Welcome to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, the voice behind the podcast, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the creator of the HR Planner. I've made this podcast, especially for you to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career, without working yourself into the ground.
In today's episode, we're taking a look at gravitas. What it is, why it matters, and how you can improve your own gravitas to succeed at work throughout your HR career. If you've ever seen someone walk into a room who seems to ooze gravitas and thought you'll never be able to produce the same effect, I'm here to reassure you, you absolutely can.
And I'm joined by the fabulous Antoinette Dale Henderson, who is an absolute expert on this topic. She generously shares some of the concepts from her book, Leading with Gravitas, and from her Gravitas program, which she launched to provide leaders with the vision and skills to command respect. Build trust and communicate with confidence.
Antoinette's an executive coach and keynote speaker. She's a fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and a TEDx speaker. I've seen her speak in person and seen that she does have gravitas. So, if you want to get your voice heard, if you want your opinions to be respected and acted on, if you want to be taken seriously and you want HR to be taken seriously, this episode is here to help.
Let's go ahead and meet Antoinette now. Welcome to the show Antoinette. It's so wonderful to have you here today.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Thank you. It's brilliant to be here.
Well, it feels like it's been a long time in the making, doesn't it? For anyone listening, I first met Antoinette years and years ago. It was at the very beginning of my working for myself journey.
And I went along to a talk at the Chartered Management Institute, and Antoinette was the speaker. And you were speaking, Antoinette, because you were talking about one of your books. I know you have two books. The one that you were talking about was called Power Up. And I remember just being so incredibly impressed.
I was taking photos of the slides that you were displaying at the same time as talking. I bought the book straight away. But I remember at the time I was actually too nervous to come up to you and talk to you at the end because I got all tongue tied and I didn't know what to say. So it's just the loveliest feeling for me to actually have you here today on the podcast.
So I know I've already said thank you, but I'll say thank you once more.
[Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Well, it's an absolute pleasure to be here, and thank you so much for noticing me and remembering me all those years ago. And yeah, it's fantastic to be on the show here today.
Now that I do have you here, it would be wonderful if you could just introduce yourself to everyone listening so they get to know a little bit about you and the work that you do.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Thank you so much, Fay. And as you said, I'm an author. So my second book was the one that you were referring to, Power Up, The Smart Woman's Guide to Unleashing Her Potential. And then the first book, which is now in its second edition, is Leading with Gravitas the six keys to impact and influence. And those two books and the methodologies behind them really feed into all the ways in which I deliver my work whether it's through keynotes that I give at conferences or within organizations to engage really large audiences or if it's extended leadership development programs, um, for a whole population of people, or if it's masterclasses, specialist masterclasses.
So whether it's gravitas masterclasses or sessions, especially for women, or it's the executive coaching, a lot of what I do is channel through those books and I've always been really keen to come up with new solutions for people that are really, really practical. So, ultimately, that, that's my aim is to help people solve their leadership challenges and enable them to fulfill their potential.
So to make sure that we are all on the same page when it comes to this topic, it would be great if I could start off by asking you to define it. So what exactly is Gravitas?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Sure. And that's a really big question. And yeah, A lot of people talk about that they want to develop their Gravitas. A lot of people get given feedback that they need to have more Gravitas in order to get promoted, in order to smash a presentation, or to win a pitch.
But people don't then get told how to go about developing it, or even what it is. And so, when I decided to write the book and create the program, that's kind of where I started. What is the definition? And if you look it up in the dictionary, the dictionary definition is weight, but there's also a definition which is statesmanlike.
And, uh, I remember when I saw that word statesmanlike and I was thinking about creating the whole book and creating the methodology and all those things, I remember thinking, well, that's not going to work, is it, in today's working world, you know, we don't want to be statesman like. So what does it actually mean today?
And so I created my own definition, which is the ability to command respect, get taken seriously. And get your voice heard all while retaining your own authentic self. And so it's a really important quality, especially for people who are wanting to progress in an organization. But it's also a really important quality for people to tap into if they need to get their voice heard.
