Self-Knowing and Authenticity

Alas! We have finally reached the last blog post on Leadership Presence – self-knowing and authenticity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered what leadership presence means, what it can do for you, and how to attain it. Last week we began to dissect the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to obtaining leadership presence: self-knowing. This week, we continue with this theme but discuss it in terms of authenticity.

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What is authenticity? Well, at its most basic level, it means to be genuine. To be genuine is to be oneself. The ability to connect with others in the business world is of the utmost importance, however the connecting must be done genuinely, or authentically, for it to have any meaning or impact.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, there are three rules for authenticity. We shall discuss each in detail below.

Rule #1: Accept yourself and be open to growth (Halpern and Lubar 230)

Many of the greatest leaders feel comfortable and happy with themselves, despite their shortcomings. They know of their weaknesses and work to improve them, however they also accept them. When you’re aware of, and accepting of, your limitations it will allow you to develop the skills you need to overcome them. In addition, a good leader will know if their limitations cannot be overcome, at least in a timely manner, and in that case will delegate the task to someone more appropriately equipped to handle the situation. One of the best ways to accept yourself is to be open to hearing commentary about yourself and your performance, including criticism.

Rule #2: Live your values (Halpern and Lubar 235)

 In the last blog, we discussed values and how important they are to a leader. Well, it’s one thing to have values, however it’s another to put them into practice, especially in a workplace setting. Halpern and Lubar suggest leaders take two related steps in order to make sure their actions are congruent with their values:

  1. Ask others straight up if they believe you are someone who lives your values.
  2. Every time you speak of your values, ask others to tell you when your actions don’t align with your values.

It’s one thing to realize or discover that your actions don’t align with your values. If and when you do realize this, it is imperative you do some soul searching in order to figure out why this discrepancy exists, and then come up with a plan to correct the discrepancy. Remember, when your actions and values don’t align, you risk being perceived as inauthentic.

Rule #3: Create an authentic connection to work (Halpern and Lubar 240)

In order for a leader to be their most inspiring, authentic self, they must connect their values and interior life to the work that they do, similarly to how actors need to create a true connection to the characters they are portraying. At the end of the day, it is simply about creating meaning; if you truly believe in what you do and say, others will recognize that and will want to follow you. Connecting authentically with others allows the leader, as well as the led, to connect with something “bigger than themselves and their own self-interest” (Halpern and Lubar 247).

Being a leader is not about being “the boss”; it is about much more than that. It’s about inspiring, connecting, and motivating others to succeed and reach their highest potential. It is about communication, values, and the ability to make decisions. The steps we’ve outlined over the past few weeks are not necessarily the easiest things to do (opening up to others and becoming vulnerable is typically an anxiety-causing activity for most), however, if put into practice, they will help you achieve the leadership presence you deserve and need to reach the next level.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Making Connections

As our series of blogs on Leadership Presence continues, our hope is that you take some of these suggestions into practice, in order to foster leadership presence in yourself, not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.

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Last week we discussed reaching out and empathy, and this week we continue on the topic of reaching out, but specifically reaching out and making connections.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, empathy not only requires seeing and feeling, but also expression. What do they mean by this? It is what you do to communicate and act upon empathy that truly counts.

The focus of this entry is building relationships. The trick to building relationships, which is absolutely necessary if you want to be considered a leader, is to do so with empathy. But how?

 

Rules For Building Empathetic Relationships (Halpern and Lubar 109)

  1. Listen to build relationships
    1. This week again we see the importance of listening. The authors suggest listening for subtext (look for hidden meaning and emotion in the persons words). In addition, they suggest listening for the persons values and strengths, which can be an easy way to connect with someone.
  2. Acknowledge the person
    1. It is important, when listening, to acknowledge feelings, values and strengths that the other person might be trying to get across, but in a not-so-obvious fashion. The idea here is to turn off the “problem-solving” part of the brain when someone comes to you for help, and really listen to what they are saying beneath the words themselves. Another way to do this is to offer positive insights based on what you heard the person say. Remember, “people want to be loves, heard, and made to feel important.”
  3. Share yourself
    1. “Openness is critical for coaching” (119), say Halpern and Lubar in their book. This statement could not be truer, especially in business. It is integral to be vulnerable if you are to be a successful coach. Reveal the chinks in your armor, so to speak, and let others see who you really are; they will be more likely to follow you if you do.

