Smile As You Lead

Smile As You Lead

Smiling can be a valuable leadership trait, but the truth is, many leaders forget to do it. Here's a reminder for using your smile to a leadership advantage.

Smile when you speak in public. One of the lasting lessons in speech coaching is to ask presenters to smile when they take the podium or enter the room. Smiling does two things; one, it connects the individual to the audience; two, it relaxes the speaker. When you smile you indicate respect for the listener. Not all occasions will call for smiles, but most business situations call for a smile in some degree, if only as a small acknowledgement of the audience. And when the news is especially good, such as the launch of a new product or service, a grin is appropriate. It conveys enthusiasm that is contagious. It is wholly appropriate to smile during media interviews. Even jaded reporters whose job it is to look beneath the surface for the truth will appreciate a speaker who is willing to smile and laugh. It's no secret that professional athletes who smile, and coaches, too, are the ones that get more acclaim than those with a dour countenance.

Smile when you coach. A smile is an intimacy, but one that is suitable for both genders, especially in coaching situations. As managers are asked more and more to be coaches, it is vital to establish a connection. Open the coaching session with a smile, especially when you have some tough but constructive criticism to deliver. You want to acknowledge the humanity of the individual. If you smile first you open the door to dialogue; if you glare you typically shut people down. They either cower in fear or get their back up in resistance, and in either case they do not listen. Smiling at least opens the door for some listening.

Smile during tough times. It was Franklin Roosevelt's jaunty smile that cut through the dreariness of the Great Depression as later the Second World War. FDR was not above worry or care, but he knew that if his face reflected the toughness of the circumstance he would drag people down. As president he saw part of his job as giving hope. The smile with the upturned cigarette holder is a lasting image of optimism in the bleakest of times. So if you have tough news to give, deliver it but take a moment to smile and take some questions. You might even crack a joke to lighten the tension. That should crack the lips of most people in the audience. Smiling during tough times demonstrates the humanity of the moment, a big plus for every organization that is struggling.

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