leadership development

How To Operate With Gravitas Even If Young

Every career has a sweet spot where you're living in the Goldilocks Zone. Before and after this period you're battling prejudice... 'too young or inexperienced' or 'too old and past it'. I recently wrote about how to avoid age discrimination for those who are older and now we'll cover the topic for those at the front-end of their careers.

As I write this I'm speaking at an annual 4 day international leadership conference that's been running for two decades. It's been a privilege to share the stage with Michael McQueen who is 20 years my junior but in my opinion was the best speaker by far at the exclusive event. He delivers with genuine insight, gravitas and humility and I invested some time with him to understand how he operates beyond his years both on and off the stage.

Some people have 10 years of experience, others have 2 years repeated 5 times, but Michael has learned timeless lessons of embracing the wisdom of those who have gone before him.

He is an avid reader and student of success. He's worked hard on himself to become a masterful consultant and presenter. The main picture in this post is not a baby photo of Michael but here is what he told me he has embraced in his life form an early age to operate at the highest levels.

Remember your manners - it may not be sexy, but old fashioned good manners are a powerful way of achieving credibility and gravitas with older generations. remember, good manners will always open doors that a good education or great talent can not.

Be present - the danger of always looking for the next opportunity, the next key conversation at the networking function, your Facebook newsfeed or emails is huge. Make eye contact. Focus on the person you are speaking to and stay in the moment to build trust.

Aim to be interested rather than interesting - while you may been keen to show how capable you are, being a good listener rather will earn massive respect. Ask for questions, ask for advice, then listen. You will learn heaps but make the other person feel valuable.

Be humble - avoid the trap of appearing arrogant in your desire to seem knowledgeable and competent.

Don't take yourself too seriously - laugh at yourself and be willing to take some risks. And remember, you won't get it right every time.

Slow down - there is something disarming and attractive about a young person who can remain calm. It engenders strength without toughness and certainty without arrogance

As much as we may like to believe that it's not about age but instead about ability, you need gravitas and wisdom to succeed. Here is Michael in action talking about the next generation coming into the workplace. Book him for your next event if you're focused on generational change or market disruption and need an inspiring and brilliant speaker.

And now a brilliant piece of bonus content... these kids operate way beyond their years! There really are some brilliant ads out there.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main image photo by Flickr: Chris Madeley Evil baby!

Leadership: The Power Of Believing In Someone

My dad passed away on Christmas Eve two years ago. He was a committed atheist who taught me the power of belief.

Every word from your lips has the power to build or destroy. Your words can be precious gifts that help change lives because behind their façade of confidence is usually someone secretly feeling that they’re an impostor. Inside the shy or reserved is often someone great who just needs a little encouragement to break-out.

My parents divorced when I was age 9 and Dad moved interstate. He was a workaholic and not around very much so I really only got to know him well in my late teens when I moved to live near him. I then joined him in business and wow, what a ride. Dad was Mensa level genius, bipolar (manic-depressive) and an alcoholic... what a combination. He had a break-down and was hospitalized, and I was thrown in the deep-end to manage the business. My dad was difficult to work with, to say the least, and I was young and judgmental.

But months later, over dinner with just him and me – I asked him to tell me his life story. Judgment gave way to compassion and I started to become aware of the greatest gift we can give to another person... believing in them.

Dad had an unconventional childhood where he lived with various foster parents, estranged relatives, in convents and boarding schools. By the age of 12 he had lived in 16 different places. This was because his fatherwas an Air Force officer during World War II and raised him as a single parent. His mother, Winifred, incredibly beautiful, suffered from postnatal depression and was subjected to electroshock treatment – she descended into severe mental illness and, as was the custom of the day, was institutionalized and never spoken of. Dad only discovered that his real mother existed when he obtained a birth certificate as part of applying for his driver’s license at age 22. He was told that she had died giving birth to him – but this was not true and I was there when he finally met her for the first time, shortly before she died in her eighties.

From birth through to joining the Australian Air Force in 1952, Dad’s childhood was as far removed from normal as one could imagine. He had no real sense of belonging or being loved. To compound his childhood problem of being relentlessly moved from situation to situation, Dad suffered from a severe speech impediment – chronic stuttering. He was always the loner, the outsider, and the target of bullying and sexual abuse.

I asked Dad how in the world he had managed to survive and why he wasn’t a bitter person (Dad was a pacifist and never sought revenge). He answered by telling me about Ms. Beatrice Ternan, a speech therapist, who had the biggest positive impact on him as a child. His stuttering affliction was debilitating and he was sent to Ms. Ternan several times a week for speech therapy exercises. Once she got to know Dad, she let him sit and read, no speech exercises. She would quietly do paperwork and then take him to her home for biscuits and lemonade where he was then collected by his father. She told him that his stuttering was something that would simply pass and she showed him a kindness that he had never experienced. She gave my Dad the gift of believing in him. Beatrice also taught Dad two principles that stayed with him for life:

“To be interesting you must be interested. Give your time generously to others and you will be rewarded many fold.”