It is important to mention that, although opening up and sharing yourself is necessary if you want to be a successful leader, there is also a limit. The authors suggest doing this in stages (offering bits of information here and there), and seeing how others respond. Don’t tell others your life story the moment you meet them!

The challenge this week is to try to open up and become vulnerable (yes, this will likely be difficult, and possibly even uncomfortable!), and see how others respond to you. Remember, it is all about making connections, and you wont be able to do so if you’re a vault!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Empathy

This week we continue our series on leadership presence – what it is and how we can attain it. Last week we looked at the first aspect of leadership presence, and arguably it’s foundation, being present.

For this next instalment, we will discuss the next step on the path to attaining leadership presence: reaching out with empathy. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, reaching out means “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection” (77).

This may sounds easy or obvious, but in fact is it not. A true leader is someone who reaches out first, and does not wait for opportunities to cross them by. In addition, it is one thing to reach out to others, to seek out opportunities, but if one does so without empathy and compassion, the effect will be lackluster. Both of these characteristics compliment each other and work together to foster leadership.

How Can I Learn to Reach Out and be Empathetic?

There is a saying: “people want to be loved, heard, and made to feel important.” This statement is true in every aspect of life, and especially in business. A true leader will make their colleagues feel heard, and their actions and ideas integral to any business situation. This includes, for example, active listening, as opposed to passive listening, and sensitivity in dealing with potentially awkward situations (such as someone’s terrible idea for a proposal to a potential client). Halpern and Lubar state: “When you know and acknowledge your people and their feelings, they feel more motivated, work more productively, and they’re more likely to stay, even if the going gets though” (89). If you can learn to reach out and be empathetic with your employees, they will be loyal to you and will work harder for you.

If empathy and the ability to reach out doesn’t exactly come natural to you, there are certain actions you can take to encourage this behavior in yourself.

Know What Makes People Tick

Being empathetic does not mean having warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness for the entire population; it simply means understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings. To do this adequately, it is important to get to know the person, and find out what makes them tick, so that you may better understand them in any situation.

Make The Link to Your Own Feelings

 In opposition to sympathy, empathy involves feeling with someone, as opposed to for someone. Therefore, empathy requires you to connect with your own feelings and inner self. Many leaders have the “bad habit” of leaving all their feelings at home before coming to the office. If you do this, your ability to empathize will be gravely affected. We often see this be the case for some in our 360 with clients. Categories of respondents differ in their opinions of the subject. Friends and family will rate their empathy high while colleagues, direct reports and bosses rate it low.

You Can Empathize With Anyone

Naturally, it is easier to empathize with people we like. Empathizing and connecting with others that you may not like or respect can be a challenge, but it is certainly not impossible. Halpern and Lubar suggest thinking about the person with whom you cannot connect with, and trying to find at least one thing (however, the more the better) that you admire about that person, and connecting with them surrounding that. The authors state: “In the end, though, empathy doesn’t involve finding what you like in someone else. It involves finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weakness, and connecting that humanity to your own” (98).

A study of over 38,000 leaders and their organizations (conducted by Hay/McBer), found that “leadership styles that rely heavily on empathy tended to create a more positive company climate {…}” (99), and as we can imagine, a more positive company climate will lead to positive company results.

This week, challenge yourself to connect with others, and especially to those whom you may know you’ll have trouble connecting with. See what a difference empathy can make on your path to developing your leadership presence.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

What is Leadership Presence?

This week begins a series of blogs on leadership presence, what it entails, and how to obtain it.

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At Corporate Class, our team has done much research on the terms executive and leadership presence. Some say Executive Presence is a subset of Leadership Presence and we believe these terms are interchangeable. When you look at the description of each according to different authors, they are most often referring to the same thing.

