Thursday 22 June 2017

You genuinely have to work at being viewed as genuine

'Changing your appearance style may be easy. You can go to a shop for a new outfit or hit the barbershop or salon for an updated haircut. But changing your communications style takes awareness and effort.' (Stock picture)
'Changing your appearance style may be easy. You can go to a shop for a new outfit or hit the barbershop or salon for an updated haircut. But changing your communications style takes awareness and effort.' (Stock picture)

Gina London

OK, quick. Think of three adjectives that describe you. Now, before we go any further, answer this: were those adjectives you would use to describe yourself, or words you think someone else would use to describe you? Are the sets of words different? How so?

The perception other people have of you is what forms your reputation which, in turn, impacts your influence and your opportunities for advancement. Therefore, your communication style should be trained toward better connecting with the receiver, not simply serving yourself.

Take this past week, for example. There's been a whole lot of discussion about the first 100 days in office for the president of my birth country, the United States. No critique of that person's accomplishments would be complete if it didn't also consider leadership style. Leadership style is comprised of how one communicates. Through appearance, behaviour and words.

I'm not going to spend time focusing on him. That's for another section of this paper. This column is for you. No matter where you are in your organisation, you have room to develop yourself further - to enhance your reputation for the better.

Earlier this month, as part of an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ford establishing itself in Ireland, I interviewed Bill Ford, executive chairman of the company and great-grandson of its founder, Henry Ford, whose own father, of course, was born in West Cork.

I asked Bill what he believed was the number one trait of a leader. He replied it's most important to be "genuine". He also said leadership that manipulates negative emotions like fear or anger won't "endure". But what if your one of your current "genuine" traits is to stir up anger or fear or division? Are you stuck with that forever?

I certainly say, "No."

You can become more "genuine"

You probably have at least one personal habit that is very genuine to you - and that is also irritating your co-workers. If you can identify and successfully eliminate it, you will very likely be able to move ahead faster than if you do not. You may also be able to help your colleagues or your team identify their own negative attributes and become better than before as well.

On Tuesday, I was talking with the HR director of a Fortune 100 company about how it's often the seemingly little things that can stand in someone's way.

For instance, an executive at her previous firm always brought his laptop and typed away furiously during any meeting. He wasn't taking notes, he was working on other matters. When my friend brought it to his attention (after a frustrated senior executive asked her to), he became defensive at first, declaring that he was "busy".

"Busier than everyone else in the meeting?" my friend asked.

After a while, he acknowledged the signal he was sending as he pecked away on his laptop was that his work was more important than the others'. He stopped bringing his laptop to meetings. About two years later, after he was promoted, he circled back to my HR friend. He thanked her for setting him straight.

Go for Grow

Changing your appearance style may be easy. You can go to a shop for a new outfit or hit the barbershop or salon for an updated haircut. But changing your communications style takes awareness and effort.

Bill Ford's communications style was approachable and warm. His facial expression appeared kind and interested toward the others in the packed auditorium as we moved to the Q&A portion of the programme. A woman asked him about the low percentage of females on Ford's board and he responded without a shred of annoyance.

Was his genuine, relaxed and caring demeanour one he was born with or one he has worked on? I'll bet it's a combination of both. Growing and refining your style in the same way you develop your skills is called having a "growth mentality".

That's why you're reading this column. You understand that the same way you learned your professional expertise, you can learn and develop new characteristics and behaviours too. It's like learning a new language or how to play an instrument. You can't master it in a day. People may talk about being genuine or authentic, but this is an act of becoming so through deliberate choices.

What three adjectives describe you

So, back to the top. What are those three words how others would describe you today? Write those down and reflect upon them. Are they the words you would hope for? What three adjectives would you like others to use to describe you? Starting today, and for the next 100 days and beyond, you can make deliberate choices to diminish the traits that are holding you back and to polish your more attractive qualities.

You can change the way you communicate to become the genuine type of leader you would like to follow. But first, you must have a genuine - there's that word again - desire to do so.

Everything boils down to communications, doesn't it? If you have a question for "The Communicator," please send an email to Gina in care of sundaybusiness@independent.ie and she'll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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