Posts tagged Leadership
1. Why is Charisma so Elusive and How to Get More

The Charisma Chronicles: episode #1 of 10

What's the one thing we could all use more of? 

I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it, too — “more cowbell!” Okay, that’s definitely #1. 

So let me ask again, what is the #2 thing we could all use more of?

Coming in at a close second would be more charisma. Like Will Ferrell's sweet moves, it’s easy to imitate, but not so easy to produce the same intangible genius of the original.

Which leads me to ask, why is charisma so elusive? Ask 10 people what charisma is and all of them will tell you about behaviors or traits of charismatic people or how it makes them feel. No one can seem to put their finger on the actual mechanism that makes a person charismatic.

One reason why charisma is so elusive is it lives in the energy created between two people. The person with the charisma and the person being affected by it. Also, charisma is less a group of behaviors and more a state of being. You don’t “do” charisma, you “are” charismatic, or you are not. Finally, charisma is all about emotions and being able to connect with someone and impact their emotions in a meaningful way. 

The most important thing is if you can’t say what something is, you can’t get more of it. As I was talking to a coworker around this difficulty of defining charisma, I stumbled into articulating the first definition I’ve seen that actually explains how charisma works, not just what it does.

Charisma is the ability to sense, and ultimately deliver, exactly what is most needed from an emotional perspective in a given moment.

Imagine you are a party and it is boring. Sensing and saying, “this party is dead,” will not make you charismatic, just observant. However, the person who can bring what is needed to make the party exciting and wonderful will be perceived as charismatic.

Now change scenes to a hospital where a family is waiting to find out the results of a loved one’s operation. Bringing da party is not charismatic. What is? Imagine the uncle or aunt who has the ability to empathize, give compassion and comfort — this person will be perceived as charismatic.

Through these examples you can start to see why charisma is so elusive and hard to define. It is ever changing based on the needs of others and it not just a single skill that a person has. The truly charismatic among us carry this state of being with them in whatever context they find themselves in. It’s not an act or a skill, it’s more a state of being.

The good news is once you unwrap what charisma actually is, you can start to get more of it.

If you are curious about all 8 principles that underlie the elusive trait known as charisma, I have just released my first book, Unlock Your Charisma.

Available on Kindle and Apple Books, get the insights you need to become your most charismatic self.

If you are ready, in the immortal words of Bruce Dickinson, “roll it!”

“...ding ding ding ding...”

Don’t be a People Pleaser, Be This Instead

I get a call from a client. Their boss is just wearing them out. Don’t get me wrong, this person can handle the pressure, but call after call, email after email, they are not they can take it anymore. They are on the precipice of doing or saying something that they will regret. Their big next question is, “what can I do?”

It’s interesting how independence and self-reliance are a double-edged sword. They draw attention to the otherness of people who are not us. As in I’m going to do me and you do you. And if I don’t like what you are doing, that’s on you. What Aikido has and the Connection Code has taught me is that in our relationships, the distinction between you and me is illusory. The reality is we form a system and each of our actions affect the others. I still get to be me and you get to be you, but you don’t get to eject out of your part in the relationship if you don’t like the dynamic.

So I ask my client, what is your response time? How responsive are you? I know the answer. Super-humanly responsive. And I ask the next question, do you always need to answer as fast as you do? Spoiler, the answer is no, I want to make them happy, but it doesn’t always matter from a business respective. That’s just how I roll all the time.

I ask my client to consider being more deliberate in how and when they respond. I ask, do you think by always responding so super quickly to every request, whether it is warranted or not, you are actually helping to set the pace without any real connection to a business need? Let’s say you get 1 email every 5 minutes and your reply in 5 minutes. So in 1 hour you will have read and written a total of 12 emails. Assuming that response time is self-imposed, what would be different if you replied in 25 minutes. Now you have a total of 4 emails in 1 hour with no change in value or effectiveness.

Don't play high speed ping pong if you don’t need to. If you enjoy it, go for it! But, if you are being burned out, I’m guessing it is not enjoyable anymore. Be like those ping pong players who lob the ball way up into the air. Lob it once in a while and give yourself some time to breathe. And do others a favor by giving them time to breathe.

Never drop the ball, but that doesn't mean you have to be an instant response machine.

You are contributing to the pace. The key is to remember you can only control your response, not theirs. But, by managing your response, you will influence their response.

Think about it another way. Is it your goal to give people what they want (people pleaser) or what they need (problem solver)? I'll take the problem solver any day of the week.

If you try this let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Watch this first guy. Just amazing stuff.

Why Diversity Doesn't Always Work

These days it seems like you can't go a week without reading another article or being invited to another company meeting extolling the virtues of diversity. And can we just decide once and for all, whether it’s Diversity & Inclusion or Inclusion & Diversity? You have probably heard at least one of these statistics that are supposed to convince you that diversity is a magical elixir for all that ails corporate America.

Companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue

Source: Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market

Source: Josh Bersin research

Racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%

Source: McKinsey

Well gosh golly, if there are statistics to point to, it must be a slam dunk, right?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a poster child for diversity. While still in my 20’s I was having some coverage problems, but refused to join the Hair Club for Men. Instead, I opted for the full Shaolin monk treatment. This was before shaved heads were relatively normal to see in the office. I still remember the look of distress on the face of the VP of Employment Law as he said, "There's something . . . different . . . about you today," just as he realized what it was. I let him off pretty gently. If this doctored photo of me is any indication, I think we can all agree that shaving my head was the right decision. Alas, my K-pop boy band destiny was never meant to be.


Still, sometimes I can't shake the feeling that there is something missing in the diversity discussion. Maybe you feel it, too. It's okay to admit it. The bald guy feels it, too. Maybe you feel like you have only been told the shiny parts of the story. It's like getting engaged to a charming someone with a high-paying job only to find out after the wedding that you are now drowning in debt. Or maybe there is a disconnect between the sexy statistics being thrown around and your own, less than glamorous experiences.

Enter Chris Jean-Charles - veteran of the United States Marine Corps, KPMG alum and former pet project of mine. My mission, as I jokingly told him, was to take this fit, disciplined, highly trained soldier and turn him into a soft, corporate marshmallow. There were some bright moments along the way (free pizza always helps and truffle fries might as well be Kryptonite), but in the end I failed and for totally unrelated reasons (Chris has assured me!), he moved on to follow his entrepreneurial dreams. While we worked together, we talked a lot about how many of the leadership principles he learned in the Marines were applicable to corporate America.

Chris' unit.png

This got me wondering, how does diversity work in the military, where collaborating effectively can be a matter of life and death? Chris and I met over lunch at a local pizzeria (see what I did there?) to discuss. I wanted to get his perspective on what works and what doesn't. Below is a summary of what I learned.

"When does diversity have a negative impact?"

Having a diversity of ideas about how to do things is just the starting point. In order to take advantage you also need a mechanism to decide what ideas to keep and what ideas to discard. Otherwise, you have chaos as arguments about whose idea is best go round and round. So let's say you have that mechanism and a decision has been made. Guess what? We're still not done! You also need buy-in from everyone. Justin Bariso during the Why It Works podcast on EQ, discussed the concept of "Disagree and Commit," often attributed to Intel. You don’t have to agree, but once the decision is made, the entire team needs to execute fully in good faith. In other words, when people aggressively or passive-aggressively sabotage the implementation, you're going to have a problem. So there is a people management aspect that cannot be overlooked.

"What types of leaders leverage diversity positively?"

The strength of diversity is also its weakness. More viewpoints equal more points of friction. Some managers don't want to deal with challenges to their world view. In extreme cases, they just want yes-men/women or clones. This makes for less friction, but are they really getting the best results? We shouldn't overlook the way that diversity challenges your ego. The likely result, maybe even the point of diversity is to directly challenge what you, as a person, truly believe is the best way forward.

The best leaders realize they don't know everything. They realize that there is usually someone around who knows more than they do on a given issue. And guess what, this doesn’t intimidate them. They relish the access to this information. Even though the leader is responsible for making the final decision and is accountable for the results, that doesn't mean they must decide without input from others.

Another weakness of diversity is that more viewpoints can make decision-making less efficient because analyzing the additional options will require more time. It's important to recognize that not all decisions carry the same time-sensitivity. Good leaders know which decisions need to be made swiftly vs. which ones can benefit from further discussion, and they communicate this clearly to their teams.

"How can leaders effectively lead a diverse team?"

Three insights here. The first one surprised me, in a good way.

1. Make sure the team meets its goals. Excellence and success breed connection and collaboration. Mediocrity and failure invite blame and divisiveness.

2. Encourage healthy conflict and lead by example. Make sure people are not afraid to disagree with you or speak up. This will encourage them to disagree with their teammates as well. There is a great discussion of this in the business book, Radical Candor.

3. Set the rules of engagement for healthy conflict. While you want people to be passionate and to give voice to their disagreement, they should always be respectful. Fight over whether an idea is stupid, but don’t call others stupid for having an idea that is different.

I hope this has given you some additional, real-world perspective on diversity and if you are like me (the conflicted about diversity part, not the bald part), informed your thinking about how we can better navigate these complex waters.

Please share your own experiences with diversity (or lack thereof) in the comments below.

And if you'd like to discuss further how your diverse teams can best leverage the principles of the Connection Code to achieve the best results, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I'm happy to discuss!

Chris Jean-Charles photo.jpg

Special thanks to Chris Jean-Charles for taking the time to chat with me on the very important topic of diversity. To find out more about Chris or to connect with him and learn more about his latest adventures, find him on LinkedIn:

Bonus: Listen to Chris’ appearance on the Why It Works podcast as we discuss the topic of Blind Leaps.

Views expressed are my own.