One responder to a blogger’s attempt to define the difference between leadership and executive presence writes: “It is hard for me to imagine that any leader with good leadership presence (as described above) would not have good executive presence (perceived as worthy of being at an executive level by those around them). And anyone with poor leadership presence would also have poor executive presence (you may dress well and speak well but in short order people at an executive level will know whether or not you are all hat and no cattle- lipstick on a pig concept).”

Belle Linda Halpen and Kathy Lubar wrote a comprehensive book entitled “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire.” The book details what leadership presence is, who has it, and how people can obtain it. The first chapter of the book, “What Actors Have That Leaders Need, ” explains the idea of “presence” and what that entails.

So what exactly is “presence”? 

Many of the most famous actors and politicians – Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Winston Churchill – instantly command your attention when they walk into a room to give a speech, or walk onto the red carpet. Why is that? It is not simply because they are famous, but rather, they possess presence.

One key factor of presence – and in turn of these famous figures – is that they command the attention of others, almost effortlessly. People stop and stare, wanting to know what’s going to happen next. However, according to Halpen and Lubar, commanding attention “is only one outcome of presence, not its essence or even its most valuable outcome” (Halpern and Lubar 3).

“Presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others” (Halpern and Lubar 3)

As made obvious by this statement, the underlying structure of presence is the ability to connect. One might believe that this ability either comes naturally to a person or does not, and that the person without it is, well, out of luck. fortunately, according to the authors, that is not the case. In fact, “presence is a set of skills, both internal and external that virtually anyone can develop and improve” (Halpern and Lubar 3). This is fantastic news! However the authors poignantly state that in order for someone to learn leadership presence, they must take themselves out of their comfort zone, and for this reason, learning it is no easy task.

The elements of leadership presence

The authors discuss the elements of leadership presence by using what is called the PRES model of Leadership Presence, which they’ve conceived of based on their years of theatrical and performance experience, as well as what they’ve both learned from teaching presence to leaders.

PRES Model of Leadership Presence:

P: stands for “being present” – the ability to completely be in the moment.

R: stands for “reaching out” – the ability to build relationships with others
through empathy and listening.

E: stands for “expressiveness” – the ability to express feelings and emotions
appropriately.

S: stands for self-knowing – the ability to accept yourself and to be authentic.

The PRES Model of LP is in total alignment with topics covered under the four pillars of Executive Presence of Corporate Class Inc. System. So it is worth noting that leadership presence is definitely very much entrenched in executive presence.

Next week, we will look at “Being Present”, a core value of executive/ leadership presence, depending which term resonates best with you.

 

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

 

Before Your Next Trip Overseas…

Travelling abroad for work can often be an exciting and rewarding perk of your career. It is an opportunity to visit a new place, meet new people and see new sights. Often, traveling abroad for work isn’t always just about work, and usually involves some leisure time as well.

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You will be conducting business with those you are traveling to meet, and perhaps even travelling around the city or country with them as well during some leisure time.

As much as your mind is (and should be) focused on the important meetings to come, it is imperative that you take the time to do some research on the culture you will be visiting before you leave the comfort of your home. Ed Fuller from Marriott International, details the importance of knowing about others’ culture while traveling, in his article for Forbes Magazine.

Before you leave on your trip, consider completing some of the following exercises so that you can get the most out of your business trip, which will benefit both you personally, as well as the company you represent.

Watch YouTube videos

YouTube videos are a great way to see and hear about a foreign culture. Videos might be the most effective research tool, as you get both sound and movement, and can really start to appreciate the culture of a certain country.

There are also endless videos out there, and so finding appropriate ones should be fairly simple. For instance, you can search “traditional Peruvian meal” and watch how a meal might be cooked as well as consumed. You may also search things such as “traditional Indian dance” or “Moroccan cultural ceremonies.”

Learn your “hello’s” and “goodbye’s”

It is always a good idea to learn a few basic words or phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only will it show that you did your research (this will likely be viewed as a sign of respect), but it is a great way to connect with others on a deeper level, which may help to foster and grow professional relationships.

