Tag: Communication

Simple Steps to Reduce Quiet Quitting in 2024

To reduce quiet quitting at workplace, provide clear performance expectations, encourage autonomy, have fewer meetings, communicate, connect, and engage your workforce.

Quiet quitting is not new. It’s just gotten more press in the past few years. More than a decade ago, I recommended that a leader invest in the development of his team to improve engagement and collaboration to achieve better results. 

“But what if I develop them and they leave?” he asked.

“What if you don’t develop them and they stay?” I replied. Which of course I said in my most supportive coaching voice. (I used my “inside-the-head” voice for the eye roll.)

Below, you’re going to read a number of statistics, causes, and ideas to reduce quiet quitting. All of it is good information, and all of it is stuff you already know. So, if we already know all this, why does quiet quitting continue to stay on our Top 10 list of people concerns? Really, I’m asking. Why?

If I had to guess, I’d say that we often look for tactical solutions but forget how to engage the “people” at the center of those concerns. We talk about employees, managers, and leaders, but all of them are people. What would it mean for each of us, every day, to engage with every individual we encounter as a person? This may sound fluffy, but it’s not. What does each person need to be their best and to do their best work? 

Let’s flip the question on its head for a moment. Instead of a person, let’s talk about a car. (Humor me.) What does a car need to operate at its best and to do its best work? The car needs gas, oil, and regular maintenance. Unless it’s an electric car, then it has other needs (just like different people do). Let’s assume our car is gas-powered. It’s a great car with a great engine and great potential. Which is all great. But what if I decide I don’t have time to fill the car with gas or change the brake pads, and I don’t understand why I need to change the oil, so I don’t? I’ve also ignored the “Check Engine” light burning brightly on my dashboard for months. Who cares? It’s just light, right? But eventually, my lack of attention and investment in my car are going to cause problems. However, my car is not going to quit quietly. Instead, I run out of gas, my battery dies, my brakes fail, and my engine seizes. All of which leave me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the desert with only vultures for company.

It’s much easier to pay attention when quitting is loud and obvious, rather than quiet. What does a person need to be their best and to do their best work? There’s no manual for how people operate, but we have some good ideas, many of which you’ll find below. So, let’s review what we already know.

The Stats

Did you know that only one in three workers is fully engaged at work today?  Quiet quitters still make up half of the workforce, as they have for several years.  

A pair of Gallup reports, released in 2022 and 2024, summarize the situation:  

In its 2022 report, Gallup found that 32% of employees were “actively engaged” at work, while 18% were “actively disengaged,” (so-called “loud quitters”), and 50% were simply “not engaged” (the “quiet quitters”).

In the most recent report, released in January 2024, the results were very similar, with 33% of employees “actively engaged,” 16% “actively disengaged,” and at least 50% “not engaged.”

What is Quiet Quitting?

“Quiet quitting” refers to making the minimum effort to stay employed.  Broadly speaking, “quiet quitters” are employees who aren’t engaged at work, but aren’t actively looking for a new job. 

As a post-pandemic phenomenon rooted in lack of engagement, quiet quitting arose in tandem with the Great Resignation.  It increased sharply in the second half of 2021, according to Gallup. It remains a challenge today, but organizations can take simple, practical steps to reduce it.

Causes of quiet quitting

Workplace disruptions

Quiet quitting can be broadly traced to the effects of the pandemic.  Here are some contributing factors:

The Great Resignation was a major contributor to quiet quitting, according to a study reported in Forbes. The Great Resignation placed extra burdens on most of the employees who stayed. It caused organizations to restructure, breaking up teams and putting people in unfamiliar environments.  Not surprisingly, engagement suffered and quiet quitting rose.

Another pandemic-related disruption has been the rise of remote and hybrid work. Many organizations have yet to adapt.  According to Gallup, most managers reported having no formal training to lead a hybrid team. 

Without adequate management, the “new normal” of hybrid work has led to lower levels of engagement and more quiet quitting.

Unclear workplace expectations 

Many employees simply don’t know what they should be working on.  They report a lack of guidance on priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  Remote and hybrid workers are twice as likely as in-house workers to say they don’t receive enough guidance. Unclear expectations have been another cause of quiet quitting, according to both Gallup and Forbes.  

