Thursday, February 1, 2018

What Messages are You Sending?

Guest post from Kimberly Davis:

I couldn’t believe it was the same woman. As she shared her presentation, she was warm, charming, gregarious, with a whip smart sense of humor. In less than two minutes, she had the audience in the palm of her hand, laughing so hard we were wiping tears from our eyes. How could this be the same woman who sat in front of me all day with the blank eyes and furrowed brow—who kept her back to me so much of the time? The woman who seemed so angry and aloof. Detached. Who was this mystery woman?
It’s easy to see how this can happen. With so much on our plates, we disappear into our minds, thinking about all there is to do, tackling the challenges of the day, weighing the pros and cons, processing, scrutinizing, calculating—busy working the business of business. But we forget. We forget that how we show up in the world, intentionally or not, has an impact.

If we’re focused on an upcoming deadline and neglect to say hello to a teammate in the hallway, they’ll think we’re mad.
If we’re quiet in a meeting, people will think we don’t care.

If we’re overwhelmed and need to be alone, people will think we don’t like them.

At work, especially in a leadership position, we live in a heightened reality. We’re “on”. People are paying attention. Everything we say and do communicates something and if we’re not mindful, the messages we’re sending can cost us.

I remember having this conversation with the mystery woman, half-way through the day, following her presentation. “You totally took me by surprise,” I shared with her, “you blew me away! You were articulate, warm, hilarious! You clearly have a natural talent for presenting.” Then, looking her in the eye, I said gently, “So why don’t you let us see that side of you off stage? It was as if two different women showed up in this room today. You are an amazing, kind, and caring woman, why don’t you let people see who you truly are?”

She looked at me for a long moment, took a deep breath, and said, “I know. I don’t know why I do that. I…I don’t mean to come across the way I do. It shows up on my 360. I know it’s a problem.”

“You’re robbing us of you. And, as a leader, if you need to connect to the hearts and minds of others to be able to lead and influence, you can’t afford to send mixed-messages. People won’t give you their best because they have to, they’ll give you their best because they want to. You can’t put their want at risk.”

Later that day, as this incredible group of leaders talked about what they hoped to do differently, I watched a transformation take place. Looking up at me, with a wry smile and a glimmer in her eye, the mystery woman unveiled her true self. “I’m going to work on letting people see who I really am. I think maybe it’s time to lose the tough act and get real.”

Your words, your energy, your expression, your body language, your tone, whether you’re present or distracted—whatever your reasons—how you show up with others matters. The stakes are higher than you realize.
What messages are you sending? 

An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership.” She is the author of Brave Leadership:  Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need.
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fortworthcookie said...

I can identify with your "mystery woman". With a public-facing position and a team of very smart people I'm leading, sometimes the pressure gets to me.The push-pull of doing what other people need and doing the actual tasks. I make it a habit to put people first, but when the tasks don't get done, ultimately I am letting someone down. Occasionally, I find that I begin dreading meetings and other interactions because I'm burnt out from being "on" all the time. At times when I know how I'm feeling doesn't match what I need to be, trying to set that aside and be what's needed feels like it might break me.

So, how do you sustain that level of engagement? How do you strike a balance or get away when necessary to complete the tasks that others are relying on without the negative perceptions?

PS--I live in the south where personability seems all the more pronounced than I find it in other regions. (More pressure!)

Unknown said...

So often as a leader I find that I am in so many things, that it is hard to just be just "me". I too work in a customer centric environment that causes me to push others to give their best. I am drained most days from the hard drives, it is such an emotional roller coaster. The neediness of people and your desire to please is a balancing act. I strive to be intentional in being me!

Unknown said...

I live is Austin now, and lived in Dallas for 5 years, so I understand what you're saying. I think one of the most important things you can do is to give yourself permission to set the boundaries you need to take care of yourself, so you can then engage fully and it feels like less of a burden. It's absolutely okay to say to someone, "I would love to meet with you, but I have a really pressing deadline and can't give you the full attention you deserve. Can we set up a I can be fully present?" What you're telling them is that you care enough about them to be present - that they're important to you - and at the same time given yourself the gift of a little breathing room. The more you can find constructive ways to take care of your needs, while respecting the needs of others, the better you will feel and be able to lead.

Unknown said...

Yolanda, if you can help the people you lead gain clarity about WHY the care about the work they do and the impact that they want to have, encourage them to articulate it in actionable language (ex: I want connect customers to...I want to lift people up... I want to encourage... etc) and then support them to focus on taking the action to make an impact that THEY personally care about (in alignment w/the work they do) then you'll find they'll drive themselves. Also, I suspect, from what you've written, that "to drive results" isn't what you care about most, which is why it drains you. If you can think of your results as a byproduct of you focusing on taking action to make the impact you want to make - what you care about most - you'll find yourself more energized. You clearly know how to bring heart to work - you just have to learn how to better leverage that caring - your WHY - or purpose (what I call your Super Objective), every day.