Um, and ensure that their opinions are respected and acted on. So that, that's my definition.
It feels really timely that we're talking about this at the moment because I've had a few of my coaching clients recently saying that one of the things they find a challenge is making sure that HR or the people function is truly valued and that it is really taken seriously instead of just being seen as this administrative function.
So I can imagine lots of people are listening right now thinking. I can't wait to hear what Antoinette's going to say, because just from that definition, I think it shows what an impact it can have in your role and for your career as an HR professional. One thing that I debated over whether to bring into our episode together or not, Antoinette, is the whole thing around gender, but I think it probably is an important thing for us to touch on.
So, can I ask you to explain how the rules for gravitas are different depending on your gender?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
And it is a really important question and it comes down to perception and one of the things that I say is gravitas like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So you know, someone who you think has got gravitas, I may not and vice versa.
And so, traditionally, back to the statesman like word, and in more conventional, um, environments, and with people who, who have more of a binary perception of gender, and leadership, and, and culture, then there are some people who would, if you ask them for an example of gravitas, and I certainly do do this in my masterclasses, they'll, nine times out of ten, give them a male name.
And so the natural default when it comes to gravitas is still that it's almost like a man's domain. But of course, as a female myself, someone who's made it her life's work to focus on gravitas, um, I know that it's a quality actually that's unique to the individual. And in all aspects of assertiveness, confidence, impact, influence, career progression, There are more barriers in the way for women.
Barriers that we have within us in terms of our conditioning, but also the barriers that are out there in terms of the way society is still structured. And so, we as women have to work harder to be noticed and to have this thing called gravitas. And so, I believe that there's not a difference in terms of what it is, and men can have it and women can't, because it's just not helpful thinking.
I think what's really important is helping people to firstly appreciate that they have their own version of it. It's not like it's innate and you either have it or you don't. I truly believe it can be learned. And then providing people with the practical skills to do it. So the reason, and people might think, well, why has Antoinette decided to make this her life's work?
It's because when I was 27 years old, um, working in PR, I was given a bit of feedback. I was desperate to get promoted to a leadership position, and I was told if I was going to do it, I would need to work on my gravitas. I don't know whether they would have given that piece of feedback to, to the guys in the office.
I, I can't really say, but it really got to me that I was kind of given this piece of feedback, but not actually given any guidance around what it was or how I was supposed to go about developing it for myself. So that's, I am so passionate about providing anyone with those tools and particularly I am drawn to women who through no fault of their own are being perceived to be in a certain box and how crucial it is.
for us to move beyond that.
It's great to hear your personal story of how this whole passion for learning about gravitas and empowering all of us to have more of it started Antoinette. It's great to hear that. Thank you for sharing it with us. And I'm sure now everyone is on the edge of their seat if they're sitting down while they're listening to this, wondering what these brilliant practical tips and these tools are that you are able to share to help us all work on our gravitas and develop our Gravitas. I know you've created something called the Gravitas Wheel that is in your book. Are you happy to talk us through it or at least share some of the aspects of it with us?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Absolutely. And so when I decided to write the book and create the program, I went out and I conducted extensive research, observing and modeling leaders from all walks of life to try and decode and figure out what the common denominators were.
And having come from a comms background, consultancy background, I was like, well, we need, we need a model. We need a methodology. So. I created this wheel and it was inspired actually by the um, the coaching tool, the Wheel of Life. And um, so I, I break Gravitas down into six component parts. There are three components that we have on the inside.
So three internal qualities that we have on the inside and those are self awareness, Expertise and Authenticity. And that's really important, really, that's, those three are the foundation of, of everything. But it's not enough to know yourself, warts and all, it's not enough to be truly clear on your expertise, and it's not enough to understand yourself authentically, if you can't then express it.
So the other three components of the Gravitas Wheel, the external ones, are Presence, Connection and Projection. And so what the ability to, to have presence or knowing how to increase or decrease your presence for whatever reason is what will help you to then convey your expertise, the ability to connect, build relationships, network, all those things.