Lack of personal connection

 According to Gallup, employees are less likely than before the pandemic to say that “someone cares about them as a person” at work.  This lack of personal connection to the workplace leads to quiet quitting. 

Taking steps to reduce quiet quitting

The good news is that, although “quiet quitters” are not engaged, they are not beyond reach.  

Here are a few simple steps organizations can take to motivate quiet quitters to be more engaged at work.  

Have one conversation per week

This surprisingly simple suggestion comes from the 2024 Gallup report.  It is cited as the single most important step leaders can take to combat quiet quitting.  Spending 15 to 30 minutes per week speaking with each team member has several benefits: 

  • Making sure employees know what is expected of them, including clear priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  
  • Checking in with employees who may be struggling or showing signs of becoming disengaged. 
  • Making personal connections to reduce the feeling that “no one cares.”  

Avoid unnecessary meetings

This should be a no-brainer, but reporting in Forbes shows otherwise.  Too many organizations are scheduling ever more meetings to cope with post-pandemic changes. The results have been predictably negative.  

Employees feel micromanaged.  They report lower productivity, with some losing one-quarter to one-half of the workday to meetings.  And despite the time spent, employees feel no more informed about workplace expectations. 

The simple solution is to schedule fewer meetings, with fewer participants.  Avoid “all hands” meetings unless absolutely necessary.  Have conversations instead!

Encourage Autonomy

Encouraging autonomy and showing flexibility is another way to reduce quiet quitting, according to Psychology Today. Increased autonomy promotes feelings of being trusted and valued, rather than being micromanaged. 

Once the organization has made its expectations clear, let individuals decide how they will achieve their goals, as much as possible.  Be flexible in accommodating different working styles so each individual can realize his or her full potential.

The above steps are simple on paper, but harder to implement, especially if we approach fixing our culture and engagement like we would a car, rather than interacting with people. We need to invest time and attention in our people to understand what will help them to be at their best to do their best work. Quiet quitting is our Check Engine light. It’s a good indication that something’s not working, and the light has been flashing on our dashboard for decades. So, what are we going to do about it?

If you would like more information about employee engagement and quiet quitting, please contact us. 

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Creating Effective Teams and Managing Personalities in Teamwork

Diversity in both skills and personalities in teamwork relies on team members’ psychological roles based on personality and functional roles.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

–       Helen Keller

Organizations are built on teamwork.  A large organization can include many different teams.  A small organization can be a team itself.  It follows that building better teams can lead to better outcomes for any size organization. 

This article will look at the elements of effective teams, the benefits of having different perspectives, and the effect of individual personalities in teamwork. 

The Benefits of Teamwork

Research has shown that teams have several advantages over individuals, including:

Better Problem Solving: Teams of three to five people consistently outperform the best individuals.  Researchers say teams generate correct responses to problems, reject incorrect responses, and process information more effectively than individuals.

Greater Innovation: Teams push and pull each other to new thoughts and insights.  A healthy clash of perspectives provides just enough discomfort to spur growth and new ideas.

Happier Employees. Employees in well-functioning teams are much more likely to report a sense of well-being, and happier employees are much more productive than unhappy ones.

Diverse Perspectives Make More Effective Teams

Just as teams outperform individuals, diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones.  As we’ll see, diverse teams tend to check each other’s assumptions and keep each other on track. 

The case for diversity in the workplace has been made repeatedly, including studies published by McKinsey & Company in 2015, 2018, and 2020. Diverse workplaces consistently report better financial results and are more profitable than non-diverse ones. Credit Suisse found a similar association between better financial results and including women on corporate boards.  

And, according to the Harvard Business Review, diverse working teams also perform better than non-diverse teams. For example:

Focus on Facts:  Diverse teams have been shown to focus more on facts and make fewer factual errors than non-diverse teams.  When errors do occur, they’re more likely to be corrected.

Information Processing: Diverse teams also have been shown to process information more carefully and deliberately than non-diverse teams, leading to more accurate decisions.

Greater Innovation:  Finally, diverse teams have been shown to introduce more innovations into the market, and to develop more new products, than non-diverse teams. 

