My client Cathy was in a job search, and decided at the outset that she would not settle for “don’t call us; we’ll call you” method. She remembered the line from the Woody Allen movie, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up,” and applied it to the search. She got an early edge by blending charisma with engagement:
- She stayed informed of in-person events and online networking activities. She got out there. Though scared to death (her words), she became “a great actor” faking confidence but not enthusiasm; and she practiced until the confidence was also real.
Charisma, an often undescribed magnetism that consistently draws people closer, was for many years, touted as something innate since birth. Something you had or didn’t have. I was reading a recent paper on the subject by scholars who disagree and believe that charisma is a set of practiced skills. I think there’s a lot to this. I believe that we have natural charisma styles that fuel our power when blended with practiced job search or career management skills like storytelling, listening well, asking open-ended questions, smiling and using direct eye contact with other positive body language.
I was thinking about clients I work with and the types of charisma they sometimes didn’t realize existed—and learned to tap. Four come to mind.
Marty’s power charisma. People listen to Marty. He’s not loud or overbearing. He leads by example. An IT project manager, he kept his team’s morale up at his company after an acrimonious acquisition. His colleague was one of the casualties, with an eliminated position. Marty helped him pull together the perfect interview wardrobe one Saturday afternoon. People respect Marty’s decisiveness and ability to grab the bull by the horns in almost any situation. He leads while listening to others’ opinions. Marty’s charismatic; he
- Performs well under pressure
- Loves taking on leadership roles
- Tends to be self-confident and assertive, without being overly aggressive
Joyce’s caregiver charisma. Joyce rarely if ever says a lot to command a room in a meeting or gain attention in a conversation. Her warmth speaks for itself! To her core, she is caring and nurturing. Joyce oozes a serenity that others gravitate to and want to learn from. Her charisma style is the perfect complement to her chosen profession of elementary teacher. Teaching comes naturally to Joyce. She has taken children under her wing for 20 years to share life lessons and encourage success. Joyce’s charisma is reflected when she:
- Remains sensitive and empathetic with others
- Knows what people are thinking by reading their body language
- Shows physical affection, often in the form of a hug
Terri’s focus charisma. Terri is able to completely concentrate on the other person, making him or her feel like the only person in the room. She uses this unassumingly and naturally in her work as a sales consultant. Ironically, her flair for making others feel like the center of the attention, with the floor for talking about their needs and problems, shifts an air of importance to Terri. It wins her business. People trust that she’ll take care of them. In her work and private life, Terri:
- Loves spending one-on-one time with folks at gatherings or events
- Enjoys deep conversations about life and its extensive topics
- Applies laser-like listening to really hear and reflect back what folks are saying
Peter’s visionary charisma. Peter is a young (age 34) VP of Operations with a national wholesaler. I think one of the key ingredients to his swift career progression from hire with that same company as business analyst eight years earlier was his twofold charisma. Peter usually sees 11 steps ahead. He could use this gift to leave others in the dust. He doesn’t; he brings them along for the ride, sharing ideas and motivating them to be their best alongside him. He does this whether standing in an office cubicle or coaching youth sports in the community. Peter typically:
- Embraces challenges as opportunities to make things better or become stronger
- Fills a room with enthusiasm and energy
- Relishes bouncing ideas off teams, co-workers and friends
Harvard researchers have identified 12 charismatic leadership tactics (CLTs) that encompass verbal and nonverbal learned skills ranging from rhetorical questioning, three-part list making and reflection of a group’s outlook, to nonverbal voice inflection and body language.
I believe that if you combine your natural charisma style with a strategic mindset and practiced skills—whether in job search or managing your career, you can separate yourself from the competition. Throughout history, charismatic people have used their personality, courage and resilience to achieve a mission when others did not believe or get it. Tapping your own charisma to augment a productive job search or career path as CEO of your career just makes good sense!
Photo: Daniel Pink