Connection is, is what will enable you to really amplify and get your expertise out there. And then if you know how to project, if you are comfortable standing up on a podium, delivering a keynote, or even projecting in a conversation where you need to insert your opinion. Having those skills and tools to be able to project are a great way of putting yourself across.
And so, so I started with that, the internal and the external components. And what people can do and, and they can read about it in the book and it's the starting point with any, any program that I delivered is they get the opportunity to assess themselves against those six components. They rate themselves and then they, they identify firstly, where are they particularly strong, you know, from a growth mindset start there, but then they also get to see, for example.
Well, I've got great expertise. I'm a real subject matter expert. You know, I really know my stuff. I've got the qualifications and I'm thinking about HR, HR people at this point. And you know, I have a voice. I need to have a voice, but for whatever reason, they're feeling less sure about how do I actually get that across.
And so, that in a nutshell is, is how I break gravitas down. And there's one other element of it, which is what sits at the heart of the wheel, which is the word purpose. You can talk about purpose with a big capital P in terms of an altruistic purpose, that you, you know, you're doing something where you want to change the world, or you, you want to change your part of it.
So there, there can be a, like a big, sort of big why. Or, you can have like a purpose with a small p, which is actually knowing what you are in the meeting to achieve and deliver. And getting super clear on what outcomes, you're there to ensure happen. Or, knowing what value you're there to bring. Just having that clarity can make a massive difference to someone's gravitas and how they feel about themselves, especially when they're going into a challenging situation.
Well, I love models and tools and frameworks. I'm with you on this Antoinette. I think they can just be so helpful because they give us a container to work in if we're trying to address a particular challenge or learn more about ourselves or develop ourselves. And it was great hearing you explain all the different components of your gravitas wheel.
Thank you. I wish I had you here for, oh, I don't know, half a day. And then I could ask you to run through all of the different sections. But as our time is limited, I'm going to pull out two that, selfishly, I'm probably particularly interested in, but also that I'm aware I probably haven't covered as much on the podcast before as some of the other components you've talked about.
So there are quite a few episodes to do with self awareness. For example, we have quite a lot that looks at connection, networking, building relationships, but I would say presence and projecting are two that I haven't covered as much. So would you be happy to share maybe some of the practical tips and tools that you suggest and techniques that you suggest when it comes to presence and projecting.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Of course, absolutely and so I, I, again, I agree, you know, I love models, acronyms, things like that. So I have this acronym, which is a great starting point if you want to make sure that you're, you've got maximum presence in the room or in a presentation or in an interview or whatever situation that you're in.
And so it starts with planning because often we're rushing from one situation to the next, busy, busy, busy, go into situation sideways. And we haven't taken a moment. to think. So what this helps you do is just, just take a moment. It doesn't need to take long. And, the acronym is OPRAHS. And so OPRAHS stands for, firstly, the O is objective.
And it always amazes me that people, they, they just kind of rock up and, and think. Well, how am I going to react to whatever is presented to me? So they're in reactive mode. Rather than thinking, if I go into it proactively, what is my objective? Because that completely changes the intention and the energy.
So O stands for objective, gets super clear. One thing, your objective from that situation. What is it? P stands for people. So then you think, well, who are the, who is the person or who are the people I'm talking to? And it could be a whole audience of people, or it could be, you know, three or four, whatever, it doesn't, doesn't really matter.
Who are those people and what are their objectives? And so how does your objective align with theirs? Because then, you know, how can you position what you need, want and need to achieve in such a way that they, those people will then buy in? So, objective, people. R stands for role. What role am I playing in this meeting?
And so I use the analogy of leadership hats. So which hat am I going to be adopting, or hats, am I going to be adopting in this meeting? And so from an HR professional's perspective, often when I ask people in HR, they'll say, oh, I wear the facilitator hat, or I wear the coach's hat, or I'll wear the team player hat, all of which absolutely have their place.
But sometimes actually when we choose to wear the strategist hat, that will then dictate quite a different style of communication and quite a different perspective that you bring. Sometimes the directive hat. So knowing which hat or hats will again help set your tone as you go in to the meeting. So objective, people, role.
