I was coaching a client recently who struggled with something many of us do. How do we get others to listen to our expertise??? My client had a situation that she intuitively knew was going to cause issues for the organization. Yet, senior management did not recognize the same concerns. Intuition is great but it doesn’t sell well to senior management. It must be backed up with logical persuasive statements based upon facts. In the heat of the moment, my client was overwhelmed by her emotional response to the situation.
Each of us have different “Super Powers”. For some, it is intuition or discernment or wisdom…call it whatever you prefer. For some it may be empathy or strong social skills. Most all of these involve our emotions in some way, shape, or form.
Understanding and managing our emotions is foundational to emotional intelligence through self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
As I worked with my client, we discovered her emotional reaction to the situation was based upon her knowledge of the culture of her workplace, her knowledge of employment laws pertaining to the situation, and her understanding of the potential conflict. She recognized that the situation was potentially a risk to the organization and reacted in emotion (namely fear). In her attempt to quickly address the situation with other senior management, her emotions were still on full alert. She had not yet taken the time to assess the underlying reasons for her emotional reaction(self-awareness). Self-management of emotions deflected from the persuasiveness of her arguments.
As my client and I talked through the situation, we discussed strategies she could use to articulate her reasoning in a manner senior management may be more likely to hear. This is the social awareness and relationship management aspects of EI. Strategies to incorporate may include:
- Articulate unique knowledge prior organizational issues or challenges
- Identify potential outcomes
- Clearly define risks
- Recognize potential rewards
- Offer reasonable and well thought out alternatives
- Avoid emotional appeals or drama
Once she communicates the potential risks and relevant facts, she should support his decision moving forward knowing she upheld her responsibility for providing him the benefit of her expert knowledge. At this point, it is important to let the matter go. Her responsibility was to provide the benefit of her insight and knowledge. Senior management is responsible for the outcome of the decision from that point forward.
Emotional reactions at work may not be completely uncommon. We care about our work, our organizations, and those that we interact with a daily basis. Or, we have issues going on at home that intrude into the work day. My own emotional reactions to business situations have changed over the years. Those instinctive ‘feelings’ that something isn’t right are viewed as a precursor to my more logical nature working through an issue. As I work through the issue, I strive diligently to keep my ‘game’ face in place. But I’ll admit, on a rare occasion tears have flowed!
As Jeneva Patterson wrote in the HBR, tears occur far less for men than women both on and off the clock. Unfortunately, tears at work can affect how one is viewed professionally. Executive Presence is one of those constructs that can be difficult to describe but we certainly know it when we see it. Researchers Dagley and Gaskin identified the following 10 characteristics of Executive Presence:
- Status and reputation
- Physical appearance
- Projected confidence
- Communication ability
- Engagement skills
- Interpersonal integrity
- Intellect and expertise
- Outcome delivery ability
- Coercive power use.
Executive Presence is based upon other’s perceptions of us professionally.
While the first 5 characteristics are often based upon first impressions, the other 5 are evaluations developed over time. Dagley and Gaskin’s research showed that coercive power, the use of fear and intimidation, was viewed negatively yet increased the perception of executive presence. Further, while good looks help, the appearance category also referred to good grooming habits.
You can take steps to improve your Executive Presence. Steve Long suggests developing EP through the following:
- Build a foundation – Consistent performance matters; do your job and do it well.
- Establish trust – Earned over time and based upon consistency; people either trust or distrust based upon what they consistently see.
- Manage yourself intellectually and emotionally – Self-management and reflection affect decision making and are necessary to lead organizations holistically.
- Manage relationship – Having a vision for the organization is great; getting people excited and willing to follow it requires leaders to have strong relationship management skills.
- Do the right thing –Leaders relying solely upon positional authority will fail in the long run; EP is ultimately about character.
So how do we get our bosses to listen to our expertise?
We use ALL our skills and abilities. Emotional Intelligence and Executive Presence help us to identify and respond appropriately to issues and challenges in the workplace. Now those are some Super Powers!
For more information on coaching, emotional intelligence, or executive presence, contact Engaged CTC.