Category Archives: Interpersonal skills

Leadership: Inspire Others

Published / by gopivajravelu / Leave a Comment

Your boss is demanding your team finishes the project today, when there just isn’t enough time. The employee you supervise is asking you too many questions that you don’t have the answers to. Your client is demanding that your team reworks your project by tomorrow and it’s going to require working through the night to finish it.

All of these are stressful situations. Situations where there leadership isn’t taking action and no one is stepping up to take charge. If you step up, you’ll prove yourself as a leader who can handle difficult situations. And proving your leadership skills is a key to moving up to a leadership position in your career.

What elements make a great leader?

Professors Amy Cuddy and Dale Carney from Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School found that effective leaders tend to have a calm but assertive personality.

People look to the calmest person in the room to lead during a crisis.

Adopting confident body language is a great start to becoming calm as your body’s feedback loop will make you more confident and assertive.

Part of remaining calm is to stay in the moment. People who stress tend to think about what caused the situation in the past or how bad things will get in the future. Work on learning to focus on what’s both in your control and important.


In your control vs what is important


There are tasks that are in your control but not really all that important, such as what you eat for lunch and what color socks you’re wearing. Then there are things that are important but out of your control, like state of the economy. Finally there are things that are both in your control and are important. That is where you should focus your time, energy, and money. In stressful work situations these could be understanding what your boss wants from the project, getting your project done by the deadline, or training the new hire to succeed in the company.

We have limited willpower and cognition so focus on the tasks that will move your team closer to success.

Another strategy for staying calm is to practice staying in the moment:

Think about your toes. Wiggle your toes and feel them inside your shoes. Feel their weight. Where are they pointing. After that, your mind will have cleared a bit and you’ll be back in the moment.

Now you should be feeling calm, the first part of becoming an effective leader. But what about being assertive? You’ll need to make quick decisions with your team’s trust.

In the book The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane breaks down the ins and outs of charisma. It’s something that can be learned with practice and you can become more or less charismatic as the situation calls for it. People who are charismatic can lead people and inspire others to accomplish more than they think is possible.

She explains that there are four charismatic styles:

  • Authority: based on perception of power through body language, titles, and status symbols
  • Focus: based on listening to and understanding people
  • Visionary: based on presenting confidence and belief in the cause
  • Kindness: based on making people feel welcomed and accepted

My primary style is visionary, but yours may be different. If you are someone who lives in the moment, you may want to lead with focus charisma. If you like to help people open up their emotions, you may want to lead with kindness. If you are the most senior person in the room, you may want to lead with authority. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in the future, you may want to lead with visionary charisma.

Use your charisma style to lead others.

People who use authority charisma are often already the defined leader in the situation. In business they are often the most senior person on the team and need to step up when they sense the team is going off track. In a business situation, people respond to authority charisma because it’s the social order.

  • Getting the team focused: “Let’s get back to work.”
  • Motivating employees: “Our annual reviews will depend on this project.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “Sharon, can you analyze the data and Jack, can you write the status report for the client?”

Leaders using focus charisma will keep the team focused on the task at hand. They may not be the designated leader by job title, but they will call the team’s attention to times when they go off track. They will also ask questions from team members like:

  • Getting the team focused: “What do you think we should work on next?”
  • Motivating employees: “The sooner we get this task done, the sooner we can go home.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “It looks like we have too many cooks in the kitchen. How do you all want to divide the work?”

Visionary leaders drive with their confidence of the future and desire to reach a goal. Elon Musk is one of the most notable visionary leaders today because he sees a future where space travel and solar power will move humanity forward. You don’t need to believe in going to Mars, but you can adopt a visionary leadership style with belief in reaching the goal:

  • Getting the team focused: “We need to build and ship this product on time so it will make make our customers’ lives better.”
  • Motivating employees: “If we do this task to the client’s specification, we’ll get more interesting projects from her in the future.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “Sarah, can you access and analyze the sales data to help the sales team understand the patterns. It will help them improve the sales pipeline.”

Kindness charisma makes employees feel good about their work. Many people like to work for leaders who use kindness because these leaders acknowledge emotions and make employees feel important. Leaders who use kindness will say the following:

  • Getting the team focused: “This team works so well together. I’m impressed by your work ethic and how you all get excellent work done.”
  • Motivating employees: “Working with you all is such a pleasure. If this project works out well, I’m sure we’ll get noticed for our excellent work.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “John, you do a great job with PowerPoint. Can you polish the final pitch deck?”

Be genuine with the style you choose to use and what you say to your team. Don’t use a style because you can manipulate people to do what you want. Be genuine and keep everyone’s best interest in mind. As you practice being a leader, you will also learn to move from one style to another. You’ll respond to the style of leadership your team needs at that moment and what will work best.

Demonstrating leadership early in your career is a great way to stand out when the time comes for a promotion. Leadership can be learned and you should practice when you have the chance. Take on side projects at work, request to train the new hires, ask your boss if you can take on some of the work she doesn’t want to do herself, and take every chance you can to lead in those tasks.

And when you’re the leader, stay calm, be assertive, and your team will follow you to success.


This article is part 2 in a series about building interpersonal skills for your career. Click on the links below to see the rest of the series:

Introduction: Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence

Part 2: Leadership – inspire others

Part 3: Networking – more than LinkedIn

Body Language: Projecting Confidence

Published / by gopivajravelu / 3 Comments on Body Language: Projecting Confidence

Years ago I was on a long flight and they were playing a movie. But you had to buy headphones from the airline to listen to the movie. Naturally, I was too cheap to pay for those weird headphones that could only be plugged into an airplane chair’s armrest so I just watched the movie without the sound. And I didn’t miss a thing from Daredevil! I totally understood that he was blind but had super hearing powers.

