What shows up when you show up? In this series we’ll explore what ‘impact’ means – and how to improve your personal impact in a considered and authentic way.
Many people associate making an impact with being noticed or making a big show. As a professional voice and presentation coach, I’d argue the opposite. The most impactful business leaders I’ve worked with deliver knowledge with quiet confidence. And they do it consistently, time and again.
I once witnessed a middle manager hit an exploding golf ball into the crowd at the beginning of a presentation as part of an ill-fated attempt to ‘grab attention’. It burst apart mid-air, showering the audience – and most notably his unimpressed boss – with talcum powder. He’d definitely ‘made an impact’. But for all the wrong reasons and in ways he’d struggle to live down.
Most meetings, even most presentations – unless they’re at a big conference or town hall – don’t require grand gestures. If you want to improve your personal impact in the workplace, you need to make conscious choices in order to have the right impact for the moment. It’s about being aware of how you show up and adjusting the impact you make, where necessary, to come across more effectively. Most importantly, it’s about consistency in how you show up, on both good days and bad days, so that your impact and your ‘personal brand’ is strong and clear.
5 tips on how to improve your personal impact
Think of your career in an organisation – or your relationship with a person – as a collection of data points. Every meeting, phone call or one-to-one interaction is a source of information about you. If you behave consistently, demonstrating strong self-awareness and positive intention towards others, your impact will be strong. If your behaviour is inconsistent or confusing, people will connect the dots in a way that makes the most sense to them and fits their explanation. Your pattern becomes their truth about you.
As with all effective self-development, the process of improvement starts with reflection. So, are you ready?
If there’s one thing that helps define – and underline – your personal brand, it’s consistency. People will – understandably – be confused by ‘who’ you are, if you’re one person on Monday and another on Friday. People will form an impression of you whether you like it or not – and that impression could greatly affect what you are able to achieve personally and professionally. The trick is to be aware of your impact and make conscious choices about how to improve upon it, where necessary.
Once you’re clear about your ‘brand’ – and the perception you want others to have of you – it’s essential that your impact and presence are recognisably the same with everyone you deal with and across all situations. Be mindful of how you are in the moment. If you’re under pressure or feeling anxious or irritable, being aware of that gives you the power to control your emotions and stop them interfering with how you’re coming across.
Be authentic – but skilfully
People can tell instinctively if you’re not being yourself – and they won’t trust or follow you if they suspect what you’re saying or selling isn’t true to who you are. Which is not to say authenticity is a free pass. Quite the opposite. Authenticity can sometimes be used as an excuse for not developing.
The take-it-or-leave-it ‘I am who I am’ school of personal brand might be useful if you want to have a career in politics or talk radio (or both). In the corporate world, however, delivering consistent positive impact that’s true to you and your personal brand isn’t so much being yourself, but being your best self. Work on the habits or behaviours that are getting in your way.
Manage others’ perceptions
We all know first impressions count – and once ‘counted’ they can be tricky to shift. Tricky, but not impossible. Actively managing the way others see you means being more intentional about how you show up. The key is to remember it’s up to you to work on turning that around.
How? By creating a game plan that will help keep you on track. First, identify the person or situation that’s causing the issue and clearly assess your role in that. You might become defensive when you’re nervous, for example, or flustered. If, for example, if you only have one meeting a quarter with your SVP and in that meeting. you’re shaking and stumbling over your words, your SVP will only know you as nervous and inarticulate.
Running through scenarios before you go in will prepare you to handle them better. And try to relax. Even just sixty seconds of mindful breathing – focusing on long, slow out-breaths – before you go into a meeting or presentation can help enormously. Think before you speak and make a conscious effort to slow down and pause to stay in control of your delivery, as well as what you’re saying. (See our blog on voice tips for improving your personal impact for more on this.)
Understand your impact on others
People have different communication styles, most of us realise that. What’s less understood is how much you can improve your personal impact simply by adapting your approach (within reason) to others’ communication styles.
Think about the stakeholders you’re dealing with. If your audience is highly analytical, you need to cater to that. If your line manager is short and succinct in their communication style, they won’t appreciate you taking up valuable time thinking everything through ‘out loud’.
Ask friends, trusted colleagues and your boss for specific feedback on how they perceive you and your communication style. If you have a good relationship with your boss, ask them what works best for them when you’re presenting information or updating them.
Remember it’s not all about you
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given about networking was ‘be interested rather than trying to be interesting’. Being genuinely interested in those around you can create rapport and a sense of connection that builds relationships quickly. And being genuinely appreciative of others can create a positive impression that has lasting effects.
The psychologist Richard Wiseman suggests sincerely and freely complimenting people and acknowledging others’ strengths and accomplishments. The great news is that as well as improving your personal impact, this will also have a positive effect on your wellbeing. In fact, research suggests that giving compliments, can improve mood and performance as well as general happiness.
Making the best possible impact as ‘you’ requires self-knowledge, self-regulation and a touch of selflessness. But the key, as with most self improvement, is to start with the end in mind. What impact do you want to make? How do you want others to experience you? You won’t improve the impact you have unless you’re clear on the impact you want to have.
At BeSpoke, we’re specialists in personal impact coaching. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to improve your impact in the workplace, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or click here to learn more about our our personal impact training courses.