As my Dad and I hugged that night he whispered into my ear: “Son, all you need to make it in life is someone who’ll believe in you.” He was that person for me and I became that person for him.

As you embark on your journey in 2016, think also about giving something to others that can change their lives – the gift of believing in them; the gift of encouragement; the gift of speaking positively into their future. There are people in your life that need you to believe in them– your children, your partner, your employees... even your boss.

Bindi Irwin lost her dad when she was young but Steve's belief in her continues to this day beyond the grave. Terri, her Mother, has done an incredible job in raising her children without Steve and keeping them grounded in reality and purpose (environmentalism) rather than destroyed by the lure of narcissistic celebrity. Bindi recently won America's Dancing With The Stars. These two clips say it all.

For those in sales, notice how dancing masterfully is all about telling a story and transferring emotion. Singing, selling, leading in any way requires the same ability and, like Bindi and Derek, with authentic belief in what you're doing.

Here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned about leadership: ‘It all about you but it’s not about you.’ Leadership is an inside job where you believe in others and become the person worthy of serving them.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by: Getty Images: Steve and Bindi Irwin

Cultural Fit Is Not About Personality Matching

The biggest risk in hiring someone into a team resides in whether they're the right 'cultural fit'. This is because skills, qualifications and past performance are easily identified but assessing experience, values and attitudes is far more difficult. It's the less obvious factors that differentiate and determine greatness in any role or career – the things that come out under pressure or temptation.

"Many people who claim to have 10 years experience have 2 years repeated 5 times"

Experience and wisdom can be uncovered with the right interviewing techniques and there are many different profiling tools to identify personality. Here is a comparison of the most common personality descriptors. Hippocrates was first to identify the four basic types of personality in 400BC and his ancient terms of Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic are mapped in the illustration below. I've highlightedDr Tony Alessandra's terms in bold because I think they are the most intuitive for business people. Florence Littauer also mapped Hippocrates' terms and correlated them to the bracketed descriptors above each column which also helps to paint the picture.


Over three decades in selling and leading teams and companies, I've formed the strong view that Drivers are best for business development with Amiables to be avoided because they have a personality / operating style averse to creating any positive tension in a relationship or conversation. Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson found through their Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research that 'Relationship Builders' are least able to execute the Challenger method due to their amiable ways.

Success in business-to-business selling today demands that we lead with insight and a willingness to be positively provocative in creating value. We need to be the signal amidst the noise for customers who are seeking to be saved from the destructive forces of commoditization and disruption.

But in seeking Driver personalities for business development we then become vulnerable to the negative side ofLone Wolf Hunter Warriors who can have negative secondary 'look at me, look at me' Expressive traits or manipulative Analytic characteristics. Yes, every personality trait has both negative and positive sides and my table below provides a summary.


"But personality traits do not equate to values alignment or cultural fit"

I've learned that personality is only one part of what determines success... intelligence, values, beliefs and attitudes are far more important. I've written about Leadership Secrets From The Inside and here is the illustration used in the post. You can see that personality is only one part of the equation.

Here is my main point. When we hire people or become involved with others in business it's very easy to be lured by the facade or stand-out factors. We must take the tome and effort to go deeper.  Psychometric testing identifies intelligence and personality type, and the better tools add operating style (which provides clues about values). We can test for skills and knowledge and we can validate track record. But in focusing on these things we fall into a horrible trap.

"We tend to hire based on skills, qualifications and experience, yet we fire based on poor cultural fit"

The biggest mistake a manager can make is to hire the wrong person because they consume huge amounts of time and energy while damaging your personal brand. It's not easy to find the real person behind the facade and it requires more time and energy to get to the truth... but hire based on their values, attitudes and work ethic. Yes we need intelligent people but they must also be committed to continuous unlearning and relearning. They must believe that their value in the workplace comes from the results they deliver and the positive difference they make through attitude and effort.

Whether they be employees or partners, we need values alignment with people with whom we share our cause. This does not mean that we surround ourselves with mini version of ourselves. The best leaders value diversity and surround themselves with those who bring a different perspective and positively challenge to ensure the team is not blind-sided.

Next time you are considering a new hire or a potential partnership in business... dare I say next time you're qualifying a prospective customer; ask yourself whether they share your values. You first need to clearly define your own values which are the behaviors you exhibit and the way you operate. It will make a world of difference in building the right team internally and externally and protect you from failure.

"Don't confuse personality matching with cultural alignment and remember that just one person in your team with poor values can destroy your personal reputation and corporate brand."

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main image photo from Flickr.