Saturday, June 23, 2018

Why Your Face Can Be Career Limiting and What To Do About It

I am about to give you a gift. Someone gave it to me early in my career and it has served me well.

When I was a new supervisor, I got along pretty well with everyone on my team. Not yet fully understanding the importance of non-verbal cues, I unconsciously gave away how I felt about someone's question, suggestion, or comment, without really listening to what they were saying and why. Now don't get me wrong, being engaged is good, but when you disagree,  you have to be careful for what your face is communicating.

Once during a weekly team meeting, my manager at the time said to me, "Stacey, you didn't like that idea, did you?" I responded with surprise for how she knew, when I never actually spoke a word of disagreement. Then she gave me the gift. She said, "When you don't like what someone has said, your face shows it". She mentored me on the importance of listening (not hearing) and really making an effort to understand my teammates' perspectives. She challenged me to be more in control of my non-verbal cues, and encouraged me along the way until she saw improvement. 

Through this process, I learned that over the course of your career, you will work with many, many different personalities. Gaining understanding now for the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) can be the catalyst for your career success.  Learning how to effectively engage with people, build meaningful relationships, and keep your relationships intact, should be the foundation of your brand.

At the end of the day, the type of work that you do will constantly change, but it's the relationships you create that will far outlast any job or role you may have.

Paying it forward: So, the gift that I have for you? It's simple but can make a huge impact: Get immediate feedback now about what your face is doing. I'll explain:
  • Have a close colleague watch your face to see what it does while in various situations at work (team meetings, one-on-one conversations, group discussions, etc.) 
  • The objective is to identify if you are unconsciously allowing yourself to express negative emotions while you are talking in a professional setting, or someone else is. 
Most times, non-verbal cues are much "louder" and more effective at communicating a person's real thoughts than words can ever be.

Sometimes the lack of emotional intelligence starts with your belief system. Before you can begin the work of investing in EQ, think about what you have convinced yourself to be "true" but can actually hurt your brand. 

Below are some common myths that I have heard from colleagues. If one of these resonate with you, I challenge you to stop believing myths that can falsely lead you to think you are doing the right thing for your career:

Myth #1 is what I commonly hear from employees,  "I am keeping it real" (being true to me). While you may disagree with what is being said, managing your non-verbal cues is not betraying your feelings, but it can compromise your relationships. 

Myth #2 is the rationalization that your colleagues know you mean well. Your colleagues in your immediate circle may know you, but if you work cross-functionally, there are many people who don't know you as well. You have control over whether others develop a negative perception of you based on how you directly interact with them or the behavior you display with others.

Myth #3 is the belief that "knowing my job well is all that matters". Most people think that how well they execute their tasks are what will take them to the next level in their career. Expert knowledge will not compensate for a lack of professionalism; bad behavior is bad behavior, and will keep you from advancing in your career. 

Your feelings about a directive, proposal, suggestion, or question, can be premature until you've had time to process what you are hearing. In a business environment, communicating a response based on feelings alone, instead of intelligently collecting and synthesizing information, can lead to bad judgement and decision-making, two very important skills for effective leadership. 

Be Diplomatic - Learn to listen objectively, and if you don't agree with what you are hearing, be diplomatic about your position until you can communicate the "why" with justification. It's not what you say, but how you say it that will keep the relationship intact. 

Be Strategic- Think of your career holistically and not just the tasks you perform daily. "PIE" is the acronym for "Performance, Image, and Exposure", which helps you determine how much investment you should make in three critical areas that create your brand. 

Be Cognizant of Your Brand - At the end of the day, you have to remember that everything you say and do collectively creates your brand.