Category Archives: Organizational Development

Professional Presence: The X-Factor in Your Career

You know it when you see it – the new colleague or boss who shines a little brighter, carries themselves with more poise, or engages you with more attention than you have recently experienced. This apparent confidence, capability, and charisma leave an impression. This professional presence is the X-Factor in your career. It is the abstract, but very real, dynamic that makes you more impressive than simply present.

Your professional presence is important to your appeal in the workplace – it is central to how you impact others. While it is impossible to quantify, because everyone is different, there are things you can do to refine your presence.

  • This performance polish is available to you right now – it just takes awareness and a willingness to develop your sense of self and credibility. You can literally grow your appeal by paying attention to how you manage and conduct yourself with others in mind.

There are four primary areas that account for the distinctive aspects of this important dimension of your professional life and that make up your appeal and impact in the workplace.

Appearance: How you present yourself – We see and then we know. Most of us first consume the world around us by sight. People first form reactions to you when they see you. Yes, appearance matters, but this aspect of your professional presence isn’t about whether you are handsome or pretty, as beauty is in the proverbial eye of the beholder; however, how you appear to people is important. Are you dressed appropriately for the setting? Are you well-groomed? Does your appearance match the circumstance? Have you paid attention to what people will invariably see first – your appearance?

This isn’t about judgmental pettiness and whether you meet someone’s arbitrary standards, rather it’s about you upholding and even complimenting the commonly understood expectations of the setting. If business attire is the standard, then be in fresh, well-fitting business attire. This aspect of your presence should be easy to account for and satisfy.

Composure: How you conduct yourself – This is where your emotional intelligence gets to shine and take center stage over your other intelligence, which we will get to in a moment. This is your self-control, calm manner, and ease with which you address matters large and small. This famously “soft skill” is your savoir faire. 

How you handle yourself and how that impacts others are factors of your performance that you should frequently consider so that you can be sensitive to the answers – and outcomes. Don’t be the extremely talented, but inexplicably volatile, staff member who undermines their capacity by having an apparent lack of grace.

Communication: How well you send and receive – Your ability to communicate well will have a dramatic influence on your success potential. Speaking, listening, writing, making presentations, leading organizational discussions, and informal professional encounters all pose opportunities to showcase your ability to effectively send and receive information – and meaning.

Be clear and articulate in your transmission and thoughtful and attentive in your reception. Those who do this best do better. People want to know that you hear them – pay attention.

Command of Your Material: How you prepare – Yes, the smart part does enter into this discussion. You have to “know your stuff” to be credible – that’s an axiom. You may be able to fake it for a short time, but the pretenders get separated from the contenders very quickly.

Prepare, plan, and prepare – every time, all the time. Professional presence will be measured, in part, by how well you “deliver” – and you have to deliver to establish, maintain, and grow your gravitas. It should go without saying, but “do your homework”. Be ready and on your game or everything discussed above goes out the window.

Professional presence is that “secret sauce” that everyone can refine. It’s the synergistic amalgam of your professional appeal, conduct, expression, and knowledge. Work on it and be better. This is the X-Factor in your career.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

Professional Balance and Performance: Make Room for White Space on Your Schedule

In your very busy professional lives, it is easy to become awash in work and related commitments. It is easy to lose the balance between your personal and professional lives. It is easy to be consumed by your vocation while any hopes of enjoying an avocation slip away with the sunset as you leave work. Turn this tide and make room for “white space” on your calendar.

You are driven, successful, and passionate about your work – and tired and burning out. White space is that deliberate patch of calendar or schedule that remains open to your imagination – it remains open to possibility. The white space represents an effort to find more balance in your life.

  • Highly effective organizations recognize and support the idea of workforce wellness and balance. The leadership acknowledges, and models, an ethos that optimizes the professional energy of their team – to support them reaching their full potential – including time to recharge and recommit to a sensible balance between the innumerable demands of work and the other interests that make a full person. These strong organizations make that balance a priority – they allow for white space.

The white space represents that golf outing to catch up with a visiting colleague, that four-day weekend with family or friends, an afternoon baseball game that you have been meaning to catch for the last ten years. That white space represents the full you, as you are not only a driven and talented professional, but also a person of complex interests and aspirations.

To the extent that you can, given your position and organization, try to include some or all of the following actions in your white space schedule and planning:

  • Take your earned leave or vacation time – it’s not a benefit if you don’t use it;
  • Use some of that leave time to sprinkle a couple of “half-days” into your monthly calendar – even a small break from the routine can be exhilarating;
  • Re-ignite your personal interests by ensuring that they are accounted for in your monthly or quarterly scheduling – see the possibilities;
  • Take time to consider what’s important to you – then include those things in your “life planning calendar”. (This important calendar will undoubtedly be dominated by your work, but that too should be something you generally enjoy, even while it may be draining you.)

Remember that as you work, you are earning the privilege and opportunity to succeed in balancing your energy and commitments. Your professional life will be enhanced as you find a stronger equilibrium between all things professional and the other things that make you who you are – family, friends, hobbies, interests, and community activities. You will be more accomplished in all aspects of your life if you are more centered and fresh.

