Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr Lynn Gribble – Cofounder of The Gravitas Project. Her opinions are her own.
Why is it that you see some of your team members soaring in their careers, while you see others only swim … and many sink?
Why is it that some of your people have that ‘it ’ factor from the get go, but in others it simply just does not quite develop despite all your efforts to bring it out of them?
Quite simply those that make it often have gravitas. We know it when we see it, notice it when its absent but more importantly how do we develop it?
The person with gravitas is the one you want to be with and around. They know what to say and when to say it and rarely have any awkward moments. They fit in while standing out. In the business world we most frequently meet these types of people during networking events, functions or organisational situations.
If you have ever had a moment of being awkward or have experienced meeting someone who is awkward you will remember the cringe worthy situation clearly. The biggest challenge I hear people face is saying it is difficult to network because they want to avoid these moments and deep down we know it can impact careers.
But the question is how are you going to build the gravitas in your key people? Especially the ones that are in customer, alliance, partnership, or generally human facing positions!
Here are five steps to help build gravitas in your key people and have them well on their way to standing out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
1. Making small talk that’s not so small
Think about the person you meet that makes you feel special and the conversation flows. People with gravitas know exactly what to say and when to say it. Discuss the seasons or events not the politics, discuss the experience not your experience, discuss the situation but no criticisms please!
Step 1’s rules are what might have previously been noted as polite conversations. In the world where social media reigns, remember your opinions speak more about you than you may know. Best bet is to discuss the common thing that brought you together, save you personal opinions for personal events not business ones. Those with gravitas, make the conversation easy for everyone to be in.
2. Be seen and heard
Dress up not down for most occasions. Dress like those who you will be meeting, this enables you to be heard and seen in a positive light. Yes you could dress to stand out but you don’t want to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Step 2’s rules do not mean giving up your personal style but they do mean being sensitive to how others feel. More importantly it shows how you ‘belong’ to the group. Save flashy clothes, creative clothes and daring clothes for social functions not work ones. Those with gravitas fit in appropriately.
3. Offer assistance
Beware of those who ask for something too quickly. The greatest complaint I hear about networking events is when people ask for things from others they barely know. Remember you literally just met this person, now is the time to offer help or assistance, compliments, or information … not to ask for help or a job!
Step 3’s rules are aligned to a time and a place. Yes this person might have amazing opportunities and no you will not miss out. Those with gravitas offer and accept not ask and receive.
Remind any of your team out there networking to remember the age old philosophy of givers gain.
4. Food, drink, business cards and move!
If it’s cocktail food only take what you can eat in a bite. Only have one drink and hold on to it for the duration of the function. Have your business cards accessible and at the ready and make sure you move about the room, it’s not polite to stay with one group all event.
Step 4’s rules are easy to implement. If you are going to a cocktail function think about eating with your left hand, leaving the right one food free to shake hands and meet / greet others. That way you can also access your business cards (remember in many cultures you must present your card with two hands not one!) and present them clean handed too. If you are at an event make sure you ‘work the room’ moving between and among groups is important as it opens conversations.
5. Thank you goes a long way
Say thanks, via email, text, card or gift. Find a way to connect after the event. It might be sending someone a blog post, or something relevant to what you discussed. It could be a fruit hamper and a card, connecting afterwards in a meaningful and personal way will help you to be remembered and make the right impression.
Step 5 is about building ongoing relationships with those whom you meet at events or work with for short periods. Being remembered for all the right reasons is easier than you might have thought.
It is possible for all your team members to acquire gravitas. It takes time, observation (of people who have gravitas), preparation (before you let them walk into a networking event or function) and a conscious decision to be aware of how making a positive impact will help their career soar and allowing them to become the obvious choice of vendor, alliance partner, supplier, account director, project manager etc.