Last week I enjoyed speaking at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Booth Women Connect Conference on executive presence and why it matters for driving organizational and career success. It was fun to have the ink factory “record” the session (check out their drawing!) – and it provided me a very visual way to see how what I said was “heard” by my audience.
Miscommunication is sometimes like the old children’s game of telephone: what the speaker says is not always what the listener hears. I attribute this to a communications “disconnect” or a difference in communication styles. But now I’m thinking more about perception and how what I shared during my session last week was perceived (and translated by the talented ink factory artist) by my smart audience.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that perception becomes reality. The artist was accurate in capturing my main points and the illustration reflects the intentional structure and main points I used to create my presentation. Needless to say, I don’t use nearly as intentional a process for most of my day-to-day communications. Obviously, not every communication exchange warrants a very structured approach – but I still want my communications to be perceived as well thought out, and my main points, to be clear to the listener.
I believe everything we say and do should align with our intentions about how we want to be perceived by others. With this clarity we can more confidently communicate and more competently go about the activities of our work.
Communications are a major part of how others perceive and experience us. Just like our actions, our communications either underline or undermine our intended presence. If we want to be perceived as a leader, we need to speak up and get our voices out there. We need to be thoughtful in our approach, but we have to cut ourselves a break: we won’t always have all the information and all the answers. Communications is a two-way process and we don’t know how someone else will respond to what we are saying. For instance, when what we are saying is perceived in a negative, skeptical or hostile way, we need to anchor back to our intended presence and be sure we’re communicating our core messages.
Our words, voice, and body language all count in terms of communicating our presence, although not necessarily in equal measure. We know that how we say it matters greatly, but we also know that the how has to be well supported by carefully chosen words, a strong voice, and our actions. When our communications and our day-to-day activities sync up with our intended presence, we show up with our strongest executive presence.