While it is easy to be overcome by the seeming tidal wave of work commitments and professional obligations, you must seek balance for your overall wellness. Turn this tide and make room for “white space” on your calendar.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

Professional Courtesies and You: Be a Force for Good in Five Easy Ways

All of us have experienced the inattentive worker at the check-out counter, the business contact who won’t return our calls, the less than friendly bank teller, the co-worker who refuses to put paper in the copier, the far-away stare of the department store employee, and the general indifference to common courtesy that surrounds us at times.

The coarseness in society can be demoralizing at least, and maddening at best. It’s enough to make us grumpy. Don’t go there – counter-act the frowning faces with a smile.

Our world can be a challenging place on the best of days – people are people, after all. The key to our cheerful success is to remain, well, cheerful. I’m not suggesting that we only see things through the proverbial rose-colored glasses, but I am promoting a resolve that works to inoculate us from the sad sacks that seem to be everywhere. Keep your cool, stay positive, and be your best self in the momentbe chill, as they say.

Here are five ways that help you stay focused on the positive and may promote good cheer in others:

1.  Always practice common courtesy – it’s remarkably easy to say please, thank you, nice job, keep it up, good morning, good afternoon, can I get the door for you, and so on. Treat people how you want to be treated.

2.  Smile and be affirmative – no one wants to hear how bad your morning went – and I mean no one – especially your clients or customers. As the old adage goes, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Be positive – uplifting – it will make you feel better even if you fake it for the first couple of hours in a day.

3.  Return calls, email, and texts in a reasonably timely manner – don’t be that person who just can’t seem to close the loop with people. If you must, send your holiday season “thank yous” in March, but in your professional life, be timely in everything. Return calls and email – people like responsiveness.

4.  Be present and attentive – right now – you will get more out of life by committing yourself to the here and now, and make people feel more appreciated in the process. Pay attention, bring your best energy to what you are doing and you will be more effective as a result – it just simply works.

5.  Consider your daily legacy – how you want to be remembered today – your reputation and impact are built brick-by-brick, action-by-action, day-in and day-out. Get in the habit of reflecting on your day and how it impacted people – it will make you better, more accountable, and happier over time. You just might make some other people happier too – and that would be nice.

The world is full of naysayers and grumps, the caustic and the cynical, the down-in-the-mouthers and the indifferent. Don’t go there – counter-act the frowning faces with a smile, and don’t forget to put paper in the copier.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

Leadership and the Family-Owned Business

Henry Ford, Sam Walton, John D. Rockefeller, and your neighborhood florist all have something in common – leading their respective businesses to success and including family in the process of propagating their enterprises into the future. While this effort may seem to be a natural development of family-owned businesses, it does not happen without careful planning and thoughtful leadership. This is true for corporate titans and the small business owner.

Growing and transferring leadership and governance of family business interests and wealth can be a perilous journey and has proven so for many people. Complex family relationships and emotions can be impediments to sound business judgment and even paralyze the most talented businessperson. It doesn’t have to be this way.

A few general rules can be adopted that will improve the chances of success in leading a family-owned enterprise to sustained success across generations.

First, keep it business-like – it may be family but they likely constitute the “board of directors” in fact, or by association. As has been said many times, business is business, and this economic bromide holds everlasting weight. Family-owned or closely held enterprises need to be clear about expectations and discipline as it relates to “running the company”. Further, there will be family members officially involved, and others who are not involved at all. Are these roles and responsibilities clear to everyone? The answer to that question must be commonly understood.

  • Over 90 percent of all businesses in the U.S. are closely held, and most of these are also family-owned businesses. (“Closely Held Corporations.” Inc., 2014)

Second, communicate early and often, and then communicate some more – virtually nothing can offset confusion and misunderstanding like sound, deliberate communication within any organization, but especially in family-owned businesses. Committing to communication will bolster team-building and mutual appreciation. Establish Family Councils that include both key family members who are involved and those not active in the business. Work to identify and celebrate the “secret family recipe” that makes the family tick and the business enterprise so special.

Third, embrace the importance of leadership in growing the business and in managing succession – establish and maintain leadership protocols and clear financial processes, e.g. a business plan, structure, and clear roles, like any successful entity or organization. The leadership dynamic in a family-owned business may be a traditional maternal or paternal hierarchy, or it may be something completely different. In any event, there is no substitute for sound leadership – mature, informed, patient, and considered decision-making and judgment. It can’t be assumed that the long-standing family framework will foster evident leadership. Current and future leaders must be identified and developed, and may not always be the heir apparent.

Finally, get expert support as needed – strengthen the business framework and gain objective advice that can reduce uncertainty and help grow, preserve, and manage family wealth – the business and beyond. The willingness to seek outside expertise can be the difference between a short-lived business venture and a multi-generational family enterprise.

This is true for corporate titans and the small business owner.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC