The other day, I was delivering a keynote to a room full of people and about half way through, broke off to ask the audience: “Why is developing gravitas important for career development?”
Answers which came back included: “It gives me greater personal impact and visibility”; “It lets me have more influence”; “It enables me to raise my profile across my organisation, so I can progress my career.” All fantastic responses.
Then one woman raised her hand and said that what she really needed to know was the opposite of what everyone else had said. She wanted to know how to fulfil her potential when being told at work that she’s ‘too much’, without having to change herself; something she didn’t feel she should have to do.
This was a really interesting comment and made me think. What is the ideal solution if you want to gain recognition, but don’t want to compromise your character or your authenticity to get there? The whole Gravitas ethos has been founded on authenticity, but it got me thinking that if being our natural authentic selves is not having the desired outcome or effect at work, what are we to do?
This is where the phrase, ‘being extra’ comes in. It’s a phrase my teenage daughters use a lot to describe when something’s OTT, and it’s not always complimentary. It can also be used to describe someone who’s confident and fierce (check out this blog written by millennial Jessalyn Jackson here).
‘Being extra’ at work can refer to when people are overloud, dominate conversations, over-share, over-keen or too bubbly and energetic. It also refers to people that aren’t prepared to change and don’t really care what others think.
Now, I am not saying ‘being extra’ is a bad thing – everyone should be who they are naturally, but when ‘being extra’ is upsetting or annoying people who have a say in their career progression, this could potentially impact their success and growth. It does raise the question that if, in a working environment, you’re not prepared to compromise and if that environment or culture doesn’t fit with you then is it the right space for you overall?
Back in the olden days, the question of ‘cultural fit’ was asked as a matter of course and people recruited and promoted in their own image. These days diversity and inclusion are encouraged – and rightly so. Companies are seeking individuals who can challenge and disrupt the status quo, but sometimes that can come at a cost.
The key here is balance. If you are a true maverick who does things their own way, then maybe the most rewarding route is to become your own boss – although if you have a product or service to sell, you will still need to appeal to the people buying. If you’re being so authentic that you’re missing out on opportunities, this can be an issue.
So what’s the solution? The first step is to make sure you are aware of how you’re coming across. I have coached people who have been labelled as ‘extra’ or ‘too much’ – whether that’s through over-dominating conversations (not giving anyone else a chance to speak) or ending each sentence with an exaggerated laugh (conveying nerves or tension). This behaviour can impact their career progression, compromising their gravitas and devaluing their authority and credibility.
Being aware of your surroundings and how you’re coming across is the key to adapting your approach and achieving what you want, without compromising who you are. It is utterly wonderful for each of us to be fully ourselves and have the freedom to express ourselves how we want – if we were all the same, how boring would it be? But to fulfil our personal potential, we all need to achieve a balance; with the quiet, more introverted ones learning how to dial it up when needed and the louder, more extroverted ones knowing when to dial it down.
Be yourself, be as ‘extra’ as you like but couple that with awareness and balance.