Making an impact - through self- and system-awareness
How to have more impact?
Clients frequently ask me how they can create impact and exert effective influence. They may be women in a man’s world, people who are more comfortable writing than speaking, or members of Generation X and babyboomers working alongside Generations Y and Z. They may be in transition in a new role, needing to manage unfamiliar groups of people (both upwards and downwards) or seeking a new role. They may find themselves needing to impress groups of people or in one-to-one interactions.
Their challenge is frequently compounded by the stress of not knowing how to make the impact they want, of fearing that they will fail to make the ‘right’ first impression – with all the consequences that may follow – and the belief that they need to be something or someone other than (and somehow ‘better than’) who they are.
Tools and techniques
There are, of course, multiple techniques used by the most compelling leaders and the most successful negotiators, who manage their behaviour, their body language, their competence and their technical knowledge so as to convey subtle but powerful messages that create enthusiastic engagement. There are ways to establish rapport with an audience, sources of power that can be leveraged, methods of getting ‘in the zone’ for a presentation.
Self-awareness is indispensable for lasting impact
In my experience of both myself and others, these tools can certainly be learnt, but in order to sustain and create an impact which is authentic, and therefore substantial and lasting, the individual has first to know themselves – to build their levels of self-awareness, to get to know, accept and release the potential of the individual who inhabits their mind and their body. The person who is at ease in their own skin is at ease with what they’re saying and has a centredness which, of itself, creates impact, attracts respect and makes them memorable. Such an individual will be listened to – and they will be able to integrate the techniques they choose to use into who they are, rather than simply delivering a package of techniques.
Core factors for self-knowledge
Central to this self-knowledge are a number of core factors:
At the level of the individual are:
- Values – namely, what the individual stands for (and is ready to fall by), and their sense of ease with how they bring this to their organisation’s values. Values cover a wide spectrum and can range from integrity to excellence, from competitiveness to learning, from service to others to respect. An individual who lives by their values has the potential to inspire and engage
- Purpose – in other words, what makes working life, and life in general, meaningful. Knowing their purpose enables people to seek and create experiences that are fulfilling and energising, in an enduring way. And that energy is infectious: it can infuse the people round them and inspire in a way quite separately from the content of their message
- Strengths – knowledge of one’s own natural and individual talents and skills, and of the difference that the unique cocktail of strengths enables each person to make to any group, team, department, division or organisation, is grounding in a way that can inspire confidence and trust.
A person’s awareness of their relationship to their system complements the individual factors and makes a critical and significant contribution to their impact. All of the following can be enabled through the creative application of a systemic coaching approach:
- The person who knows their place within the webs of relationships that constitute their lives will build – almost unconsciously – on this awareness to create a sense of both stability and creative possibility
- Knowing your place is central to the ability to stand in your authority, which in turn enables people to release and use power in a healthy way
- Acknowledging (even without revealing to your audience) the contributions of the people who are part of your working environment, as well as those who are no longer in that environment, helps create a kind of ‘settling’ which in turn can inspire a sense of trust.
Acceptance is a container for both the individual and the systemic factors – in other words, an ease with being with the fact that who ever you are, you are, and whatever is, is. The sense of inner peace that comes with acceptance (not to be confused with complacency) is a major contributor to the gravitas and charisma that can be elusive for many people, and which underscores their ability to make an impact.
All the above factors are separate from the cognitive, conscious processes that are characteristic of techniques. However, they underpin in a powerful way the success of such techniques, which, without that foundation, risk being temporary and superficial.
Impact means enabling a visceral experience for an audience which needs to be approached at depth and breadth.