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Honing your professional presence

Drake, Kirsten DNP, RN, OCN, NEA-BC

Nursing Management (Springhouse): December 2019 - Volume 50 - Issue 12 - p 56
doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000605172.18682.51
Department: Leadership Q&A
Free

Director, Med/Surg, Renal/Oncology Services, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

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Q Frustrations have recently increased at my organization due to changes. As a leader, what's the best way to present my opinion of the changes during meetings?

Professional presence is something we need to pay attention to as leaders on a regular basis. There's a variety of aspects to consider when deciding how to behave and react at a meeting. The first thing to do is assess those in attendance. You must know the audience, subject content, and surrounding environment to help keep yourself accountable during the interaction. For example, you walk into a meeting and notice that those in attendance include a C-suite executive, a physician, and a clinical nurse. You know this meeting is to discuss a major change that's occurred, which you haven't really been supportive of since its inception.

This leads us to the major concern of professional presence during the meeting. Key attributes are to keep your emotions in check, watch your body language, and display a positive attitude.1,2 If you're feeling overly passionate about the change, try writing down key points before the meeting. Having this list with you during the meeting will assist you in staying focused and guide you in keeping your emotions controlled no matter what the topic.3 Next, consider your body language, which includes your posture and facial expressions. This nonverbal communication can sometimes speak louder than your words. What if you roll your eyes during the meeting as the C-suite executive is speaking? This isn't only seen as disrespectful, but also negative. When you're trying to have your voice heard during a meeting, keeping a positive approach increases acceptance of your ideas.

Consider ways to develop a positive mental attitude so you can attain your desired outcome, such as choosing your words differently.4 Words carry power and can spark emotions. Before you speak, run the words through your head and see how you would respond if you heard them coming from someone else. Do you become defensive or possibly angry? If so, think about how to change the intensity of the word or change it all together to a more positive one.4 It takes time and effort to think before you speak when it's a topic you're passionate about; however, when you respond to situations positively, it typically ends in better outcomes.

Mindfulness can help us stay in the moment, focusing on the present situation so we can really hear what others are saying. If you become angry in a meeting, you'll start operating from a perspective of a fearful and uncertain future, closing off from what those in attendance are saying and missing opportunities to influence others. I call this a “down in it” moment because once I get in it, it's very hard to get out. Focusing on the present situation allows you to process what's being said in the here and now.

Realistically, we all need to express our feelings about changes. The trick is finding the right place for this expression. The correct outlet may include a group of “safe” coworkers. However, it's easy to get comfortable in your position in your specific work area and let your guard down. Remember to always role model professional behavior whether in a formal meeting or during an informal group discussion and learn by observing others—you'll be able to tell who gets things accomplished and who seems “down in it.”

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REFERENCES

1. McCarthy D. Understanding the behaviors that showcase workplace professionalism. The Balance Careers. 2018. http://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-workplace-professionalism-2275961.
3. Llopis G. 6 reasons employees must speak up to thrive at work. Forbes. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2012/03/19/6-reasons-employees-must-speak-up-to-thrive-at-work.
4. Sicinski A. How to transform a negative mental attitude into a positive state-of-mind. IQ Matrix. https://blog.iqmatrix.com/negative-mental-attitude.
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