If you don’t have a great memory, or if you don’t have time to sit and memorize how to say “thank you” in Swahili, create a cheat sheet before you leave that you can study on your 24 flight to Kenya. 

Pick up a small travel guide of your destination 

Many bookstores sell small travel guides to the majority of popular destinations. In them, you’ll find a plethora of information on the country in question in a(n often) very small package, one that you can likely take with you in your carry-on. It will outline many common phrases, places to eat, and sights to see.

The fact that this is a business trip, as opposed to a leisure vacation, indicates that it is important to learn as much about the new culture as possible. This will reflect extremely well on you as a business professional, which will also translate back to your company. Present your best and most informed self, especially when traveling for business.

 

How To Nurture Your Newest Contacts

If you’re a professional, you know the utter power and influence networking possesses. Networking isn’t always a formal event; it can consist of essentially any activity in which the opportunity to meet new people is present (a tennis tournament, your daughters skating arena, lunch with coworkers, or a family get-together).

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As a professional, it’s important to recognize that just about everything you do, and everywhere you go, has the potential to be a networking opportunity. In fact, grocery stores across Canada have picked up on the opportunity for young singles to meet while picking up their essentials, and have created “singles night” to encourage the behaviour (see this link for the detailed article). Opportunities exist all over, and it’s important to seize them.

But then what?

What happens after you meet someone new is more important than meeting them in the first place. It is one thing if you are a networking pro and have no problems approaching strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s what you do with those new contacts that really matters.

Always follow up

It is important not to lose your new contacts’ card somewhere deep in your wallet, only to discover it a year later. No matter how important (or possibly, unimportant) you believe this contact to be, always follow up the following day with a short email. The email might discuss your first meeting, and a suggestion to go for coffee the following week. It is also an opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn.

The idea here is to keep the conversation flowing; to build and nurture the relationship you just formed.

Keep new contacts organized

Having a huge pile of business cards on your desk will not help you nurture your new contacts. As soon as you receive a new card, import the information onto your computer or phone. This will also make it easier to send out greetings during a holiday (another great way to nurture your contacts). If you think you will not remember who the person is or the company they work for, file/tag them by event date or name.

 Remember, it’s a two-way street

 Networking and building your contact base is definitely beneficial to you and your professional career. You recognize the power and importance of having a large network. However it’s also important to remember how you can help your new contacts. Let your knew contacts know about the qualities you possess that may be beneficial to them, and offer your time should they be interested. We call this positive networking.

Don’t take networking for granted, and certainly, don’t take your new contacts for granted! Let them know that they are appreciated, and keep the dialogue flowing.

Etiquette for The Summer Barbecue

Summer is the long-awaited and much anticipated season; dresses, patios, and of course, summer barbecues. In recent years, barbeques have grown in popularity as an easy, fun, and delicious way of getting people together. They have also spilled over into the professional world and have become an informal setting for colleagues get together outside of the office

bbqOffice barbecues can be a great place to get to know your colleagues, and perhaps even your superiors, on a more personal level, given the informal and relaxed setting.

Although the term “barbecue” holds many connotations (such as informal, fun, relaxed, and beer), there are still some etiquette rules to abide by, especially when the barbecue in question is one filled with colleagues and/or superiors. Many of the same rules in effect at a holiday cocktail party still hold true at an informal barbecue.

Never arrive ravenous

 It is important to not show up to the barbeque on an empty stomach.

  • Think of the barbecue as an incredible opportunity to network in a new space – and a comfortable one at that – where others are likely feeling relaxed and happy. Can you say the same when you are trying to network in an office setting? Don’t focus all your time on the food!
  • Have a few snacks before you arrive, so that you’re not immediately drawn to the food. Of course, it is important to indulge in what is offered so as not to offend the host.
  • Start with a small portion of what is being offered (don’t bombard your plate with a mountain of BBQ’d ribs). If it was so delicious that you must have more, make sure others have eaten first before getting seconds.

