OUR diaries are full of Christmas festivities of all types: entertaining clients, being entertained by contacts, meals and drinks with friends, the office parties. As happens every year after each party, reports circulate of wayward behaviour – generally quite exaggerated and far from the truth. But stories evolve and reputations of staff at all levels can be enhanced or shattered.

However, the way business leaders behave at such times and on a day-to-day basis can have a considerable impact on team performance and business results.

Our behaviour stems from our emotional awareness – essentially, an awareness of our thoughts and feelings and an acceptance that they affect our behaviour. This, in turn, impacts on those people we deal with either on a daily basis or in a one-off meeting.

In order to achieve the right behaviour, we need to start with an accurate self-assessment. This involves an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses and can only be assessed by taking time to reflect on our experiences – what we have done that has been effective and what has not worked.

We need to be open to and, indeed, encourage candid feedback. Although it’s vital, it’s not easy as it’s often taken as personal criticism. We need to be prepared to see things from a different viewpoint and continuously learn from our experiences.

With a thorough knowledge of their own beliefs and values, great leaders present themselves with great assurance. They are self-confident and, by their attitude and actions, inspire confidence in those around them. Leaders also show considerable self-control.

They are able to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check. They are able to stay composed and unflappable in the most testing of moments. Despite the chaos going on around them, they are able to maintain a clarity of thought and are highly focused under pressure.

One of the strongest ways to influence people is for them to see your true character. This stems from an inner confidence and the ability to exhibit self-control in the most extreme circumstances. People will then instinctively decide whether to trust you or not. You can then start to communicate with them effectively.

Communication is one of the principal attributes of an effective leader and an ability to listen is key. The purpose in listening to someone is not only to understand what they are saying but also why they are saying it. Listening is about giving attention to the moment and not thinking about your own agenda.

Watch your behaviour as you enjoy Christmas and the seasonal festivities. Start the New Year with an inner strength, a receptive mindset, a listening ear and self-controlled behaviour that brings out the best in those you work with.

The partners and staff of Baker Tilly in Milton Keynes wish the business community a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2007.

For further information on this and other leadership and management issues, contact Jonathan Bailey on 01908 687800 or e-mail [email protected]

For more information, visit www.bakertilly.co.uk

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