You really wanted that promotion. You’d been waiting for the position to open up, your colleague finally moved on and you were certain it was yours.
You suited up, did your research and interviewed well. Unfortunately, the feedback was that you aren’t quite ready, you came across as a bit young, the Upper Management didn’t seem to be aware of your years of experience.
You lack Gravitas.
So what do you do?
Gravitas is defined as a serious or dignified demeanour. Today, it is often equated with respect, credibility, dignity and depth.
It shows up as maturity and the ability to lead a subject or a group.
You absolutely can learn how to portray a person with Gravitas, and by putting on the attitude you begin to own it.
Gravitas is not one big thing. It is a series of small things taken together that give you that demeanour.
I love the British Cycling teams approach to winning through “the aggregation of marginal gains.” A slight change in the way you do several things will add up to a big change in the way you are perceived.
Some of the following ideas may seem basic, but if you’ve had feedback that you appear young, you need to be honest with yourself and see what’s lacking.
Get a grip
It starts at the door. If you stride up to someone and put out your hand, you know instantly if you’ve caught them unprepared because they have to scramble to meet your handshake. Don’t be the one that’s caught out when someone greets you.
Then, if they lay their hand in yours and it feels timid, limp or their fingers are at 90 degrees, you know there is no Gravitas.
Be the one to put out your hand at the beginning and end of meetings, it instantly adds stature. If you aren’t sure about your handshake, ask a friend for feedback.
Look the part
Don’t fiddle with your hair. Picture a senior woman, sitting at the head of a boardroom table leading the meeting with intelligence and authority – can you picture her twirling her hair around her index finger?
Dress for the job you want, it’s been said a million times. We’re tribal, we like people who dress like us, it makes us comfortable. Whose tribe do your clothes say you belong to?
Speak with conviction. A lot of people who are thirtyish and under, let their voice slide up at the end of their sentences. It makes a statement sound like a question, or like they’re asking for affirmation. Neither of those gives you strength of conviction or credibility. If you know what you are talking about, state it with certainty.
Now say that again like this: “If you know what you are talking about, state it with certainty?” Nope, no Gravitas.
You don’t have to be at the head of the table
Take the lead in meetings. Have you ever been surprised when someone junior opens the meeting and thanks you for coming? Even more surprised when they gently interrupt someone who’s rambling, to suggest we need to move on. Then if they close the meeting with a quick summary of who is doing what – you walk out thinking… wait a minute, what just happened there? Respect, they are on the road to Gravitas.
Pause to reflect
Take a breath and consider before you speak. Try to simplify your ideas to make them easy to understand. Give us the summary, not your entire thought process. Ask challenging questions rather than provide an obvious answer. Add your value by provoking thought.
And Background music for the big finish, please…
You’re clever, you’re willing and you learn quickly. Jot what you need from this list in the front of your notebook. Glace at it before you go into a meeting.
You’ll notice immediately that you’ve increased your presence in the room.