How to Command a Room and Get Your Gravitas On

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The subject of gravitas (executive presence) has come up a lot lately in conversations with friends, several of whom have asked me to write about it. In doing my research, I came across this amazing post on the subject by David Peck, a Principal and Senior Executive Coach at Goodstone Group.

Peck states that to operate effectively at a senior level, people need to be viewed as influential by colleagues which requires finding an authentic and influential form of your own voice.

When gravitas is lacking, people know it, and when it’s present, they take notice: “She can really hold a room.” “His ideas are always welcomed by the board, even when there’s debate or disagreement.” “When she speaks, people sit up and take notice.”

Read on below for the six practices necessary to get your gravitas on and your leadership upgraded.  Also, I checked in with David Peck and they have executive coaches around the country including NYC if anyone is interested in pursuing this further.

1. Be poised and assured in the value of your own contribution

Gravitas requires remaining calm, even under fire, and finding within yourself the assurance that your value at the table is constant and worthwhile, without having to prove it (e..g, trying to be the smartest person in the room, dominating air time, or needing to be right.) It’s natural, particularly when awed or even intimidated by the intellects or accomplishments of others around you, to devalue or marginalize yourself in subtle but noticeable ways. Don’t give in to such fear, but simply notice it in the moment, and dismiss it without reacting to it. Your value to the discussion remains constant no matter who else is in the room.

2. Use great judgment about using assertions, questions, and silence

Being judicious about what and when to assert, when to inquire, and when to use attentive silence is key to gravitas. When asserting your ideas keep it short, simple, clear, and contextualized by the current discussion. Don’t restate other’s ideas. When in doubt, less is more. When you are silent, be present by active listening and staying off your devices. Listen like it matters. When asking questions, keep them on topic or message, short, and oriented toward “what” and “how” and certainly not “why,” and toward the future or present, rather than the past.

3. Avoid unhelpful verbal habits

Minimize verbal mannerisms such as “um” and “you know?” and “you know what I mean?” and “like,” and any other filler words or phrases (e.g., “…at the end of the day,” and “to be honest,” and “In my opinion,” etc.) that may sound like nervous habits or ticks. Watch the tendency to “up talk”–that is, don’t end declarative sentences or phrases with an upward inflection, like a question. I often use video practice to show a client these habits, which tend to hide in their blind spot.

4. Be confident and kind, without being arrogant

Arrogance and gravitas simply don’t coexist. When you’re perceived as arrogant, you’re trying too hard. Others read it as overbearing and insecure. People who deserve their seat at the table don’t have to buy it at every meeting. You have nothing to prove. You certainly don’t have to “win” with any particular idea, point, or deep thought. You don’t want to throw your colleagues under the bus, even when you think they deserve it. Treat those you don’t respect with respect. Remember, others with gravitas are doing that already.

5. Watch your body language

80 percent or more of your communication is non-verbal — while that’s a common statistic, it’s often underplayed or disregarded. How you show up physically — arms crossed or not, sitting back or forward, how stressed you seem, how fast you walk in and out of the room — these all shape or limit your impact among your senior colleagues. Noticing your own body language is critical to establishing a strong executive presence.

6. Observe yourself and the situation as you participate

For all of the above to work, you need to monitor yourself and others as you participate. What’s my role here? What’s unspoken here? Where should we head with this, and how is my participation helping, neutral or hindering that direction? What’s needed here? These are all self-monitoring questions that can help you adjust your impact for the better in real time.

Link to complete article, here.

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