Improve your gravitas and perception

Overview

A large number of finance leaders highlight the need to improve your gravitas and perception. Many feel that they are not always properly listened to during key discussions and that most people think of them as simply being the numbers person. This restricts your ability to influence the wider business agenda and to contribute towards decision-making.

Some statistics

The majority of finance leaders have encountered situations where they feel that their voice is not heard and where other people fail to value the range of perspectives that they can offer in addition to simply knowing the numbers. In fact, 23% of finance leaders consider this to be one of their top three biggest challenges.

The root cause

As with any significant challenge, you should start by understanding its root cause.

Here are the most common reasons why finance leaders identify the need to improve your gravitas and perception as being one of their main challenges:

– Struggling to make your voice properly heard in the board room.

– Feeling intimidated in various situations such as when presenting in front of intimidating board members or potential investors.

– People thinking of you as being just the numbers person, rather than a key contributor towards strategy and change.

– Being seen as the person having to say no to others, such as requests for additional budgets.

– Constantly having to restrict people’s activities due to budgeting and monitoring over-spend.

– Being seen as the blocker for new ideas.

Unfortunately, many finance leaders do not focus enough upon helping to improve your gravitas and perception. This makes it very difficult to deliver your responsibilities and is likely to affect your confidence.

Improve your gravitas and perception: Definition

Your starting point should be to determine what gravitas really means to you.

Most people think of words such as confidence, influence and authority.  In addition to possessing personal power, commanding respect and having great communication or networking skills

Gravitas is associated with ideas of weight, influence, or authority, and also sobriety and seriousness.  It can be a combination of good judgment, authority, personal power, and the ability to speak the truth and command respect.

Physical attributes such as height, attractiveness, and tone and volume of voice can lend gravitas to the way people carry themselves or make themselves present.

Roles can often provide gravitas, for example being the CFO, Finance Director or Head of Finance.  However, job titles alone are not enough to maximise gravitas as you need to combine it with the way that you come across.

Gravitas can be the result of great communication or networking skills.  You need know when to use relationships and leverage the authority of others.

Crises typically reveal those people who have strong gravitas and expose those who lack it.

Improve your gravitas

It is important to note that you are not trying to change who you are.  This is about recognising that as a leader you need to work on your gravitas and presence if you are to effectively persuade or influence the future direction of the organisation and take people with you to achieve the strategic goals.

Gravitas comes from being your authentic self and showing up as the best version of yourself with confidence, energy and a feeling of ‘I can make a difference’.

The confidence you inspire in others starts with building rapport.  As a recap, rapport is about creating trust, inspiring confidence and displaying a positive attitude.  Your ability to mirror other people through the use of similar language style, expression and complementary body language creates the best chance of achieving a good level of mutual trust and persuasion.  This is further enhanced by displaying an amicable tone and acting in a positive manner.

If people like you and respect you, they will probably be happy to do what you want!

Improve your perception

Two people will often see the same thing in entirely different ways.  Peoples’ perception is based on their interpretation of words and gestures.  These are often influenced by their unique combination of individual experiences, learned responses, memories and beliefs.

Sometimes you have no control over how you are perceived by others.  It is unlikely to be personal. 

Improve your gravitas and perception: Six tips

However, there are things you can do to feel and therefore act with more gravitas and presence:

  1. Body language
  2. Eyes
  3. Voice
  4. Breathing
  5. Listening
  6. Choice of vocabulary

Each of these will have a big impact on people’s overall perception of you.

Body language

This is the largest element of impact.  Finance leaders need to show up confidently to every interaction that you are involved in!

You need to make a conscious choice to do this.  It starts by determining what you need to do to get yourself in the right place.  The following will help you:

  • Preparation: Breathing, taking exercise and reflecting on the key points that you need to communicate with clarity.
  • Personal energy: generating enthusiasm and passion.  You will need to uplift yourself in order to uplift others.
  • Positive mental attitude: This leads to a stronger and healthier body which in turn makes you look and feel good.

Your mind and body are linked.  Your thoughts lead to certain behaviours that show up in your body language.

Imposter Syndrome can have a negative impact on how you show up and therefore on how others perceive you.

Many people suffer from thinking negative thoughts such as: “I am not good enough”; “I am not equal”; “Others know more than me”.  These thoughts cause many people to be afraid of voicing your opinions.  This can lead you to shrink back, which in turn will supress your personality.

Remember that your body language and positioning when interacting online is as important as how you physically walk into a room.

Eyes

It is essential to maintain good eye contact during interactions with other people.  In group situations, you should maintain eye contact with people around the room and give attention to everybody within the meeting.

In an online scenario, you need to be looking at the screen when speaking or listening to people.  You can take opportunities to relax your eyes during certain parts of a meeting.  For example, in between speakers, during any moments of reflections and brainstorming sessions.

Voice

Use your voice wisely throughout your interactions.

You must align your voice with what you say.  Remember, the way that you say something is even more important than what you actually say!

Speak with a positive expression and show a strong level of interest in what other people are saying.  Avoid letting nerves take over as these significantly reduce your gravitas and typically cause you to speak too much.

Breathing

Deep breathing allows you to remain centered, calm and in control.  

Here is a useful tip!  Push your big toe into the ground to trigger a deep stomach breath.  This will help to calm down your nervous system.

It is also vital to pause during your speaking.  During finance leader professional mentoring, people often state that they feel under pressure to give the right reply to a question immediately.  However, people with strong levels of gravitas and confidence typically feel much more comfortable pausing first.  This gives yourself time to think about the answer and, if necessary, say “I’ll come back to you”.

Nobody instantly knows the answer to everything off the top of their head.  In addition, following up with somebody after a meeting gives you an opportunity to develop more rapport with them and to show that you are keen to help them.

Listening

There is a reason why you have one mouth and two ears.  Communicate using this 2:1 ratio – use your ears twice as much as your mouth!

Someone who listens attentively keeps a comfortable level of eye contact and has an open and relaxed but alert pose.

Deep listening allows you to really understand what people are trying to tell you and to exert influence based upon knowing their actual mindset.

Vocabulary

Your choice of vocabulary has a huge impact in people’s ability to understand your messages and to take your seriously.  Use short sentences consisting of simple well-known words.

However, remember that your presentation and vocal behaviour speak louder than words!

Improve your gravitas and perception: Summary

If this is an area you feel is holding you back in some way, then work on developing it further.  Be conscious as to what it means to you and what bigger impact you can have if others have even more trust and confidence in you.

Think about what difference it would make to you.

Look for the source of your own gravitas and consider how you could behave differently to become the best version of yourself.

The Challenge

Take a few minutes to think about who your role models are.  Consider a few people you have looked up to who have the gravitas that you would like.

As yourself the following questions:

  • How do they show up?
  • What attributes do they consistently present?
  • Who is listened to the most and why?

Remember, it is not about changing yourself.  You are trying to identify and leverage from your role models’ biggest attributes to help you become the best version of yourself.

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