How many items are competing for your time and attention today? The pace of communication alone speeds up our processes and the demand for instant actions and results.
In a world where most things arrive on your desk as urgent and important, how do you make sure you are tending to them in a way that not only achieves the short term immediate goal, but promotes your professional presence over the long term?
Following are five fast tips for professional presence. No matter how busy you are, focusing on these fast five will make sure the product of your efforts will include a presence of professionalism and polish.
Tip #1 - Be Discreet
Being the person people can trust to keep a confidence enhances your credibility and trust factor. How you handle personal, company and client's confidential information matters. Are you careful not only with what you might hear, but what you may be overheard saying?
Technology makes it easy for us to breach confidentiality. Pushing the send button too soon on an email message without thinking of the recipient's feelings or repercussions if it is widely shared, or talking over the phone in public environments are both easy opportunities to breach discretion. Carrying to others bits of information or gossip chips away at professional presence and leads to tip #2.
Tip #2 - Don't Make Noise
We can make too much noise, nonverbally and verbally, and it can detract from our professional presence. U.S. business persons oftentimes are regarded by people from outside the U.S. as noisy. The volume of voices, expressions such as shouts of hello or loud laughter, can all come off as seemingly too noisy cross culturally. Even profuse gesturing can be regarded as too effusive and distracting.
Another way "noise" is detected is when we "react" rather than "act" in the office setting or anywhere for that matter. What if we have a complaint? Finding the appropriate person to assertively tell helps maintain an ability to be authentic in sharing thoughts while sustaining an essence of professionalism. The alternative is voicing opposition to anyone and everyone or to someone who cannot do anything about our concern. That does nothing but create unproductive "noise," endangering productive processes and our image as well.
Being the person that develops and builds on others' ideas and asks questions around issues rather than expounding on issues or complaining, creates a perception that no matter what is going on or how fast things are moving, we can be counted on to be professional. Which leads to tip #3.
Tip #3 - Walk Don't Run
No matter how busy you feel, it will jeopardize your professionalism to "appear" too busy. Dorothea Johnson, the founder of the Protocol School of Washington, D.C., would give her students wise advice on how to appear professional. One such piece of advice went something like this, "In business, never run! Carry yourself elegantly to be perceived as competent."
How would you look if the many competing events of the day made you so time results conscious that you physically ran, not walked, from obligation to obligation? What message would you send if you found yourself "running" in an environment that is looking to you for confident professionalism?
Chances are, you are thinking right now it would be a rare occasion where you would find yourself physically breaking out in a run to get from meeting to meeting. Yet there are a lot of ways you might find yourself "running" if you aren't careful.
Think about it. Talking too fast and too much is an equivalent to what we communicate when we run. Acting without thinking calmly first, giving others abrupt responses, finishing others' sentences and physically appearing rushed, all give the message that there is trouble coping or handling what is on your plate.
That may be the case, but to maintain professionalism, never let them see you sweat. How can you avoid it? Consciously work on open receptive body posture and a calm facial expression and vocal tone. Carry yourself with gracious confidence, even if you are not feeling that way on the inside. This preserves an essence of professionalism for you in any and every situation. Which leads to tip #4 - how to use body language to look capable.
Tip #4 - Take Up Space
Walking into a meeting room we communicate to others immediately whether we have "presence." Walking slowly and assuredly, greeting others with eye contact, having a smile and saying "hello" communicates confidence immediately - but it doesn't stop there.
It will not help us to then sit down and relax for the duration of the meeting without a thought to posture. Just as it is in our best interest with regard to establishing presence to stand in an open receptive posture, it is in our interest to sit that way as well. The visual imprint of sitting in an open posture communicates credibility, receptivity and competence. Gesturing to enhance a point shows the palms of the hands - which psychologically communicates trust.
Most of us have been conditioned to minimize ourselves with regard to posture or to posture ourselves in a way that makes us comfortable. This works against us being seen as credible. Using and taking up space at the table with appropriate gestures and open posture enhances our visual imprint on others. This contributes to how professional we appear and what people will remember about us from the meeting. This is a kindness we can do for our own image and reputation. Which leads us to the final tip #5, be kind.
Tip #5 - Be Kind
It is easy to be more focused on ourselves in any given situation than on others. Yet those who are perceived as having professional presence show up in the world in confident ways that allow them to focus more on others. They have already given thought and attention to themselves and how they wish to appear.
Professionals that exude presence remember names and care about those they meet. They realize that respect is a demonstration of their values and they can give it to everyone they meet. They remain alert, conscious of themselves and those around them, and under control. Even when someone is difficult, the professional acts out of respect rather than reacting out of fear, dislike or aggressiveness.
Being kind allows us to be the consummate professional and people notice our unwavering consistency. The consummate professional is kind to the flight attendant, the CEO, the hotel service person, the receptionist, the client, and the competitor. Level or status does not dictate. When we are the consummate professional, kindness doesn't have a limit or a shelf life. Thank you's and gratitude are drivers. Sincerity reigns.
Be kind may be the last fast tip, but it is certainly not the least of considerations in making sure we are seen in every situation as the professional we wish to be.
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