In times of hardship, strong leadership is crucial. We rely on our leaders for guidance, innovation, and unity. A strong leader strives to improve these skills. This is why we are grateful for our friends at Excel Global Partners for their in-kind donation of an executive coaching mentorship for our CEO, Christopher Hamilton. Hear Christopher’s story of self-improvement and find out how you can build your communication skills in the story below.
Christopher Hamilton, CEO of Texas Health Action:
One of my goals in the past year was to become a better communicator for my team. To do this, I enlisted the help of John Sheldon, President of EGP Ventures and an executive coach with Excel Global Partners. Executive coaching can be a significant investment of time and mental energy, and sometimes it requires a healthy dose of humility. But it pays off. Here is a bit of what I learned.
“I had no idea I was doing it…”
I thought I was a pretty good public speaker and was able stay present during meetings, especially those with our Board of Directors. However, when John came to observe me in this real-world setting, unbeknownst to me, I would avert my gaze and look down while processing what others were saying. But breaking eye contact and looking away was not the message to send. And I had no idea I was doing it!
“As an executive, I know that I am responsible for not only what I say, but also for how it is received. Coaching empowers executives to understand that the communication is more than simply the words that are spoken. Non-verbal cues often speak louder than words.” – John Sheldon
John and I talked about my performance in that meeting and how much communication comes through body language, tone, facial expressions – everything except the words being spoken. I became immediately conscientious about this habit. Now, when I catch myself, I reestablish eye contact and presence, especially in meetings requiring deep concentration. The reminder here is that 90% of communication is non-verbal.
The Camera Doesn’t Lie
As part of my coaching session, I had homework to see if I was improving over time. My task was to record myself in another meeting and play it back at double speed. (This helps you see yourself, and not focus on the words.) In one of my leadership team meetings, I propped my phone up with the selfie camera on, let everyone know what I was up to, and then hit record.
I was mortified! I reminded myself of Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons.” I was deep in thought, but I looked detached and closed off. Mr. Burns is not the paragon of trust or total inclusion, two of our core values that we hold very dear at Texas Health Action. Appearing as I did was not the invitation for open conversation I wanted to relay.
(Pro-tip: If you do record yourself, turn on “do not disturb.” The string of phone calls I received interrupted the recording. Oops!)
This video task helped me become more cognizant of my body language in meetings and I have noticed the changes. After these exercises, I regularly experience more free-flowing dialogue in meetings that will have long-lasting impact. For now, I’m feeling less like Mr. Burns and a bit more like Marge.
Executive coaching may not be for everyone, but we can all ask ourselves, “does my physical presence match my words and values?”
If you are looking for a coach, check out Excel Global Partners and their “Executive Excelerator” program. They invested in me with an in-kind donation of their services which has helped me get to the next level of performance as a nonprofit leader at Texas Health Action and Kind Clinic, where we focus on advancing sexual wellness and health for all.
More information about Excel Global Partners and the “Executive Excelerator” program may be found on their website: www.excelglobalpartners.com.
Give it a try. Watch yourself in a meeting. It’s eye opening and requires a bit of humility. Of course, make sure you let others know you are recording and ask if they are comfortable with it. Watch the playback without sound and at double speed. What story does your body language tell? Does it match what you wanted to communicate?
I hope these tips help your work life in 2020 and beyond!