Wednesday, 12 October 2016

8 Ways to Bolster Your Gravitas Quotient

Michael Bloomberg's Got It!
Ever been told at work that you lack gravitas but then not told what that actually means?  You're not alone.

As a business psychologist focused on leadership development, whether I'm working with an individual or a team, we are essentially focusing on behaviour change.  Yet when it comes to "gravitas" there is no one set of behaviours that define it.  That's why I hosted an event on Gravitas recently.  It is also what prompted me to do a little informal research.

I went back through the hundreds of coaching plans I have on file in recent years and came up with eight categories of development needs that are often labelled as a lack of gravitas.  Keep in mind that if an executive has been selected for coaching, and lack of gravitas is a part of it, the individual still has a great deal of ability otherwise the organisation would not invest in coaching.  So this list is not a checklist.  What this list does show is how varied the term "lacking gravitas" can be.  In fact, gravitas seems to operate more as a quotient, with enough things in your favour, than it does to be a do this/don't do that list of behaviours.


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Consensus on Gravitas

Christine La Garde
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, too, is gravitas.

On Wednesday evening this week, Talent Futures hosted an event for women entitled, Gravitas: So What Is It and How Do I Get It? Our guest speakers were Stephen G. Andress, a Senior Vice President at Northern Trust, and Kulbir Shergill, an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion consultant at Benton and Shergill. The event was well attended and in addition to the speakers, we had small group discussions and ended with a large-circle discussion on what we had concluded and learned from the evening, with everyone contributing. It was really gratifying to host an event on such a serious and elusive topic, and yet to have it come off as "inclusive, engaging, and friendly" as one participant phrased it. Thanks to all of you who attended and who shared the invite to others.

I opened the evening with a few introductory remarks, and then we heard from Kulbir and Stephen. This blog shares a summary of the evening.

Michelle Obama
Kulbir's main point about gravitas was that it is about what is inside you, and how you project that through your poise and speech. She spoke about being at ease with others and comfortable in your own skin. Those who are calm and measured, and assured of the value of their own contribution are often said to have gravitas. Personally, I was very pleased when Kulbir pointed out that when she was doing something that she really enjoyed (i.e., when she was in flow to use a positive psychology term) were the times that others had commented on her gravitas. She also pointed out that people with gravitas understand the social context and have something to say. And for her definition, she felt Michelle Obama was a good example. Being able to be First Lady and all the poise and grace that requires, but also to be able to comfortably let loose on television and sing along to the radio in a car with James Corden takes real sense of self! In conclusion, Kulbir said she has learned gravitas is being confident and kind, approachable not scary, poised, and above all, being yourself.

Steve approached the question of what is gravitas with the lens of having served in the military and having lived in different countries as an executive in financial services. While stating that gravitas is culturally dependent, he spoke to the things that he has seen are consistently considered gravitas. Confidence, the willingness to listen to others, and remaining calm in crisis were key themes. Those with gravitas always seem relaxed and in control of the situation, even when there are numerous fires to put out. (Nobody wants an hysterical leader!) People with gravitas ask questions, ask others' opinions, and respect others' answers. They don't feel the need to know it all themselves and remain open to others' ideas. Unreliant on their title for authority, people with gravitas are thoughtful, do not rush to judgement, and spend a lot of time listening. They don't do most of the talking. Steve concluded it is about being bigger than yourself. That is, offering solutions to others that are beyond your own interests, sharing credit, taking disagreements offline, and taking time to be prepared for meetings. It is a long list, he admitted, but not everybody has everything. You just need enough, and most of it is about your relationships with others.

In our following discussion, we explored the themes of gravitas and trust, gravitas and authenticity, and of the importance of cultural fit in your organisation in order to be seen to have gravitas. In the end, we drew the conclusion that the standards of gravitas and the behaviours that deem someone to have it will always vary, and they may indeed be different for women than for men, but what all definitions seem to have in common is the emphasis on thoughtful relationships with others, and self-awareness.

Victoria Hall
Founder of Talent Futures

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Leading HR through Brexit

A few weeks after Brexit, what might an HRD with operations in the UK be focussing on?

Leadership demands vision. One of the glaring gaps through the whole referendum campaign was the lack of a compelling or coherent picture of what the future would look like – either way. Painting pictures based on the dangers of making the wrong decision is not what gains sufficient or enthusiastic followers. So the first key task of the HRD is to ensure leaders with UK operations set out a clear vision of what Brexit means for the business. Then broadcast it loudly within the organisation. For those with unclear options on that journey, then they should at least show the decision points on that roadmap. Above all, avoid the stagnation of uncertainty.

