulting-based approach, and Rhode’s legal analysis.

-*Which elements seem most essential to Executive Presence?

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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can avert medical care disasters attributed to poor care, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He noted that people who effectively improved their performance recognized fallibility in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied to fields outside of medicine:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids.
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberate monitoring of potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

All of these elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude due to wide availability of relevant information, Gawande noted.
He argued that both types of omission errors can be improved by systematic analysis and disciplined use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Since selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequently-used approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, researching and assimilating information, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate to accept the leadership role instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture is funded for the best ideas, not the originators, who are replaced,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists said that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

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Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons asserts that the power of stories derives from stimulating feelings and focusing these sentiments on a goal or action in her book, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte, who designed Al Gore’s original Inconvenient Truth slides, concurs in her most recent book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences 

George Lakoff

George Lakoff

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff, in his classic, Metaphors We Live By, contends that stories create a framework that directs and filters attention, and enables the speaker to “control the conclusions.”

Simmons suggests the following sources of stories:

1.Personal stories of your successes
2.Personal stories of failures, to demonstrate learning, and to build trust and credibility
3.Stories of mentors and other people who influenced you
4.Memorable stories from books, movies, and current events that influenced you.

Aristotle

Aristotle

She referred to Aristotle‘s premise that the best stories contain knowledge (logos), feeling (pathos), and credibility (ethos) when she offered guidelines for effective story-telling:

1. Describe events in a way that evokes a concrete, sensory experience, as it is the way to stimulating emotion
2. Be brief
3. Offer measurable outcomes
4. Enable the listener to similar situations, organizations
5.Solidarity, or enabling the listener to experience another person’s point-of-view

-*What practices enable you to craft influential, memorable “stories”?

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Powerful Non-Verbal Behavior May Have More Impact Than a Good Argument

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld is a social psychologist and professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who co-directs its Executive Program for Women Leaders.

Her research focuses on power and group behavior, and she notes that power can corrupt without conscious awareness.
She notes that power can disinhibit behavior by reducing concern for the social consequences of one’s actions, and by strengthening the link between personal wishes and acts that fulfill these desires.

Her recent work demonstrates that power leads to an action-orientation, limits the ability to take another’s perspective, and increases the tendency to view others as a “means to an end.”

This talk reviews her research and its practical implications, such as non-verbal behaviors that anyone can adopt to increase the impression of being a powerful individual.

-*How have you seen powerful non-verbal behavior trump the content of an argument?

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Power Tactics for Better Negotiation

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani points to research documenting women’s tendency to negotiate for salaries, promotions – and even task-sharing in relationships, less often than men in Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want

Her book offers guidelines to speak up assertively while developing the resilience and “thick skins” many in sales have mastered.

These recommendations echo those suggested in research studies and popular articles, and perhaps more Machiavellian, realistic, and perhaps disconcerting come from one of her endorsers, Stanford University Graduate School of Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer

He analyzes individual power dynamics in corporate hierarchies, and offers recommendations to acquire and use power in Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t 

Power-Jeffrey PfefferIn Rezvani’s book, Pfeffer notes that “Power is about 20% conferred and 80% taken.
Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who ask, negotiate, and push.
For women—or men—to get what they deserve, they must get over the platitudes and attitudes that hold them bac
k.”

Pfeffer debunks the hopeful idea that the world is fair and just,  and counsels those seeking to have the power to “get things done” to promote themselves, avoid giving up or delegating power, but instead,  give up the wish to be well-liked.

Because the work world is not fair, Pfeffer says that intelligence, performance, and likeability alone are not the most important factors in advancing in an organization.
Instead, he argues that ambition, energy, and focus drive key power behaviors:

  • Self-promotion and seeking organizational visibility
  • Building relationships, networking, and supporting the immediate manager
    Cultivating a reputation for control and authority by managing information and first impressions (halo effect, attention decrement, cognitive discounting, self-fulfilling prophecy, biased assimilation)
  • Embodying powerful demeanor in speech, dress, posture

Useful skills in acquiring power are:

  • Self-reflection and self-knowledge
  • Confidence and self-assurance
  • Ability to “read” others by empathically understanding their perspectives
  • Capacity to tolerate and remain calm in conflict

Although power is valuable to enable execution and results, there are downsides and “prices to pay” for having and using power.
Often, the costs of power are not fully considered or anticipated by those who aspire to it, so Pfeffer usefully suggests the following drawbacks of power:

  • Loss of privacy due to public scrutiny
  • Loss of autonomy
  • Necessary investment of time and effort that might be spent in other ways, such as with family, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, pursuing non-work interests
  • Trust, confidentiality, conflict-of-interest, ethical dilemmas
  • Possible intoxication with power as an “addictive drug”
Kathleen Kelly Reardon

Kathleen Kelly Reardon

It's All PoliticsPfeffer’s Stanford University colleague, Kathleen Kelly Rearson shares specific examples of skillful, modulated application of power in her book, It’s all Politics.