Diversity pulls people out of the comfortable, well-worn patterns of thinking that occur in non-diverse contexts.  Getting out of that comfort zone is vital to making better decisions and driving innovation. 

The Effect of Personalities in Teamwork

Individual personalities also have a major impact on teamwork, no matter what kind of group is involved.  Team members’ personalities can affect cooperation, problem solving, and overall performance. 

The Harvard Business Review has proposed one way of looking at personality in the workplace:

Results Oriented.  Team members who are leaders, socially confident, and energetic. 

Relationship Focused.  Team members who focus on the feelings of others and fostering group cohesion. 

Process and Rule Followers.  Team members who pay attention to details, rules, and process.  They tend to be organized, responsible, and conscientious. 

Disruptive Thinkers.  Team members who focus on innovation and shaking things up.  They tend to be adventurous and open to new experiences.

Pragmatic.  Team members who are practical and skeptical.  They tend to challenge ideas and to be prudent and level-headed. 

None of the personality traits above is “better” than any other.  Teams with a mix of personalities and approaches result in better overall performance.

If the majority of the team are disruptive leaders, but the team lacks relationship builders, group cohesion will suffer.  If the majority are relationship builders, but the team lacks leaders and disruptors, innovation will suffer.  

Managing Personalities in Teamwork

One way to maximize team effectiveness is to recognize that team members play both a functional role and a psychological role. The functional role of each individual is based on their position and technical skills.  It is usually the main focus when putting together working teams.  Equally important is each team member’s psychological role, based on their personality. 

The goal is to create a balance of  personalities so the mix of different styles and  approaches will optimize the team’s success.

If your organization would like advice on building better teams, we are happy to assist. 

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

To book an appointment visit: https://catamentum.com

Leadership Communication, Workplace Engagement, Building Future Leaders

Leadership communication can be improved upon coaching for better employee engagement, team dynamics, and organizational leadership bench, says Rachel Burr, Catamentum leadership Coaching.

The “telling”, or command-and-control style of leadership communication

Among many ways of miscommunication, under communication, or complete lack of communication, perhaps the most common is “telling people what to do”, instead of engaging, guiding, coaching, and inspiring people to participate and contribute.

This article will focus on the harms of constantly telling team members or subordinates what to do, a/k/a command and control, and what to do instead.

What leaders lose from micromanagement

When leaders micromanage, they undermine their team’s performance. Employees do not bring their own skills, ideas, or passion to the work. They often give up voicing their opinions and observations due to a lack of psychological safety and fear of being criticized.  As a result, employees don’t feel they “own” the work or the results. They become disengaged and wait passively to be told what to do. When leaders do not value employees’ input, they not only encourage “quiet quitting,” but they fail to recognize new ideas, incorporate diverse perspectives, and they lose valuable insights required for innovation.  

Leadership communication is truly about how to coach teams

A 2016 survey by the Harvard Business Review found that two-thirds of managers are simply not comfortable communicating with employees. Ineffective communication can be costly, or even destructive for the leadership, teams, and the organization.  

To change leadership communication, leaders must first respect, trust, and value the people on their teams.  Upon this foundation, the following actions improve communications, build teams, and create healthy organizations:

* Encourage Discussion and Feedback. When leaders create a safe environment, employees will more openly share information, ideas, and insights.

* Communicate Purpose. Communicate more than “what” needs to be done, communicate the “why.” When people understand the purpose of their work and how they contribute to that purpose, they feel more engaged and empowered to take action to achieve their goals.

* Listen. Effective leaders actively listen to others. They engage with genuine curiosity and the intent to understand the ideas and perspectives of others. Beyond the work, effective leaders listen to and get to know who their employees are as people–their lives, families, and what matters to them. When people feel heard, seen, and understood, they feel a greater sense of connection and commitment with their leader and their team.

*Demonstrate Integrity. Trusted leaders walk the talk. Leaders’ statements explicitly communicate their vision, values, and goals. Their behaviors implicitly communicate their commitment to those things. Integrity is how closely a leaders’ words match their behaviors. When it comes to communicating integrity, actions speak louder than words. 

* Communicate Clearly. Effective guidance is clear, concise, and consistent. Whether communication is verbal or written, in person or virtual. 

