Q & A With Judy McHugh

Judy McHughThe Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design is proud to introduce December’s featured coach, Judy McHugh.

Throughout this month Judy will be answering your career and leadership development questions. If you have a specific question you would like Judy or one of our future feature coaches to answer please submit it to askthecoach@the-leaders-edge.com.


Dear Coach, 

I have a new boss who recently joined the company. She is knowledgeable and nice, however; I am finding that she is not as inclusive as my former supervisor. Previously, I was included in more senior-level meetings where discussions took place that might impact the projects I work on. My former boss looked at my participation as an asset, that I might anticipate an issue that could be resolved more effectively if I was included in the dialogues. Naturally, I enjoyed being a part of these discussions with upper management and now feel left out and uninformed. How do I approach my new boss about this without sounding like I’m whining?

Signed, Marilyn


Dear Marilyn,

You have a legitimate concern that you should feel confident is important to bring to your boss’ attention. It is highly likely that your new manager is not intentionally excluding you, but instead is unaware of the protocol or your desire given her newness to the organization and her role. It would make sense for you to share that you were previously included in these meetings and that both you and the other attendees, including your previous boss, found your presence beneficial to the discussion and positively impacted the projects’ successes. Perhaps you can ask your previous boss to share his or her experience with your new boss to further impress upon her the positive outcomes that were achieved.

In addition, it is part of your manager’s role to help you continue to grow as a leader. She may appreciate understanding how your involvement in these meetings has enabled you to learn and further develop, and added value to your current and potential future roles.

Finally, you may wish to share how your attendance in these meetings could be helpful to your boss given her newness to her role and the organization. You can exhibit your support of your boss during these meetings which will reflect positively on her as your manager. In addition, you may be able to better assist her with any follow-up items that need to be attended to since you will have first-hand knowledge of any requests.

Most importantly, assume that your boss will be appreciative of your offer to attend these meetings rather than see it as a conflict. This view will give you more confidence during your conversation with her. At the same time, anticipate any concerns she may have before you meet with her, so that you are prepared to address them.

Good Luck!




Dear Coach, 

I’ve recently received 360 feedback that I don’t exhibit confidence and executive presence. While everyone believes I am hard-working and talented, they feel that this lack of “gravitas” will keep me from moving forward in the organization. What exactly is gravitas and how do I get it?

Signed, Janelle


Dear Janelle,

In the context of exhibiting confidence or executive presence, gravitas generally means being viewed as an authentic, influential and effective leader at the senior level. Several things are important to be mindful of in order to be perceived in this way.

First, remember that what you say verbally is only part of the picture. Focus on your visual and vocal delivery in addition to your words. Speak loudly and with conviction. Ensure that your posture is good and that your arms are at your side when standing or that you are sitting up straight and not fidgeting. In addition, gestures should be appropriately aligned with your message. Dressing the part is also essential.

Second, speak your mind when you have an idea to share. Don’t wait until someone else beats you to it. People will respect your opinions if they are well informed and you present them clearly and concisely. At the same time, ensure that you listen carefully to others and ask questions to show your acknowledgement and interest of their ideas.

Third, leave self-deprecating language in the past. It is often how you say and position your thoughts, rather the thoughts themselves, which get in the way. Avoid saying things like “this may not be the perfect solution, but…” or “I’m sorry I don’t have complete information, however…” Be strong in your delivery and skip the “I think’s” and the “You knows”.

Fourth, behave in a manner indicating that you know your contributions are valued (because your feedback clearly stated this). Before going to a meeting or giving a presentation, write down recent accomplishments and knowledge you possess that are relevant to the topic at hand. When you are well prepared, you are less likely to give in to fear or intimidation and more likely to exhibit confidence. Remember, you deserve the seat you have at the table or your place in front of the room.

Finally, the old adage practice makes perfect is often true. Before an important presentation, ask someone you trust (perhaps your coach if you have one) to observe your delivery and provide feedback ahead of time. Gravitas is something we all possess – believe that you have it and others will too.

Good luck, Judy


Dear Coach,

I love my job and am passionate about the work that I do. I am also fortunate to have a wonderful team supporting the important projects we are responsible for. Occasionally, when I am in a meeting, an important project that my team and I devoted significant time and effort to, or a team member, will be criticized by someone who does not have all the facts (sometimes that someone is my boss). When this happens, my immediate reaction is to become defensive and emotional. This causes my boss to give me feedback that I need to address other people’s concerns in a calm manner and think about the best interest of the organization. This upsets me as I am always thinking of the best interest of the organization. What do I do?

Signed, Emily


Dear Emily,

I believe you when you say that you always have the best interests of the organization in mind. Now, you need to present your views in such a way that this is apparent to your boss and others outside of your team. Below are what I believe are some helpful tips.

First, given that you know that you are always thinking of what’s best for the organization, assume that others are also thinking this way. Understand that their goal is not to criticize you, your team member, or your project. They are most likely concerned about something that may be impacting them, their team member or their project that they hope you can resolve or provide an explanation for. Having this frame of mind in situations of conflict is important.

Second, try to meet individually with stakeholders/meeting attendees prior to the actual meeting. Find out ahead of time if others are having any issues with work you or your team members are doing that may affect them. Get those challenges out on the table and acknowledge their concerns. Share with them how you might resolve things and how long it may take. This may prevent them from raising the issues at the meeting.

Third, if unexpected issues do arise at a meeting, take a moment before reacting to them immediately. It may be better for you to say that you appreciate their concern and the problems they are experiencing and that you will look into the situation and get back to them at a later date. If you do have an answer for them, ensure that it doesn’t sound defensive. Stay calm; it may help to have a glass of water handy. Taking a sip of water or a deep breath before answering someone when you’re in an emotional state may enable you to keep your voice level. Don’t let things escalate in the meeting; if you feel yourself heating up, take the conversation off-line.

There is nothing wrong with advocating for your project or team member when it is the best thing for the organization. Responding to challenges, real or perceived, in calm and confident manner will go a long way towards preventing people from questioning your motives.

Good luck, Judy

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