Guest Column: Experience Matters
by Diana Jones
How do clients experience working with you? I was working with Andy earlier this week. His voice was so quiet I can hardly hear him although we are sitting close to one another. His manager wants him to increase his visibility, provide direction to his team, and shape the leadership team agenda. He tells me he rarely contributes in meetings. Well-liked and respected by his team, Andy is so understated, he is invisible.
I ask Andy why is he quiet. He tells me he has always been quiet. Andy is worried that he will be inauthentic if he shifts his approach. What I see is that Andy has defined himself too narrowly.
I ask “What are you known for?” He tells me he is an experienced technical expert, empathetic, has wise judgment, is an agile decision maker, and is a good listener.
I then propose how would it be if his identity of being quiet went into the background, and these other qualities came more into the foreground? Andy laughed. Of course, he said, this is what people come to me for.
How people experience working with you contributes directly to your presence and capacity to influence others. Being quiet isn’t going to influence anyone. Being perceptive and astute is.
How do clients experience working with you? What might you bring to the foreground and let fall into the background of your professional identity?
Diana Jones is a New Zealand-based leadership coach and advisor, and author. Her book Leadership Material: how personal experience shapes executive presence, is available on April 25.
Interesting – how does that look in practice? Do you mean he needs to stop being quiet, or stop thinking of himself as quiet? In other words is it a mental or physical shift?
Diana Jones, author of Leadership Material: how personal experience shapes executive presence.
Hi Lian, yes, both; to stop being quiet, and to stop thinking of himself as quiet. This requires a psychological shift and for Andy to reset and update his ‘default’ behavior.
Andy now contributes as technical expert. He gives direction in his team meetings, and contributes with his peers. His boss and peers are consulting with him for advice and direction.
People consider things like “softly spoken” as being part of their “identity.” Never mind that nobody can define identity: this way of thinking is better called “rigidity” and is the antithesis of a problem-solving, ever-growing mentality.