These actions are a good starting place for leaders to improve their communication, but developing great leadership communication skills is a process, not a checklist. Great leaders invest the time and attention to put these actions into practice.

Good communication and coaching can foster the next generation of Leaders 

Moreover, the “telling” or “ordering” style of communication will hinder the development of the “bench” – bringing up the future leaders in the organization. 

Leadership communication isn’t just announcing plans to employees. Open dialogues, active listening, and regular feedback can be used to spot and elevate leaders from within the organization.

However, a 2023 survey by the consulting firm DDI found that just 40% of leaders said their organizations had high quality leadership, and only 12% had confidence in the strength of their bench. 

The leaders of the future also need to develop the psychological safety to take risks and try new things.  Using effective leadership communication in this way can also have the added benefit of creating a virtuous cycle of open, clear, and honest communication at all levels of the organization. 

No leader can afford to be an island.  Whether an organization is planning for growth or succession, having a good bench of future leaders is a must.  The home-grown new leadership will have been instilled with organizational knowledge and values, not easily replicated from the outside. 

excellent leadership communication can increase engagement across the organization. 

Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees.  Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching.  Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

To book an appointment visit:  https://catamentum.com 

Use Executive Coaching to Tap Into Your “People Power”

Executive coaching by Rachel Burr, Catamentum Leadership Coach, empowers individual leaders, teams, and organizations with people skills.

In these often challenging times, leaders and executives may wonder how to motivate and empower their employees.  They want to improve employee engagement, encourage employees to take ownership, and help drive the organization’s success.  Leaders want the best for and from their teams, but achieving that goal can be challenging.

Surveys show that employees want both greater empowerment and support from leadership. 

According to a 2008 study by Google, employees said two of the most important qualities/skills in a manager were (1) being a good coach, and (2) empowering their team, rather than micromanaging. 

In 2020 Gallup surveyed 1.2 million employees from nearly 50,000 businesses across 45 countries to understand what employees wanted from their managers. First and foremost, employees said the best managers are coaches. The Gallup survey found the best managers: (1) focus on team engagement, (2) leverage the unique talents of each employee, and (3) set clear expectations and goals.  One big takeaway from the survey is that “The best managers talk to their employees and teams.  A lot.”  In other words, people skills are invaluable. 

The question is how to turn the reciprocal wants and needs of both leadership and employees into shared success. 

Executive Coaching Empowers Leaders with Functional Skills and People Skills

Good leaders develop their skills overtime, both through experience and by leveraging resources.  Executive coaching is a key resource that can be a catalyst to enhance leadership, both through developing functional skills and people skills.

A newly promoted leader, or a newly onboarded executive, may have outstanding talent and drive.  Managers may be promoted for their extraordinary technical skills and capabilities.  Nevertheless, if leaders and managers lack the necessary people skills, they will struggle in their new roles.   

In these situations, executive coaching helps leaders and managers close the gaps.  Coaching helps a leader navigate the challenges of a new role, or helps established leaders navigate ongoing challenges, particularly related to people management, mindset, emotional intelligence (EQ), and skill development.

While executive coaches don’t have all the answers, they are trained to ask good questions and guide leaders through their development process.  

People Skills Can Transform Leaders and Organizations

As the Google and Gallup surveys suggest, going beyond functional skills requires excellent communication and people skills.  A leader may have superb functional skills and business sense, and may have achieved considerable success, without mastering people skills.  To reach the next level, even successful leaders may need to scale up.

Developing better people skills can be as simple as learning to listen and giving constructive feedback.  It can encompass examining mindsets, developing greater emotional intelligence, and nurturing connections among employees and teams across the organization.  

When blind spots and limiting mindsets come up, executive coaching can lead to a process of self-discovery and transformation.  Personal transformation can translate to organizational transformation, and form the building blocks for the next level of success across the organization.

Leaders who Learn People Skills Help Themselves, Their Teams, and Their Organizations

When leaders develop the skills and traits to empower those around them, everyone wins.  Leadership is a team sport.  Successful leaders ultimately serve their teams and work toward a shared goal. In short, leaders who learn people skills help themselves, their teams, and their organizations.  

Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees.  Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, as well as numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching.  Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.To book an appointment visit:  https://catamentum.com.

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr

The following is an interview of Rachel Burr by PICA, Professional Independent Consultants of America.

Q&A with Rachel Burr of Catamentum Leadership Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr of Catamentum Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

https://www.successfulindependentconsulting.com/rachel-burr-spotlight

Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business.

A: My name is Rachel Burr, and my company is Catamentum Coaching and Consulting (“Catalyze Momentum”). When we Catalyze Momentum, we can Unleash Potential. I’m an executive coach, leadership development consultant, and overall “people expert.” A big part of what I do is to help leaders step into their authentic potential. The way I see it, a lot of leaders may feel forced into a cookie cutter of leadership, either by what they think leadership is supposed to be or what they see modeled around them. My consulting approach is focused on getting leaders to explore who they are at their core, including their strengths and weaknesses, their values, and what they want to do as a leader. Then we look how they bring that core to their current role or the role they’d like to have. 

Q: Do you do a blend of coaching and consulting work or primarily just the coaching?

A: I do both. I do individual leadership coaching, I work with teams, and I facilitate tailored workshops. I also work with executives as a thought partner. I help them think through their people strategies, challenges, and opportunities.  Leaders will often have ideas and questions about their people and overall organization, but they may not be sure how to put these ideas into action. Leaders may not yet be ready to talk about these ideas with their boss, and it may not be appropriate at that point to talk with their team. I help leaders unpack their ideas and examine their options so they can make better decisions. 

Q: How long have you been independent now?

A: Four years, but it seems like so much has happened.

Q: How did you make the leap to independent consulting? 

A: It’s funny because I resigned from my corporate job without knowing what I was going to do next. There were a lot of things I appreciated about corporate, but I was also spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really leveraging my talents. I was comfortable but not happy. I’m a big believer that we have to make ourselves uncomfortable to catalyze change.  So, I quit.

I left not knowing what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to explore the possibilities.  Granted, I had the benefit of my husband being very supportive, and having good health insurance. So, that made the leap into the unknown a little easier.

Initially, I stared to look at other corporate jobs. I wasn’t even thinking about consulting. I applied for a job, and I didn’t get it, which turned out to be a good thing. Then, I agreed to do an interview for a second corporate position, but it just didn’t feel right. A friend who had her own consulting business asked me why I didn’t try going independent. Then, she hired me to work on a small consulting project to help me “dip my toe in the water.” I remember the first day I met with the client. We were discussing their objectives and needs, the outcomes they wanted, and brainstorming ideas. I loved it!  30 minutes into our meeting, I thought, “Why have I never done this before?” That was it. I finished the project, and that summer, I started my own coaching and consulting company.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you would have done differently?

A: I would have asked for help earlier. I think when you go out on your own you feel like you have to do everything yourself. But you have people around you who are really good at what they do. They’re talented and they’ve got their own work that supports the business you want to grow. So, reach out. Build your village.

Q: Once you decided to really go for it how did you get your own clients?   

A: I had a number of strong relationships with people I had worked with and whom I greatly respected. The people I knew in HR, talent management, and consulting were natural conduits for connecting me with leaders to help them address needs in their organizations. One by one, I had people take a chance on me. I continued to build relationships, and as people get to know and trust you, building your business begins to come more naturally. It’s important to connect with folks in a way that’s genuine and authentic. Understand their pain points, what they are managing or struggling with, and figure out how you can help them.

Q: You make it sound very easy, Rachel. What’s your secret sauce?

A: It is not easy. There were so many times I was just overwhelmed because I had no idea how to run a business. Someone recently told me that you have to have a business plan before you jump in. I didn’t even know what a business plan was! I had moments that were these little highs from my wins. I also had moments of thinking I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

I specifically remember a friend of mine who had also decided to leave corporate. She left before I did, and I had been there to help her when she was figuring things out. After I had been out on my own for about six months, she called and said, “Hey, I’m going to this business accelerator program. Do you want to come with me?” I didn’t even know what that was.  We both signed up for the program, and as I went through it, I started to see all the things I didn’t realize. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also remember being overwhelmed worrying about money, which is totally normal, but then you have to learn to invest in yourself to move forward and get to that next level. I remember calling my husband before I signed up for the program, because we are very good about making financial decisions together. I told him, “I really need help. I think this program could help me but it’s a lot of money.” I told him how much it cost. He was completely supportive and said, “If that’s what you need to do, that’s what you need to do.” I think it’s really important to tell people there’s no magic formula. Some days it was really a struggle and I wanted to give up. Those were the times I had to pick myself back up, reflect on what I learned, identify what I was going to do differently, and also identify those things I would never do again. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s going to be a journey.

