Leadership

A Strong Handshake

I read a blog yesterday about improving your body language. Since writing my book, I have been working on all my communication skills and it is essential to be aware of your body language. If your message is strong but your body language is weak, the message is lost. The blog said, 

When first introduced to a leader, we immediately and unconsciously assess him or her for warmth and authority…. So the best leadership strategy is to embody both sets of traits—and to do so early and often.

What body language conveys authority? Good posture, taking up space, a firm handshake and a purposeful stride.

The part about the handshake resonated with me. I don't know how it came to me, but when was preparing to do my first panel interview for the Rotary Scholarship, I resolved to stride confidently into the room and greet each person with a firm handshake and a smile. Perhaps because handshakes have always been scary to me (I have sweaty hands), this action took a lot of buildup. It made an excellent impression, however. In every interview since, I have made sure to give a good handshake. 

First impressions matter a lot. Everything from your grammar to your handshake give cues to your audience about your character. If handshakes are scary for you too, try practicing them with a friend. One great way I get to practice is by participating in Toastmasters. Every time you get up to speak, the Toastmaster leading the meeting shakes your hand to welcome you and shakes your hand to finish. It's a way to recognize each other and add formality to the role you are taking on. It's a reminder that you are a professional (in whatever field you practice), and that you should be treated as such. 

Handshakes have become less common in some crowds, but I think it's an important way to bridge generations and reminds you that you should be taken seriously. Give it a try sometime!

Does This Fit?

On Saturday, I was nominated to be the president of the New Mexico Fulbright Association. I have been a member of the board for the past two years so taking turns as president is a logical thing, but before I accepted the nomination I asked myself, "Does this fit?"

What do I mean by that? If you read my blog post last week, To Volunteer or Not to Volunteer, you'll know that I'm not an advocate of just piling on exracurriculars to pad my resume. If I'm going to dedicate even more of my precious spare time to things outside of family and self-care, then there has to be a compelling reason. There will always be more demands on me than I'm able to fulfill so "giving a good no," as Dr. Christine Carter likes to say, is important. 

So what criteria did I use for this decision:

1) What are the time requirements? After talking with the current president, it seems like the officers work collectively on planning events, so not many things are the president's responsibility alone. 

2) Does this make sense in the trajectory of my future goals? I know that I would like to apply for another Fulbright at some point and showing my continued dedication to the program will be beneficial in that application. 

3) Can I do this job well? Again, I wanted to talk more with the current president to know the goals of the Association (the national direction recently changed). If I didn't have ideas about how to improve the organization, I shouldn't take the job of setting the tone. See my post from last year about leadership lessons.

After considering these questions, I decided that running for president of the association would be a good fit for me. Even though some decisions seem obvious (or obviously a good thing), it's always good to take at least 24 hours and see how it fits with you. Let me know if you've experienced similar decision-making processes yourself, I'd love to hear!