Angela reports directly to the CEO of a large organization and has global responsibility for thousands of people. She interacts directly with the entire leadership team. It's a high intensity position. The leadership team is composed of strong, stubborn, driven personalities.
She came for 1-on-1 coaching. Her goal was to develop gravitas and increase her ability to persuade and influence at the leadership team level.
Gravitas is often expected in a VP or Senior VP position.
The problem most people have developing gravitas is a confusion about what it is and no sense of how to get there.
In the dictionary gravitas is defined as a serious, solemn, dignified manner.
Serious is defined as sincere and earnest, solemn, no laughing. Solemn is defined as not cheerful or smiling. Dignified is defined as elevated self-respect, a feeling of being worthy.
Dignity sounds great, but gravitas sounds rather stern and grim. This is going to be rather difficult for people to sustain.
What if it doesn't match their personality? Which in Angela’s case it didn't.
In other words, there's a lot of confusion around this word, imprecise definitions, confusion about what it is.
Having said that, I understand what she was looking for and how to get there. I’ve helped many people develop what others would call gravitas.
There are 4 key elements
Note – you can’t fake any of these. They’re skills that you have to develop by doing the hard work it takes to make them real.
The first is being there comfortably. Most people who come to my workshops or for coaching are agitated. They're a little bit stressed, a little bit anxious. This strips you of any dignity. It strips you of gravitas. You have to be in the moment, calm and comfortable. When you are, it makes you dignified, makes everyone around you relax, get calm and take you more seriously. Anxiety is a dignity-killer. It's hard to take someone who is anxious seriously because they don't create the impression they're in control.
Second you need to make a deep, strong connection with the other person. If you don't have that connection, that rapport, your words just bounce off. When you have that connection your words penetrate and create a completely different effect. Clients tell me all the time, “I said the exact same words, but this time they listened.”
Third, you need to communicate with intention. Most people have never been coached on intention and they substitute effort, force and energy. All these strip you of gravitas. Intention has everything to do with certainty and nothing to do with being forceful. What you see when someone has executive presence, when you see a powerful leader, is not in intensity of energy, it's an intensity of intention. The energy is incidental. Many very powerful leaders speak softly but with unmistakable intention. When you speak with intention, it gives you great dignity.
Fourth is your affinity. Many people think that in order to have gravitas you have to assume a demeanor that is almost cold. This will only work to make everyone cold toward you. That’s not what you want. The warmer you are, the warmer they will be toward you and the more they will trust you. Affinity is how much you like them. It must be genuine. It's not something you project. It's something you feel and it must be real. Many people feel they can't afford to have affinity because they won't be taken seriously. The problem is never too much affinity. The problem, if there is one, is insufficient intention. Both affinity and intention have to be high.
It is magical that when you put these all together, you have what people call gravitas, you have respect, you have credibility. When you speak, people listen.
I haven't covered building a relationship, listening and other components that are vital to complete the picture and pull the whole thing off, those are for another blog.
My Lead Trainer coached Angela on these points, one at a time, using our unique coaching methodology. When Angela saw her final video, she cried. This is not a woman who cries easily.
What she saw in the video: Her eyes were sparkling, she was completely comfortable, completely in the moment, dignified, worthy, she made a strong powerful connection, she wasn't forceful but her intention was penetrating, she was loaded with warmth and affinity and she was compelling. You would have followed her in a heartbeat. She was beautiful and powerful.
She said, “I had no idea I could ever look like that.”
We cried too.
This is inside of everyone. It's inside of you.