How Executive Presence and other Skills Can Help You Solve Issues in the Workplace

iStock_000010298198XSmallEvery professional and every workplace will have to manage conflicts at some point or another: there is no escaping this truth. The key is to handle issues elegantly and effectively, whether you are addressing a conflict with one individual or a tricky situation plaguing the whole office.

By drawing on your strengths as a logical, strategic thinker, as well as putting your Executive Presence to use, you can solve any issue you are faced with. Below are a few strategies for managing issues and preventing further conflict in the future.

View any issue as a problem with an answer.

  •  Whatever the issue is, start by using logic. A workplace issue, no matter how complex or filled with passion and emotion, can be solved like a math problem.
    Start by getting to the root of the issue. Does someone in the office feel threatened?
  • Is there a problem of competition in your office? What about negative behaviour, such as gossip or bullying? Or, does the issue result simply from miscommunication?
  • Before you move on to any possible solutions, it’s important to understand where the problem is coming from.

When approaching an issue, draw on your Executive Presence.

  • Do not get flustered or distracted by the strong emotions ridden in the issue. Instead, exhibit grace under fire – a key component of Gravitas – by maintaining a confident, cool head and continuing to focus on the logic of the problem and solution.
  • Another important element of Gravitas is decisiveness. Be decisive when dealing with issues: do not just leave a problem hanging and hope that it solves itself. Prolonging the situation will only make things worse. Take action, but only after careful consideration.

Communication can be both the problem and the solution.

  • Communication – or lack thereof – is often the source of a workplace issue. Reflect on or ask those involved whether miscommunication could have contributed to the conflict at hand.
  • Global Post’s Top Ten Communication Problems in the Workplace reveal that so many issues can stem from bad communication. Review this list and reflect on whether you have ever been affected by these forms of miscommunication, from confusing information to wrong communication methods applied to the wrong audience.
  • Whether or not communication is part of the problem, it is always part of the solution. Communicate openly with all parties involved in the conflict, so that all perspectives are given equal attention and value. If necessary, communicate with Human Resources for further assistance in solving a problem.

How can you limit or prevent further issues?

  • Besides striving for effective communication practices, how else can leaders in their organizations prevent issues from forming (or at least getting out of hand) in the future?
  •  Set workplace standards and ensure that all policies are clearly defined and enforced. This is important for confirming that all employees are on the same page and understand the functioning of the office. See our suggestions on implementing a policy for a scent-free office – these methods can apply to any policy.  
  • Foster a healthy, high-calibre and inclusive workplace culture. If employees are thriving and feel that they are contributing something valuable and meaningful to your organization, this will reduce the number of issues stemming from employee dissatisfaction. Also, employees will feel comfortable to reach out and seek solutions when problems inevitably arise.

 

Leadership Toolbox: Facilitating Effective Meetings

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As a leader in your company, you will encounter various roles and responsibilities that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership. One example is in facilitating effective meetings. In a productive meeting, the organizer communicates their ideas while incorporating the valuable contributions from other participants, while simultaneously managing time and direction of the meeting to ensure efficiency. In doing so, the meeting facilitator demonstrates the ability to guide and contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

Below are several tips on facilitating the most effective – and efficient – meetings.

Prepare in advance

It may seem obvious, but the universal motto to “be prepared” applies for several different components of a great meeting:

  • Write the itinerary ahead of time and email it to meeting participants. Seeing the schedule on paper and running through the length of the meeting in advance will help you to gauge whether the meeting time will run long and if you need to cut out any items from the itinerary.

Also, emailing the itinerary to participants will allow them to know what to expect. This will let them ruminate over discussion points in advance and likely better ensure the meeting stays on track.

  • Circulate any pre-reading at least two days in advance, if possible. Background reading, if relevant, is an excellent addition to a meeting in that it will facilitate a more robust and informed discussion. Just make sure you give participants enough time to review the materials.
  • Avoid technical difficulties during meeting time by testing any technical components – presentations, teleconference lines or otherwise – in advance.

During the meeting

During the meeting, a few tactics can help you to address the main points of discussion clearly and concisely:

  • Use materials to illustrate key concepts. Presentations, handouts, binders or other materials that lay out ideas visually for participants will help them to follow along and internalize the messages.
  • Incorporate discussion throughout the meeting. The primary difference between a meeting and a presentation is that the role of the meeting participant is essential in the outcome of meeting – so let their opinions play a part! To capture the points of discussion, ensure someone is designated to take notes during the meeting.

Follow up

The process is not over when a meeting concludes. Take the appropriate follow-up steps to ensure the effectiveness of your meeting:

  • By the end of the meeting, determine a list of action items and who is assigned to complete each task. Also, decide what will be addressed at the next meeting. Shortly after the meeting concludes, email these items to attendees while they are still present in your mind.

Running an effective meeting includes more than simply keeping the conversation on topic. A valuable meeting can influence the overall strategy of your organization – and show your leadership skills in doing so.

 

New Year’s Resolutions for the Workplace

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Happy New Year! How will you ring in 2013?

Many of us start off a fresh year by making a resolution or two, aiming to better ourselves through small changes to our habits. This year, consider making a professional New Year’s resolution – because even small improvements in your routine in the office or your business interactions can help you to advance your career or make your mark professionally.

Resolve to Make Connections

Are you a shy person who only talks to familiar colleagues at networking events – or just skips the event altogether? In 2013, resolve to break out of your shell by making new professional connections, both inside and outside of your company. Besides participating in networking events, take other steps to build your contact list: set lunch dates with potential partners or clients, or schedule informational interviews with business contacts. Creating and maintaining professional relationships is an important piece of advancing and growing in your field.