Albert Mehrabian, a Professor at UCLA, found that the meaning of a message is mostly conveyed through non-verbal cues: 7% for the actual words said, 38% for voice tone, and 55% for body language. That’s right. The way you say something delivers more impact than what  you actually say! That’s why Daredevil made perfect sense even though I didn’t hear a single word in the movie.

The same goes for body language in the workplace. Even if you say the right words, you might be conveying them wrong with poor body language.

Have you seen corporate CEOs? They tend to be well groomed, well mannered, and confident. That’s no accident. They’ve worked on their body language over the years to present themselves and their companies with confidence. If you want to work your way up the ladder, you should start improving your body language now.

Projecting confidence

Projecting confidence is very important in the workplace. Leaders tend to take up more space than other people. It’s one of the reasons it’s expected that the CEO gets the large corner office. And if you sit at a meeting, the highest ranked employee is probably taking up the most space on the conference table.

Becoming more confident is a bit of a catch-22. When you are more confident, you take up more space, but to take up more space, you have to be confident. Well how do you get around that? Here’s an exercise: stretch your arms straight up above your head and then slowly move them out so you make a T shape with your body and arms. Anytime you need to feel more confident, do that exercise.

As you take up more space, your confidence will improve slightly, and as your confidence improves slightly, you’ll take up more space. Keep practicing this overtime and before meetings and presentations.

But if you take up a bunch of space and look shift like a statue you’re going to come off as an inconsiderate jerk. There’s a fine line between confident and jerk, so let’s stay on the confident side.

One of the best ways to look confident but not selfish is to be a little off balance, like the women in the picture above. Shift your weight a little bit to one side so your weight is 60% to 40% on one side of your body. This is especially important when you are sitting down. Shift your weight a little to one side and spread one of your arms out a little further than normal.

When you’re sitting down, crossing your legs can help keep you just off-balance enough to look relaxed but not so much that you look unprofessional.

When you’re walking around the office you should also be confident. When you walk, keep your hands to your sides and touch your thumb to your index finger on both hands with your other fingers pointing at the floor. That will help you keep your back straight and your head up. Other than that, walk at whatever pace you normally do and be friendly.

If you keep your arms crossed, you’ll look like you don’t want to talk to anyone. That could come across as being selfish or angry depending on your facial expressions. If you keep your arms behind your back, you will look less confident and like your mind is wandering.

Keep your arms to your sides and the rest will take care of itself.

A final technique for building confidence is a visualization exercise. Many great athletes and musicians use visualization to reach peak performance and you can use it too!

Imagine yourself as a perfect version of you, whatever that means to you. What clothes are you wearing? How are you standing? Where are you? How are other people reacting to you? Now take that version of yourself and lift yourself up into the sky. Go up above the buildings in your city and into the clouds. Now take that version of yourself and multiply it in the sky. Then let that version of yourself float down back into the places of your life: your office, your home, your gym, and anywhere else you go. Image your perfect self, in every place in your life.

Do that exercise in your mind whenever you need a little boost of confidence.


Tomorrow at work, give these three techniques a try. Stretch your arms out when you need to keep more confident and take up a little more space than normal. Sit off balance and cross your legs. When you walk, touch your thumb and index finger together to walk confidently. This is the first step in looking like a confident business leader.

Next, we’ll look at leadership and inspiring others.


This article is part 1 in a series about building interpersonal skills for your career. Click on the links below to see the rest of the series:

Introduction: Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence

Part 2: Leadership – inspire others

Part 3: Networking – more than LinkedIn

Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

Published / by gopivajravelu / 2 Comments on Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

I have a friend who worked for years at a large consulting firm. He started there straight out of college and was promoted a few times over the years. Sometime after getting promoted to consultant, the highest non-manager position at his firm, he was up for another promotion. When review time rolled around, he thought for sure he’d get it. He was doing great work and his team had no complaints. But he didn’t get the promotion.

He thought about why he didn’t get it, and he figured it was because he didn’t have an MBA. So he enrolled in a part-time MBA program at a top five business school. After two years in the program, he continued working at the same company. His next review came up, and he for sure thinks he’ll get the promotion this time. After all, he spent six figures to get an MBA from an elite university and develop new business skills.

But he didn’t get the promotion again.

Frustrated, he quit his job. After a few weeks searching for a job, he finally took a job at a rival consulting company, with the same job title, but for less money!

Technical skills aren’t enough

The frustrating thing for my friend is that he found out too late why he didn’t get promoted: it was because his interpersonal skills weren’t strong enough for the promotion level. But rather than work on his interpersonal skills, he quit and hoped his MBA would be enough to get him the promotion at another company. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.

When you’re doing technical work, you need technical skills of crunching numbers and finding data. As a manager, you need far more interpersonal skills to deal with awkward conversations and coach your direct reports. And as your go further up the corporate ladder, you will need to start networking outside of your company to get clients and learn about the industry’s best practices. If you don’t have those skills, you’re going to hit a glass ceiling early in your career. Fortunately, you can learn and improve your interpersonal skills at any stage of your career.

Developing your interpersonal skills

Over the next few weeks, I’m releasing a series of posts to help you improve your interpersonal skills and climb up the ladder. Here’s what we’ll talk about:

Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence

Part 2: Leadership – inspire others

Part 3: Networking – more than LinkedIn
Sign up for my newsletter on the top right of this page so you don’t miss those articles.