Do not drink in excess

It is sometimes easy to drink one-too-many beers when you’re in someone’s backyard, on a bright and sunny afternoon. However, you must keep in mind that this is still a work function, and there are lots of important eyes on you.

  • Pace yourself with the alcohol. After each drink, switch to a glass of water, and try to limit yourself to two, maybe three drinks total.
  • Try to stick with one kind of alcohol throughout the barbecue. As the widely known rhyme goes: “beer before liquor, makes you sicker.”
  • Snack throughout the barbeque – if you’re going to be drinking for a few consecutive hours, it is imperative that you are also eating (which is also why it’s a good idea to have some snacks before you arrive!).

Try to reach everyone, at least once

Barbecues can be a gift for those who might struggle with the idea of networking. It is much easier to network, and get to know others, when everyone is in a wonderful mood, relaxing in the sunshine and drinking sangria.

  • Try to connect with everyone at the barbeque at least once. If you talk to the same group of people throughout the event, think of all the potential new contacts you didn’t
  • Although you likely work with most of the people at the party, colleagues may have brought guests. It’s always a good idea to bring business cards so that you’re prepared if and when someone asks you for your information.

Just like any other office party, barbecues can be a great place to relax, enjoy, and get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Although they are often informal and casual, the same etiquette rules of a fancy Christmas party still apply! Remember, if you’re surrounded by colleagues and/or superiors, you’re still working!

Small Talk Can Lead to Big Opportunities

97421060When you go to a networking event, do you dread making small talk with strangers? Many find small talk to be awkward, meaningless, or tiresome – but the reality is, small talk is a very important component of making professional connections.

Although the topics discussed during small talk may not be directly related to business, small talk helps to build relationships. This leads to more meaningful discussions, lasting professional partnerships, and business deals. The habit of discussing business all the time is not a path to success – in fact, even in some professional situations it is inappropriate to address business affairs constantly.

Mastering the art of small talk, then, is key to enhancing your own professional presence. Here, we discuss a few starting points and elements of small talk – and opportunities for more practice.

What do I talk about?
Jumping into small talk can seem intimidating – especially if you can’t think of a topic of conversation other than the weather. If you don’t want to start with a cliché or mundane topic like the weather, where do you start?

  • If you are at a national or international event, ask other participants about where they are based, what is interesting about their home city, or what they enjoy about the host city. This gives you a great starting point for further questions, such as great sights to see or questions about their company, instead of a dead-end topic like the weather.
  • Conversely, if someone is from the same city as you, discuss what he or she enjoys about that place. This may allow you to find mutual connections and discuss possible opportunities to meet in your hometown.
  • Ask questions about what other participants do for work and what they enjoy about it. This is not directly related to business affairs, as it simply allows others to expand upon their passions and interest. Again, you may find something in common with their interests, and this could lead to further discussion about where your companies align and could connect in the future.
  • For further resources, see an article from the website Entrepreneur, which lends the simple yet valuable advice to “just ask questions” when making small talk. Fast Company also suggests five great questions to ask when engaging in small talk.

Small talk isn’t just about talking
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, small talk isn’t just about talking! It’s also about being open, inviting, and ready to engage – through body language and the ability to work a room.

  • When at a networking event or cocktail party, refrain from staying in one corner of the room or only seeking out familiar faces. You will never make small talk if you refuse to approach others! Walk around the room – and be sure to check your posture, stance, and eye contact while doing so.
  • With your body language, show that you are open to making new connections. Above all, smile! A friendly face invites introductions and conversation.
  • Our previous blog post on Working A Room can provide you with even more tips on how to jump into a networking session with ease.

How do I learn more?
Small talk is a key component of the Interpersonal Communication Skills module in our upcoming Advanced Executive Presence Seminar for C-Suite Leaders. We are very excited to launch this two-day training on May 27 and 28, specifically designed for executives at the C-suite level and covering all seven modules of our Executive Presence training. If you are interested in mastering the art of small talk – and many more factors contributing to your Executive Presence – please contact us.

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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