Are you one of those SERIOUS looking executives?
For many years one of my body language research methods, has been as follows:
During weekdays in the Sydney CBD, when the opportunity arises, I stop at a cafe that has a view of an entrance to an office tower.
This vantage point allows me to observe how business people present themselves through their face, body and movement – as the enter and exit the tower, and while buying their flat whites and lattes.
What I observe, regularly, are executives who have a serious presentation of themselves – as if they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.
This ‘projection of seriousness’ seems to be their default presentation to the world. As if they had worked out, that being serious, would mean people will think they are competent and intelligent (or maybe hide how scared they are, or that they’re struggling in their current role). But,
Serious doesn’t mean competent or intelligent
While acknowledging these executives have significant challenges and responsibilities in their role – the projection of seriousness will distance themselves from others. (and to be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting to be a laugh-a-minute person).
Importantly – a significant downside of this seriousness – is that these executives are providing a poor model for their more junior reports and colleagues who aspire to senior roles. They’re teaching and modelling, that looking serious, is the way to get ahead and hold on to a senior role.
With repeated exposure, the junior people will start becoming serious themselves, to fit the mould.
What senior executives should be presenting, is genuine inspiration.
In a surveys by Kouzes and Posner of 75,000 people, across six continents, covering the last 25+ years, the top four characteristics of admired leaders have always been:
1. Honest 2. Forward-looking 3. Competent 4. Inspiring
Being serious, is nowhere to be seen.
Own the Conversation
In the next seven days, on purpose:
- Aim to take a professional attitude to your job while, lightening up your presentation of self to the world.
- Here’s a post to help you lighten up your first impressions and greetings.
- Choose a regular interaction you have, for example your daily cafe visit, take-away lunch buy etc. and engage the server in banter – with no aim in mind. Shake-off any serious stiffness that’s crept into into your self-presentation.
p.s. As a gift to you here is my entire Choice Voice – Lessons from great speaking voices – Bob Carr recordings. Bob, former Foreign Minister of Australia, provides many gems on what makes a great speaking voice.
p.p.s After last week’s post on the comparison of the walking style of Barack Obama with the walking style of George W. Bush, a reader said he wanted to walk like Denzel Washington. Here is a clip of Washington’s walk.
Here’s the LINK