Be more Jessica Pearson – Nine tips on assertiveness, impact and effectiveness

At a recent assertiveness, impact and effectiveness workshop for marketing and BD executives we considered our various heroes and heroines. Jessica Pearson, managing partner of a fictitious New York law firm in the television series Suits, was considered an exemplar of assertiveness, impact and effectiveness. A good role model because Jessica fulfils all three aspects of power in the PIA model: presence, authority and impact. PIA and other methods of making an impact are covered here.

As we explored these ideas the delegates identified their favourite ideas from the session:

  1. Manage how you perceived Whilst appearance is important (and we talked about in group and out group dynamics), your behaviour will also affect how you are perceived. We focused on how we communicate – both verbally and non-verbally.
  2. Build your confidence Your self-confidence (how you feel inside) is related to your self-esteem. Your confidence is what you convey. Of course they are linked. But you can learn to convey a more confident image than you might feel by learning some basic ideas about managing your non-verbal communication
  3.  Control your mind-set We talked about confidence and self-belief. We considered how, if we think negatively, then this can dominate our thoughts and affect the image we convey. Adopting a more positive frame of mind, de-personalising some interactions and focusing on solutions rather than problems can energise and inspire those around us.
  4.  Win trust Focus first on establishing a relationship and understanding the perspective and needs of others. To win trust you need to be credible (know your stuff), reliable (do what you say you’ll do) and intimate (know the other person). And you need to turn down your self-focus.
  5.  Push back (nicely) Rather than challenging people and risking a confrontation, adopt a more gentle approach to push back. This involved listening carefully to the other person, acknowledging or validating their views and asking incisive questions to explore consequences, contradictions or alternative options.
  6.  Pick your battles Don’t challenge on every occasion. It’s exhausting. Identify where and with whom you are going to stand your ground and focus on those interactions. If it means letting things go with some people on some occasions then so be it. Conflict management ideas are here.
  7.  Reframe “difficult” behaviour Once we label someone as being difficult, our mind will filter out any information to contradict that view and we will see only their difficult behaviour. Our reaction to difficult behaviour becomes more entrenched and we reach a stale mate or conflict. We looked at how to reframe negative and difficult behaviour by considering the positive intents. Reframing is covered here  It is an idea from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
  8. Achieve results Ultimately, to be effective we must make an impact and achieve the results or change for which we are employed. Too often, we are driven by the daily onslaught of communications and requests and can drift into reactive mode. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them ensures our effectiveness. There was a discussion about balancing inputs and outputs.
  9.  Be inspired One way to think about your values and build your personal brand was to find an inspirational real life or fictional role model and consider how they would react to different situations. It was interesting to hear about other people’s heroes and heroines with regards to effectiveness – and I was pleased to see so many women in the list:
  • Adele (incredible singing and writing talent, authentic as an ordinary person, connects emotionally)
  • David Beckham (from footballer to business man, built a successful brand, family man)
  • Victoria Beckham (transition from pop star to fashion and business expert, mother, successful brand)
  • Beyonce (successful singer, family, work-life balance)
  • Princess Diana (confident, icon, mother, overcome adversity, charity work)
  • Megan Markel (successful actress, true to principles, charity work, moved to UK from USA)
  • Angela Merkel (confident, leader, built a strong German economy)
  • Michelle Obama (personal brand, mother, charity work, humour)
  • Katie Piper (overcame personal trauma, inspirational, helps others)
  • Rihanna (successful singing career and business enterprises)
  • Alan Sugar (from humble beginnings to career and television success)

You may also like this article on the PVI model – Perception Visibility Influence. Or this one on assertiveness.