-*How do you ask for what you want at work?

-*What power tactics do you employ to influence your negotiation outcomes?

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“Nudging” Compassion, Resilience to Reduce Conflict, Stress

David DeSteno

David DeSteno, directs Northeastern University’s Social Emotions Lab, where he investigates cognitive and neurological mechanism related to social behavior.
In Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us , and at his PopTech talk, he shared how he investigated whether evoked compassion and empathy is associated with reduced aggression.

He described experiments in which volunteers solve math problems for money.
In some conditions, one of DeSteno’s associates posed as another volunteer and noticeably cheated to earn more money than the real volunteer.
In other conditions, the confederate abided by the rules.

For some experiments, the cheating confederate, a professional actor, evoked empathy and compassion by saying that she was  worried about her brother, who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In these situations, the volunteers were less likely to intentionally inflict discomfort on her in the following study of “taste perception,” a measure of aggression.

In this experimental trial, the volunteer measured a discretionary amount of extra-hot sauce into a cup for the cheating or non-cheating confederates to taste.

Volunteers poured five times more hot sauce for cheating confederates than non-cheating confederates, but they treated cheaters who evoked empathy the same as non-cheaters.

DeSteno noted most people are willing to help others who have some similarity to them, such as a shared identity of sharing a religious faith or hometown, or even are moving together as in conga lines, military drills.

He suggested that movement “synchrony causes separate identities to merge into one,” and demonstrated this trend in a music perception study, where volunteers in the same room tapped their hands on sensors when they heard tones.

In some conditions, the tones were synchronized so the volunteers were tapping at the same time as other volunteers, and in other conditions, the tones were independent.
De Steno found that 50% of volunteers who tapped at the same time were willing to help other volunteers, whereas 20% of those who tapped at different times helped others.
He concluded that volunteers felt more similar by tapping together, so felt more compassion, and were more likely to help others.

DeSteno is investigating social media like Facebook as a platform for sharing similarities to reduce aggression in conflict, cyber-bullying, victims of distant natural disasters.

He  said uses Cass Sunstein’s and Richard Thaler’s idea that small behavioral and organizational changes can “nudge” people to healthier, safer, more productive, and prosperous habits outlined in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness 

Their practical recommendations for designing effective “choice architecture” are consistent with DeSteno’s research-based findings:

* Align incentives with desired outcomes
* Identify possible alternative outcomes in familiar terms
* Provide default options that favor desired outcome behaviors
* Offer prompt, relevant feedback about choices and outcomes.
* Expect deviation from the targeted outcome, and build in ways to prevent, detect, and minimize this variance.
* Structure complex choices to reduce the difficulty of decisions-making

-*How have you seen “similarity” affect workplace collaboration and support?

-*Where have you seen organizations implement “choice architecture” to encourage employee behaviors toward positive goals?

BJ Fogg

Related Post
“Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes

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Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity

Paul Zak

Paul Zak

Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate Center, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, suggests that the hormone oxytocin empathic understanding, generosity (donating to charities, giving money to others in experimental situations), happiness, and trust/trustworthiness.The Moral Molecule

He verified these laboratory-based findings in real-world situations, like a wedding he attended in southern England, prior to which he drew blood samples from the wedding party.

Zak says that oxytocin can be increased by massage, dance, story-telling, prayer, engaging in social media with a loved one, and hugs.
As a result, he “prescribes 8 hugs a day” for better mood and improved “relationships of all types.”

He says that oxytocin can be inhibited by improper nurturing in childhood, stress, abuse, and by oxytocin’s antagonist, testosterone.
Known as the “selfish hormone,” testosterone is also correlated with expressions of power and leadership in the workplace.

One reason women may have challenges expressing these traits in work situations is that their average testosterone levels are ten times lower than men’s.
Zak’s TED Talk

Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy

Related Post:

Thoughts change bodies, bodies change minds, roles shapes hormones: Amy Cuddy on “Faking Until It’s Real”

-*To what extent have you seen “eight hugs a day improve mood and relationships”?

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