Q: Four years in, what has changed or gotten easier?

A: One thing was that when I first started I had a really negative misconception of what it meant to sell my services. The word “sell” was a real hang up for me. I had this idea that I was pushing someone into something or getting them to do something that maybe they didn’t really want to do. After talking with a number of consultants, coaches, and other people I trusted and respected, I realized selling isn’t about pushing. It’s about listening, understanding a client’s challenges and pain points, and hearing what they want to achieve. Then, we can talk about how I can support them to address their problems. With that new mindset, my idea of selling shifted from feeling like a push to feeling like a partnership, and I love that.

Q:  What’s next for you and Catamentum Coaching & Consulting?

A: I love that I am continuing to figure out the kind of work I really want to do, that place where passion and talent intersect. I’m also figuring out what I don’t want to do. To say Yes to some things, you have to say No to others. We only get 24 hours in a day, so we have to figure out how to prioritize that time.

I want to expand my executive coaching and team coaching. I also love tailoring and facilitating workshops for teams and other groups. I’m not one to just pull something off the shelf. I want to adapt the approach to each group.

I also want to do more guesting on podcasts. I’m an extrovert at heart, so being able to get out there and talk with others about people, leadership, and unleashing our potential, that really fuels my passion.

Q: If people want to learn more about you and or what you do, what would be the best way to do that?

A: They can reach out on my website and of course I’m on LinkedIn.

How to Reduce Cross-Cultural Disconnects

Three ways to help leaders & teams navigate cross cultural disconnects to manage challenges & appreciate the benefits of today’s diverse workplace.

Culture is a big, hairy topic. Even more challenging is that we each belong to more than one culture. There’s country culture, corporate culture, family culture, and beyond. We’re each a unique cultural mishmash of all of these. So, how can we prepare ourselves and our teams to manage challenges and appreciate the benefits of our diverse cultural backgrounds?

Here are three simple ways (that often feel very complex) to help us navigate cultural dynamics:

  • Educate ourselves on cross-culture fundamentals.
  • Recognize different communication styles.
  • Prepare to expect and explore differences.

Educate Ourselves on Cross-Culture Fundamentals

Before we dive in, let’s acknowledge the obvious. There is no way to fully dissect all the complexities of cross-cultural interactions. It would be overwhelming, not to mention impossible. So, what can we do, and where do we begin?

A great place to start is The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures,” by Erin Meyer. Meyer looks at eight facets of culture and how they may relate across countries: Communicating, Evaluating, Persuading, Leading, Deciding, Trusting, Disagreeing, and Scheduling. These cultural factors offer a compass to navigate familiar complexities. When we explore and apply these insights, we begin to understand our similarities and differences more clearly.

Personally, I’ve found these insights extremely helpful, not just in my work but at home. My husband (French) and I (American) navigate our own cross-cultural microcosm of connects and disconnects. These range from funny to pull-your-hair-out frustrating. We usually reach a détente through active listening and patience. Also, a nice bottle of wine never hurts.

Recognize Different Communication Styles

Communication ranges from what Meyer describes as high-context (implicit) to low-context (explicit). High-context communication is more frequent in cultures with long, rich histories, which create context for a shared understanding of nuanced communication. Meyer uses Japan as an example of a country with high-context communication. Alternatively, the US is a relatively new country that has been populated by global immigrants from different cultures who speak different languages. As a result, communication in the US tends to be more direct to help assure clarity without depending on shared backgrounds, culture, or language. Of course, we still experience disconnects and misunderstandings even within cultures. Looking at possible roots of these challenges benefits us no matter what cultural factors may be at play.   

