How Product Managers and Innovators Can Speak with GRAVITAS

Gravitas for product managers and innovatorsHave you ever wondered why some people earn attention and respect when they speak, and others don’t? Such people are said to have gravitas. With gravitas, you can express yourself clearly and with the passion and confidence to persuade, influence and engage listeners.

While a few people appear to be born with a natural influence over others, gravitas is actually a skill that can be learned. To find out how product managers and innovators can develop gravitas, I spoke with an expert on the topic, Caroline Goyder. She has worked for many years as a voice teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She spent the last decade developing a system to help her non-acting clients perform with poise, presence, and power. She has also been named one of Britain’s top coaches.

From the discussion with Caroline, you will learn:

  1. What it means to speak with gravitas.
  2. Why anyone can learn to speak more persuasively.
  3. How to speak truth to power – in a way that influences senior managers and leaders.

Below is a summary of questions discussed followed by a link to the interview.

What is Gravitas?

Gravitas means dignity, presence, influence, and seriousness. It is a Roman virtue. In the modern world it means that people take what you say seriously – that they listen to you – that your words have impact. What is interesting is that we assume some people have gravitas and some don’t. Instead, we all have some of it and we all have the capacity to have enough of it. A famous example of a person who developed gravitas is the Greek statesman Demosthenes. His first attempt at public speaking ended in disaster, with his audiences laughing at him. He worked hard, practicing his speech, and became a great orator. The point is that gravitas is not a birthright of people but instead something everyone works at. If you can have a conversation with a friend, you can learn to give a powerful speech.

How do we speak truth to power

You start by managing your state. This means being grounded, being concise, and really listening to the other people involved. Understand the needs of the stakeholders involved and consider the common purpose of the situation. In meetings before you speak, listen to what is being said and tune into what people mean. Don’t plan what you’re going to say – that should have already occurred. Also, listen to the way language is being used and echo some of the language being used when you speak. People are much more likely to pay attention when they recognize you’ve been listening and you’re in sync with them. This follows with “yes and…” type of discussions. These are discussions that carry-on thoughts and show you are co-creating. Also, when talking to a senior manager or leader, remember to not take their responses personally. Be curious about the responses if they appear to be critical or aggressive, but don’t react to them negatively.

Why use dancing as a metaphor

It’s the idea that when we are in sync with someone, you are in rhythm. You share the same pace of talking and use similar phrases. It is a verbal dance.

How to stay calm in difficult discussions

You take action in three places – before the meeting, during the meeting when listening to others, and during the meeting when you speak. Before the meeting, take time to help yourself become calm and present. Physically, sit with your feet on the floor and feel grounded. Pay attention to your breathing and feel the breaths coming in and going out of your body. In the meeting, you’re paying attention to what others are saying. Truly influential people deeply listen and then enhance ideas when they do speak, not merely repeating ideas. They use “yes and…” types of responses. When you do speak, be conscious of your breathing and speak on the exhale of a breath. This will give you power and will help your speech to be clear. Also, if there are disagreeable people involved in the discussion, have compassion for them. Having a sense of compassion will help you listen more carefully and also help you be seen as someone with power.


ListenListen to the interview with Caroline on the Everyday Innovator Podcast.



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Chad McAllisterChad McAllister, Ph.D. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister

Chad McAllister




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