It’s easy to see how this can happen. With so much on our plates, we disappear into our minds, thinking about all there is to do, tackling the challenges of the day, weighing the pros and cons, processing, scrutinizing, calculating—busy working the business of business. But we forget. We forget that how we show up in the world, intentionally or not, has an impact.
If we’re focused on an upcoming deadline and neglect to say hello to a teammate in the hallway, they’ll think we’re mad.
If we’re quiet in a meeting, people will think we don’t care.
If we’re overwhelmed and need to be alone, people will think we don’t like them.
At work, especially in a leadership position, we live in a heightened reality. We’re “on”. People are paying attention. Everything we say and do communicates something and if we’re not mindful, the messages we’re sending can cost us.
I remember having this conversation with the mystery woman, half-way through the day, following her presentation. “You totally took me by surprise,” I shared with her, “you blew me away! You were articulate, warm, hilarious! You clearly have a natural talent for presenting.” Then, looking her in the eye, I said gently, “So why don’t you let us see that side of you off stage? It was as if two different women showed up in this room today. You are an amazing, kind, and caring woman, why don’t you let people see who you truly are?”
She looked at me for a long moment, took a deep breath, and said, “I know. I don’t know why I do that. I…I don’t mean to come across the way I do. It shows up on my 360. I know it’s a problem.”
“You’re robbing us of you. And, as a leader, if you need to connect to the hearts and minds of others to be able to lead and influence, you can’t afford to send mixed-messages. People won’t give you their best because they have to, they’ll give you their best because they want to. You can’t put their want at risk.”
Later that day, as this incredible group of leaders talked about what they hoped to do differently, I watched a transformation take place. Looking up at me, with a wry smile and a glimmer in her eye, the mystery woman unveiled her true self. “I’m going to work on letting people see who I really am. I think maybe it’s time to lose the tough act and get real.”
Your words, your energy, your expression, your body language, your tone, whether you’re present or distracted—whatever your reasons—how you show up with others matters. The stakes are higher than you realize.
What messages are you sending?
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership.” She is the author of Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need
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