Then we've got A, which is for attitude. And you might think, well, attitude, I want to go in there, you know, positive, of course I do, and can do, and all those things. But sometimes, actually, that's not what's needed. Sometimes, more an attitude of caution, or an attitude of concern, or an attitude of seriousness.
This is what is needed to be brought to the table, so to think about what, what attitude rather than just reacting. And then H stands for hear, what am I going to hear? And the final letter is what am I going to say? And so usually if people do any kind of preparation at all, all they think about is, well, what am I going to say?
And so they get their deck together and you know, they might get their key messages together. What am I going to say? But if they haven't done all the thinking beforehand, what they actually end up saying may not necessarily land as well as it would have done if they'd done the planning. And particularly if they'd chosen to hear, to listen to what's going on, to really pin their ears back, to be curious, to ask amazing questions.
So OPRAHS is a really good planning tool before you've even gone into the situation.
I love rediscovering that tool Antoinette after reading it in your book. I think it's so powerful in lots of ways and actually I can see how really it can help you with different elements of the Gravitas wheel as well, especially when it comes to connection as well. Because another thing that I often notice if I'm coaching someone in there is conflict potentially, or they're feeling frustrated that they haven't got buy in for their ideas.
As we work together, It will become apparent that actually they've just been so passionate about what they're doing or believe so deeply in what they're doing. They haven't necessarily taken a step back to think about what is the person who I'm trying to sell this to actually what's important to them.
And what could their objections be and what is their role in this. And just being able to actually remember that curiosity and to really be able to think about the other person or the other people who are in the room can make such a difference in you achieving what is so important to you and what you know is going to have a positive impact for the organization.
So I can just see how this tool can be really helpful. I'm already thinking about, oh gosh, how could I use this a bit more as well? I'm facilitating some teamwork a bit later on this year and I think, oh, I'm going to use this before I step into the room and start doing that facilitation. So thank you for talking us through it.
Was there something else you were going to very kindly share as well?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Of course, absolutely. And, and it's a really good observation, the, the thought around, how to convince and how to get my point across. Because what I sometimes find is when people are really passionate, and they're very values led, and, they care so much about the people, they go in prioritizing that and lose sight of the fact that some people will need data, they'll need hard facts, they'll need convincing in order to get it over the line.
And it's also about thinking, well, who am I talking to? And are they naturally a people person? And so will it engage them if I go in on the passion and values and people route, or could it actually put them off? So, You know, the, the planning part is, is really important. And then how you come across. So presence again is, is quite an ephemeral term, just like gravitas.
It's like, well, what is presence? And what I encourage people to do is, is think about their presence as though it were a flame. Sometimes we want to really power up, turn up our flame, have maximum visibility and presence and impact. For example, if we're going into a room or we're going to a networking situation, we want a need to be noticed.
Whereas other times when we want other people to shine. It's important to learn how to dial it back. And so, how do we do that? So there's a number of different ingredients, which will either increase or decrease our presence, which are all our choice. And we can choose to do them in such a way that continues to feel authentic.
And so, to increase our presence, It comes down to the body language side of things and so what I, I was at a networking event yesterday and I was looking around and it was clear some people were, had presence and other people didn't and the people who didn't were the ones who were in the corner of the room on their phones with closed body language. Whereas the people who were more attractive, actually, were more noticeable, were those who were more into the centre of the room, they had more open body language, they looked relaxed, and, they had an open stance, which attracted people to them. So, very simply, how you stand and where you stand in a room would either increase or decrease.
Equally, in a virtual sense, if you've got your camera switched off, then, you know, that's going to count against you. And I know that there are very legitimate and understandable reasons why people wouldn't want to. But, if you need to have presence in a situation, having your camera on, even being the only one who does, will naturally attract attention to you.
So, so there's that part. And then you think about your voice. And so, without... And this is not about being more man. If you're a woman, it's not. It's not about that at all. But, our volume will, if we increase our volume or if we increase the intensity or if we increase the diction or if we have more pauses and more variety in our voice.
