If you’re leading a team, you’ll know how important it can be to appear confident and on-message. But there’s a chance your stoic approach isn’t doing anyone around you any favours.
In a recent talk at Google HQ, executive coach Kristi Hedges took staff through the research that went into her book The Inspiration Code, highlighting how those who do the best job at getting their messages across have a strong handle on how to leverage emotion.
Leaders with the knack for inspiring genuine action in those around them have a few key qualities in common, Hedges says. Here are three areas worth developing:
It sounds simple, but strong listening skills can be a circuit breaker that can motivate staff and stakeholders into action, Hedges says.
“When we listen to people, it’s a sign of respect for their opinions. The currency of respect is attention … but we’re not very good listeners,” she says.
2. Choose authenticity over leadership cliches
There are thousands of leadership tomes declaring what a “real leader” looks like, but the most effective leaders show their teams who they are outside of the project they’re working on, says Hedges.
“Be very clear about your personal presence brand …[ask]: ‘How do I want to show what’s most important to me?’” she says.
The value of revealing things about yourself beyond work lies in the fact that others will trust you more if they feel like they know you. But even so, Hedges says you should also be aware of the line between workplace friendliness and “too much information”.
“People can be too authentic at work as well … situational awareness matters too,” she says.
3. Show the emotions you want to inspire
The common wisdom that strong leaders remain calm at all times doesn’t reflect the reality that people respond with action if they can see their bosses are invested in an outcome.
While staff members are taught to keep their emotional lives out of their jobs, that doesn’t work if your role needs to motivate others, says Hedges.
“A lot of us come up through the ranks learning we want to be unemotional at work. As an individual contributor, we get rewarded for that. But then you get to be a leader, and it doesn’t work,” says Hedges.
When a leader wants to express excitement about a new project or walk into a meeting wanting to convey the gravity of a situation, workers are less likely to respond if they can’t see the emotions of those in charge, Hedges says.
“We equate a joyfulness at work with a naivety, and that doesn’t serve us very well,” she says.
Instead, she says, entrepreneurs should “play around with the idea of emotion being a critical part of how we communicate”.