Resolve to Be a Leader

Displaying leadership in the workplace is a solid building block for moving up in your company. You can demonstrate leadership in tasks big and small: anything from taking the initiative to assist a new colleague, to planning and executing an important project. Consistently displaying leadership qualities will work to your advantage, especially as management begins to notice your initiative. Practicing leadership can also boost your confidence and comfort level in the workplace.

Resolve to Improve Your Presentation Skills

No matter how impressive the content of your work, your messages simply will not resonate with colleagues or clients if you cannot deliver them in a strong presentation. Giving great presentations is something that many professionals struggle with, whether it is due to stage fright, nervousness or just unfamiliarity with speaking in front of a large group. Awareness of the key elements of an effective presentation – body language, posture, articulation, well-planned slides and talking points, appearance and attire – plus lots of practice can help you to strengthen your presentation skills and effectively deliver your messages.

Resolve to Build Your Executive Presence

Executive Presence
is not a single trait that can be acquired overnight; rather, it is a hybrid of characteristics, which are all critical for a successful professional to have. A recently published study by the Center for Talent Innovation defines the foundations of Executive Presence as gravitas, communication and appearance, and makes no question of the importance of Executive Presence, stating that it “accounts for 26 percent of what it takes to get the next promotion.” You can work on building your own Executive Presence through training programs, Lunch and Learn sessions, customized webinars and individual consultations that focus on skills such as communication, business etiquette, and professional image.

Even through small changes, we can all work toward becoming stronger and more successful professionals. What better time to improve your daily habits for lasting results than at the start of a brand new year!

 

How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Communication
Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
Culture
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

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In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.

 

Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.

 

Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.

 

Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.

 

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Are Men More Strategic Than Women?

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executive presenceAre you a woman leader seeing your equally skilled male counterparts climb the corporate ladder while you get left behind? Does a promotion that you’re the perfect match for always seem to elude you? Ever wonder what’s stopping you from landing a senior level management position?

In many organizations (whether they voice it out or not) it is a commonly held belief that women are NOT as strategic as men, and hence many male senior executives believe that although skilled and talented, women are just not ready yet for senior-level leadership in the firm.

In a recent article published by the Huffington Post, leadership strategist Rebecca Shambaugh strongly disagrees with the above commonly held belief. She states that:

…in working with and coaching hundreds of women leaders, there’s no question in my mind that women are strategic thinkers. After all, most women constantly fill multiple roles. This requirement gives them critical problem solving skills and the ability to orchestrate complex situations — two areas that are closely related to strategic thinking skills. So the issue is not that women aren’t strategic thinkers. The problem is that they sometimes don’t come across that way. And in business, as in life, perception is reality.

So how do you as a bright, talented executive woman come across as more strategic? Here are 3 key areas you need to focus on: Building cross-departmental experience, developing executive presence and using the right words.

Broad-based Experience – Relative to men, women often lack the strategic experience that comes from time spent in P&L, operations and line positions. In addition, women tend to mistakenly believe that they need to be experts in their current position or functional area. As a result, they focus intently on that aspect of the business or organization, narrowing their perspective.

Instead, women need to proactively seek positions, projects, and assignments outside of their position, department or area of expertise. Cross-functional and external assignments offer a broader perspective, the opportunity to stretch and grow, a better understanding of how the pieces of the business fit and work together and a more integrated, strategic view.

Executive Presence – A recent study identified the top three differentiators that make for a successful executive, and one of those key differentiators is executive presence. At the senior ranks, everyone has technical competency, but not everyone has presence. Presence is the way you carry yourself: The persona that you convey in meetings and conversations. Executive presence is characterized by self-confidence, a sense of authority, decisiveness and assertiveness. Women have a tendency to be helpful and polite to the point of not stating their opinions or defending themselves as an authority.

If you are a woman who wants to enhance your executive presence, know and state your opinions firmly, backing them with strong rationale. Ask thoughtful, strategic questions rather than simply sharing information and blindly agreeing with others. Boards and executives are looking for people who can challenge old ways of thinking and doing. Don’t personalize situations. See business as business. Feelings don’t count … organizational goals do.

Language – Oftentimes, women’s choice of words when communicating can send the message that they are not as strategic as men. It’s not necessarily what women say but how they say it.

For example, consider a senior level, female HR professional who is concerned about a lack of cross-collaboration within the organization. She presents to the executive team “an initiative to create a more inclusive culture,” but the bottom-line focused senior executives tune her out. Consider the difference if she had reframed the proposal to reflect a more strategic approach: “Given the reality of our current talent shortage, we need to look at a human capital plan and develop an inclusive, learning-based culture that will align with and support our growth strategy.”

All leaders — men and women — need to speak the language of business. When presenting information, reports or proposals, do your homework first. Consider the strategic aspects of your project. How does it fit into the organization’s vision, business strategy, growth plan or annual goals? How will it drive better business results? You must understand how it will impact the bottom line and be prepared to communicate that connection clearly and succinctly.

Now that you know that you need to gain varied experience, build executive presence and use just the right business language – Where do you begin?

That’s where we can help. In order to be perceived as more strategic you’ll have to make a few adjustments, but the good news is it’s not difficult or complex – all you need to learn is how!

Corporate Class’s exclusive one-on-one training sessions will not only help you become more aware of your strategic capabilities as a woman, but we’ll also show you how to build executive presence and use the right body language to get ahead in your career and hopefully bag that next promotion!