How to keep your colleagues on their toes by being the Mona Lisa

How to keep your colleagues on their toes by being the Mona Lisa

I’m a psychologist with a keen love of art. Living in both New York and Spain, I have had ample opportunities to take in, discuss and ponder great art and not-so-great art. Of course, the seriousness with which people discuss art at the Met or on the Ramblas is a bit comical at times. Nonetheless, art can be worthy of deep consideration.

I was prompted to think about art this morning in terms of what type of art encapsulates my life. That is too large of an undertaking. However, I immediately thought of two paintings and how they capture a set of workplace interactions I have been forced to take on in order to navigate shark-infested leadership streams. It is all about intermittent-reinforcement and always keeping people guessing. The second your actions and reactions are predictable you become inconsequential no matter how loudly you yell.

This may seem all a bit odd series of leaps and connections. Sit right back and I will walk you through this tale.

There is the old adage of “never let them see you sweat.” True enough. You let people see your fears and many will use it to their advantage or take it as a sign of weakness. As a person working in a non-profit advocacy world where relevancy reigns prime, its ok to let people see you sweat at times. What you shouldn’t do is be seen as “the same old, same old.” Always keep them guessing. You don’t want to come off as someone who just has one set of talking points and one set of reactions, whether it is glib, angry or conciliatory. Once you become known for being X-type of person, you become irrelevant. Why invite you to a meeting, if what you are going to say and contribute is already scripted out by others? A cardboard likeness of you at the meeting will suffice. I talked a bit about this yesterday in that you do not want to be a one-hit wonder or a slacktivist in the workplace.

What you want to do is smile like the Mona Lisa at which point everyone around you pays heed to your words with great interest and wonders what you will say next.  That is the art of the mysterious, pensive smile. The second you do that its effects are boundless. seriously, try sitting at your next meeting displaying a hint of a smile. That smile will make those around you think that you know something that they do not. It is rather disarming.  Individuals at the table will constantly look to you to see if that smile changes and at what point it changes.

mona lisa

Being an enigma will do you wonders in the workplace and in life in general. I like to think of it as providing intermittent reinforcement to one’s colleagues. Past research has found that is the best type of reinforcement schedule there is in order to get the effects one wants in certain situations.  Intermittent reinforcement in this case encourages your colleagues to keep paying attention to you until they they get you. Be a Mona Lisa and end you will end up being a rock star.

10 replies »

  1. That mysterious pensive smile is quite compelling. Good advice.
    It is said that the Mona Lisa’s eyes follow one all around the room, so she has you cobered wherever you may stand.
    Cue Peter Cook and Dudley Moore – 2of the funniest people to have ever offered a critique of gallery portraiture. Their ‘Visit to the art gallery’ where they view the ‘ Six bottoms’ and report on how the bottoms follow you around the room – has to ne seen to ne believed.
    Now that would be an enigmatic smile and one that confuses the contemporaries no end,B


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