And I was illustrating that in a slightly exaggerated there to make the point. We will naturally have more presence than if we are sharing a piece of data and it's full of jargon and it's like we're reading off a page and it's monotone. You know, that that's not going to bring it. And the thing is, is that What HR professionals bring to the room is so important.
It deserves to truly get the attention it deserves. So it's about having the voice behind it. Eye contact as well. So we were talking before, weren't we Fay, about both our tendencies to look up and find the solution on the ceiling when we're thinking. And, and of course that's, that's fine. you know, that's a natural thing.
But if it means that we're not looking someone in the eye, or if we're speaking virtually and we're delivering something, we're not looking down the camera, then it can look like we're distracted or not paying attention or, or something else, right? So to think about your eye contact.
There are choices that we all make about how we dress ourselves and I am not being prescriptive, not by any means. And I think, back to the authenticity, it's really important for people and cultures to feel comfortable wearing what they want to wear. That said, our impression of someone, someone's visibility, someone's presence, it's made up of a number of different ingredients. And as I look at you, Fay, you're wearing a bright blue top.
You know, and you, you wear that colour a lot, and so it, it's a shortcut to being noticed. And so, again, it, it, the choice is yours, but if you want to be seen as having more gravitas, and I know this from, a good friend of mine, Lizzie Edwards, whose book is Look Like the Leader You Are. She's fab. One of the things that she says is wear high contrast clothing, so like a, a light top and then a darker jacket and the same goes with your virtual background as well. If there's a contrast between your background and what you're wearing, you're going to get noticed more. You're going to stand out more than if it's all the same. So that's, that's a number of different choices, you know, that you can easily make to either increase or decrease your presence.
There are so many helpful tips there, Antoinette. Oh my goodness, I'm going to have to replay this and make sure I make lots of notes for myself. When you were talking about the physical presence when you're actually in a room with someone, it made me think, I've been reading a book called Compelling People.
I've forgotten who it was by now. It was recommended by Tricia Lewis, who came on the show recently to talk about assertiveness, and I'll Link to that episode in the show notes, along with some other episodes for anyone listening today who thinks, Oh, I'm really enjoying this topic. I'll make sure I also put some complimentary episodes in there for you.
But coming back to compelling people, I was reading it. I'm thinking, I kind of know some of this stuff. Now I've read quite a lot about body language over the years, but there was something in that. I don't know why it made me notice it so much, about standing up straight. And it said that actually if you're stooped forwards, it looks like you're in a hurry and it doesn't leave as positive an impression, it doesn't make you look as authoritative.
And I'm really tall, so I'm nearly six foot tall. When people meet me, they often give a little gasp and say, Oh, I hadn't realized you were that tall, Fay. Especially if I'm wearing heels, then I'm really tall. And I think where I've always been tall, ever since I was young, I've developed this natural tendency to hunch forward a bit.
So that's because often people will be quite a lot shorter than me, and I want to try and bring myself down more to eye level with them, but it's become a, it's definitely become a bit of a habit. So after reading the book, I thought, right, I'm making a concerted effort. And I found myself as I'm just walking around, even if it's just walking down the streets, go to the supermarket, I'm trying to consciously put my shoulders back.
So I don't look like, oh. I'm in a hurry, like I don't want to be here or perhaps maybe looking a bit more timid than I necessarily want to come across. So I think just even talking about these things can help us to think about it a bit more and develop that self awareness that you've said so important on the gravitas wheel.
And what I also loved was that you slipped in a couple of virtual tips there as well. Where we're now, for so many of us, operating in a virtual or a hybrid world, it can be difficult sometimes to think about, well, how does all this traditional stuff about body language actually translate when I'm sitting in front of a screen?
So it's great to hear those really practical tips Turn on your camera! Think about what you are wearing, perhaps. I've never heard that tip before about the contrasting background, so that was great to hear.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
And actually, there's another point on there which is, so that's for high contrast. If you wanna have assertiveness, authority and credibility, high contrast.