Prepare to Expect and Explore Differences

Team members from different cultures may hold different assumptions about how to communicate. Each of us may enter a conversation with the best intentions, but it can easily be derailed because of disconnects in implicit assumptions. We walk away feeling confused, frustrated, and sometimes even offended.  When we explore and understand these differences, we can consciously work to bridge gaps to improve communication and achieve better collaboration.

Engage the Human Fundamentals

Culture influences how we communicate with others around the world and even in our own communities. Navigating cross-cultural differences can be challenging, but it can also offer great benefits. We each bring different experiences and perspectives to help us tackle challenges and achieve success. Beyond culture, we share a lot of human factors, including our desire to build trust, feel respected, and be understood.  In the end, we’re more alike than we are different, and our common ground is a great place to start building bridges.

Owning Your Executive Presence

Executive presence is crucial to effective leadership. Aspiring leaders may reject developing executive presence if they view it as inauthentic or an attempt to become someone they’re not. This perspective could not be farther from the truth. Executive presence is the observable result of stepping into our strengths, owning our depth of experience, and valuing what we bring to leadership to instill trust and confidence in the people around us. 

How Do We Develop Executive Presence?

We develop and hone our executive presence by focusing on the fundamentals. Let’s break it down into three key components:

  • Mindset
  • Communicating Competence
  • Engagement with Others

Mindset

Mindset is how we think about ourselves, the world around us, and interactions between the two: Do we see ourselves as a leader? Do we believe we bring value to our role? Do we secretly believe we’re “faking it,” and fear others will discover we have no idea what we’re doing?  Mindset impacts our confidence, and our level of confidence impacts our executive presence.

Confidence is something we can develop. It comes through successes and failures when we learn from those experiences: “Wow, I did a great job, and here’s what contributed to that success…” or “Huh! That failure didn’t kill me…I wonder what else won’t kill me?” Confidence is built through engaging in the world and running toward something we want, rather than running away from what scares us (unless what scares you is a charging alligator. Then run, run like the wind!).  When we seek the intersection of experiences that both excite and scare us, that is where growth happens, and through that growth we build confidence.

Communicating Competence

Competence is also critical to executive presence and to our overall leadership. Even with a powerful mindset, we will not have an executive presence if people do not have confidence in our skills and abilities. However, it’s not just about having competence, but how we communicate that competence. Regardless of our personal style, there are deeper fundamentals we can leverage to communicate competence, both explicitly and implicitly.

Explicitly, we communicate competence through the ideas we bring to the table, how we respond to questions, and how we engage in discussions about the business, industry, etc. Implicitly, we communicate competence through our behavior and delivery. Physically, people who are calm and grounded appear more competent. They have a clear, concise message and tailor that message to their audience. Leaders with a strong executive presence do not appear easily flustered or overwhelmed. This is not to say they don’t sometimes feel those things, but there is a difference between our internal experience and our outward behavior. It’s the metaphor of a duck gliding serenely across the water while paddling like mad beneath the surface. This does not mean we should take an artificial “Fake it ‘til you make it” approach. Instead, author Timothy R. Clark encourages a more authentic, “Behave until you believe.” ( “The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation,” by Timothy R. Clark.)   When we breathe, slow down, and calm our mind, we help our inside experience begin to align with our outward behavior, and this allows us to improve how we communicate leadership. 

Engagement with Others

Executive presence is not a one-way communication. We also communicate competence and confidence by how we listen to people, ask good questions, and seek to understand the knowledge and perspectives of others. Executive presence does not mean we always need to have the right answer, be the smartest person in the room, or make all the decisions. Leadership is a team sport, a synergy between a leader who serves their people, and the people guided by that leader. Without synergy, leadership does not exist. An adage, often attributed to John C. Maxwell, says “If you think you’re a leader and you turn around and no one else is following you, then you’re simply out for a walk.” 

A Powerful Combination

Our executive presence is a combination of many factors, including internal mindset, communication of competence, and how we engage others. All these factors merge to create an executive presence that is unique to each of us. The most effective executive presence is not only achieved through our individual actions, but through the powerful interaction between us and the people around us. Our executive presence inspires others to have confidence in us as a leader, and that together we will achieve our goals.