If access to overseas people is going to become more restricted, this has significant implications. Studies suggest the impact on ‘blue collar’ workers of free labour movement within the EU has suppressed wages by 2%. The reverse of this is that employers will face upward pressure on labour rates, ahead of general inflation.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Three Ideas for Navigating the Post-Brexit World

Sunrise on moor
The other day I was coming back to London from a meeting in Birmingham.  I was working on my laptop while listening to Orange Blossom, a French band whose music is influenced by traditional music of Algeria, Brittany, Mexico, Cote d'Ivoire, and Egypt.  It is evocative and soulful, and as I pelted through the British countryside overlooking sheep and green fields, I felt deep nostalgia for ten years ago when, despite the Iraq war and Afghanistan, Britain seemed to be a United Kingdom.

The gap, however, between the Haves and the Have Nots has become chasmic, and the middle Britain dream of a job and being able to provide for the family has been out of reach for too many for too long.  In an attempt to alleviate misfortune, it is easiest to blame others.  Immigrants or the EU at large make easy targets for blame.  After all, it is easier to irrationally hope for change in others than it is to pursue change within ourselves. 

And then enter the referendum where the individual had a voice.  52% chose the blame game, 48% are left wondering what next. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Leadership at Senior Level: Making It Last, Keeping It Fresh

Today I gave a breakfast seminar at Buzzacott LLP to 26 partners in law on the topic "Leadership at Senior Level: Making It Last, Keeping It Fresh."

Key themes were:
  1. Purpose & Ambition: Know which of your strengths put you "in flow" and which deplete you. Dream big and write it down in the past tense, as if you have already achieved it. Talk about where you are going next in the present tense. Seek more ways to use your energising strengths, and don't give in too often to others' demands for you to use the talents that drain your energy.
  2. Environment & Organisation: Widen your scope of curiosity to keep fresh and to continually seek new ways of contributing and engaging with others. Consider political, cultural, social, and competitive forces and how they impact your purpose and what your clients need for the future. Connect more widely.
  3. Self-Knowledge: Strive to live your values. Don't let your own automatic responses get in the way. Know what triggers your "driver" behaviours such as perfectionism, pleasing others, being stern or tough with others. Rather than automatically indulging in those behaviours, plan out different approaches you can take in those moments that are more in tuned with your values. Ideally, these involve using your energising strengths.
In closing: Be kind to yourself by setting realistic expectations, recognise that failure is temporary, and allow yourself to fully celebrate your successes. Careers need to last a bit longer than they used to, make yours one of fulfilment and continual growth.

The audience for this talk was entirely female. For those of you guys out there who wonder why have a "women only" event, the plain truth is that it is easier to bring more women into the discussion when the audience is entirely female. Every time I attend an event that is mainly female, but with a few men, guess who are the ones who ask the questions? Yup, it's the men. Nothing against guys who put themselves forward, particularly if they ask insightful questions. At the same time, I do ardently wish more women would be able to do the same without risk of social backlash for being "too outspoken," "aggressive," or "domineering." Our silence is often automatic in mixed gender settings, I fear, and until it is not, women only events will continue to be needed.


As a leadership consultant, I'm in the business of helping people be better leaders. From my perspective there aren't different techniques or methods for women than there are for men. It is simply a matter of leadership. And to be a good leader means to reflect and question oneself. And a lot of us need a closed door environment to do that. The discussion today was rich, insightful, and passionate--and it started today after several long, golden pauses of silence and reflection.
Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures, Ltd.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Can You Really Afford to Wait? Part 2: Conflict Management Is Time Management

In Part 1 of Can You Really Afford to Wait? I outlined how a clear purpose is half the battle of managing time and achieving career fulfilment.

Equally important to the management of time is the courage to deal with conflict. 


I think it is part of our cultural DNA here in the UK that we just don't "do" conflict.  There is something about getting into the nitty gritty of it that is distasteful and so extremely uncomfortable  that we avoid it at all costs.  But guess what?  Managing conflict is the other half of achieving your full potential and being able to manage your time well.  And once you learn a few simple lessons, it actually isn't that hard, either.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Can You Really Afford to Wait? Part 1: Why a Clear Purpose is the Best Way to Manage Time

As an owner of a small consultancy, one thing you learn to do very well is manage time and get things done.  In an age where slowing down and being mindful is in vogue, and stress reduction and work/life balance are more prominent topics in the workplace, where does the entrepreneur fall on the continuum?  Well, truthfully, my pursuit of my goals wins over my desire for balance on many weeks of the year.  But taking the whole year in sum, the time I make for family and friends and new experiences is what sustains me and keeps me looking at the world with fresh eyes.  It also keeps me increasingly ruthless with how I spend my time.

Having recently been asked to create a targeted seminar on the new thinking in time management, I thought I'd share with readers of this blog some ways that executives take control of their time and create the conditions for a fulfilling career.  To me, they are one and the same.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Visual Art Can Make You a Better Leader

In the past few months at Talent Futures we have developed a way to help leadership teams break from their assumptions in their work, and to strengthen their relationships and ability to influence across the organisation and their industry.


The Art of Leadership is an optional component of Talent Futures London-based leadership team events.  In cooperation with consultant art historian, Charlotte de Mille, Talent Futures offers bespoke lunchtime visits to an art museum to further the agility of leadership teams.