Whereas if you've got a difficult message to communicate and, and you're wanting to, to bring more that softer side, then go for low contrast. And it naturally will just bring the energy down. And so, yeah, there's a balance there and it's all a choice. And on your point about being tall, so my, my second daughter is, she's also really tall.
And I, I remember watching her kind of grow up as she got taller, just, just seeing this neck starting to go down and thinking, that's such a shame. And and we've done quite a lot of work on, on that. together, you know, she has and, and ultimately, you know, if, if we stand up straight, then we breathe better, you know, we have less back issues, you know, we're not going to have such tension in our necks.
And if we breathe better, if we breathe more deeply, then again, it all goes together. So our voice will have more resonance. We'll be able to make more impact with our voice. So it's all interconnected and another tip for you. And this is for people who are conscious of their height or conscious of, of not being so tall, is if you increase the distance between you and the person you're talking to, then the height difference becomes less apparent.
I have never heard that tip before. We'll have to meet up in person Antoinette and you can see how far do I need to increase the distance by before it feels less apparent.
Well, I could honestly talk to you about gravitas all day, but unfortunately we are going to run out of time. So I better move us along to the question that I try to ask every guest who comes on the show.
It has recently evolved this question. I used to always just ask for a nonfiction book recommendation, but I realized actually not everybody is a big reader and that they'd prefer to share something else. So there's a choice. Would you like to share a nonfiction book recommendation with us today? Or have you got a confidence building tip that you would like to share?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
When it comes to confidence, it's about knowing that it's little steps every single day, little things that you can do along the way, which collectively will help you to build your confidence. It's not something that, you know, swings from either you have it or you don't. It doesn't work like that. The more we take steps to be brave and to put into practice some of the things that I've been talking about today, and the more we get our voice out there, the more we then get a warm response and we're received favorably, the more we then build our confidence.
So it's... It's little things that you can do every single day and to challenge yourself really to find ways of being brave as often as you possibly can in a safe environment. And just to then reflect back on how far you've come. I think a lot of us are so intent on getting to where we need to be. We don't think about where we've come from.
So it's really valuable to think, actually, hang on a minute, you know, look at how far I've come since. So it's just last year, look at what's different and to take confidence from that.
Wise words as always, Antoinette. Thank you for being one of the very first guests to share a confidence tip. It's fantastic to have that.
And that brings me to my final question for today, which is for anyone listening who would love to learn more about your work or get in touch with you. What is the best way of them doing that?
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Sure, well they can have a look on my website, AntoinetteDaleHenderson. com and that's got loads of blogs and podcast recordings which will include this one in time and resources that people can access.
There's also information on there about the corporate programs that I run. As well as the open courses that people can sign up for. There's a one day Gravitas Masterclass. There's a two day Gravitas for Women course. And so they can look at my website. And if they want to find out more about the Gravitas methodology or the Power Up one, then they can have a look at my books.
Take it from there.
Great. Well, I'll make sure that I put a link to your website in the show notes, and I will also put links to your two books in there as well, in case anyone is tempted to dive in and give them a read after hearing what you've shared with us today.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
Oh, you're so welcome. Thank you for coming on the show. It's been brilliant having you here and talking to you today.
Antoinette Dale Henderson:
I really hope you enjoyed learning from Antoinette today. It's always brilliant to hear if you've found any of the HR Coffee Time episodes helpful, so please do get in touch with me or Antoinette to let us know if you decide to put any of her advice into action. You can always reach us on LinkedIn. There are links to both of our profiles in the show notes, and I'll also pop links in there to the books we mentioned in the episode today along with any other HR Coffee Time episodes you might find helpful.
And if you've been listening to HR Coffee Time for a while and enjoying it, I'd be hugely grateful if you could either recommend it to a friend or rate and review the podcast on whichever podcasting app you are listening to it on.
Recommendations, ratings, and reviews are a big help in getting HR Coffee Time on the radar of people who haven't come across it before, and it would just be wonderful to reach as many HR and People professionals as I can with this free weekly show. Thank you so much, have a great week, and I'm looking forward to being back again next Friday with the next episode for you.