As a leadership and career coach I’ve had many clients come to me and say … “My boss said I need to work on my executive presence” or “I have a team member that could really benefit from developing some executive presence. And the first thing I always ask them is … “What does executive presence mean for them or what does it look like for their team.” And 9 times out of 10 I hear something like “I’m not really sure” or “I know it when I see it.”
Point being … Executive Presence is often very nebulous – but it shouldn’t be.
As I thought back over my 20-year corporate career and talked with several corporate leaders for their perspectives, I came to the conclusion that Executive Presence is nothing more than how someone shows up each and every day – specifically, are they showing up in a way that says:
- I’m Here and I’m present
- I’m Competent
- I’m Credible
- I’m Composed
Let’s take a moment to look at each of these further.
HERE AND PRESENT
When I say showing up in a way that says “I’m here and I’m present” what I mean by this is you’re showing up to meetings and conversations and you’re not thinking about the hundreds of other things you need to get done. You’re not focused on your phone but rather you’re engaged, you’re listening, you’re learning and you’re contributing.
So, the next time you are getting ready to go into a conversation with someone or go into a meeting, just take a couple moments to clear your mind. Clear your mind of all the noise and all the craziness you have going on and just concentrate on being there and being engaged.
The next two – COMPETENT and CREDIBLE – go hand in hand.
At the end of the day it means “I know my stuff!” When I say showing up in way that demonstrates you’re competent I’m talking about demonstrating proficiency with whatever topic is being discussed. It’s about always doing your homework.
This doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but it does mean you have a solid working knowledge of the key business issues at hand and are able ask questions in a way that demonstrates you know what you’re talking about. So, if a project is off track, you would want to ask questions about the details of the timeline demonstrating knowledge of how long various tasks take.
When I say showing up as credible this is about showing up in a way that says your believable and confident in what you’re saying, and you can say it with conviction.
For example … “We need to move quickly and determine if changing suppliers for our main product ingredient is going to have an impact on our market share.” Said directly and clearly like this, you can tell it’s an important issue and one that needs to be addressed.
To the contrary, if instead it’s said like this … “You know, I was thinking that um, maybe we should consider if um, changing suppliers, uh might impact our market share.”, you might not think this is an important issue or something you should care about.
Hopefully, you can tell from these examples that using filler words and not being direct link to how credible you appear.
It’s also important to pay attention to your eye contact, your tone and how you’re dressed as all of these things also factor in and tie to your perceived competence and credibility.
The last area I want to talk about is COMPOSURE.
What does it mean to be able to show up in a way that says, “I’m composed?” This is really all about being in control of your own emotions and your connection to your own emotions.
Think about it. You’ve probably seen other leaders that no matter what is going on they are able to remain calm, cool and collected. The hard part is how to do that, right?
So how do you really stay in control of own emotions and not let them get the best of you?
The biggest tip I can give you is that when a stressful situation or crisis hits, just take 5 seconds and pause. Pause and ask yourself what judgement you are making on this situation.
What I mean by that is that often times when a crisis comes, we want to judge someone or blame somebody. Instead, just PAUSE. Acknowledge the situation – it’s not good or bad – it’s just a situation. Then work at figuring out where you want to go from there. Ask yourself … “How do I want to handle this?”
It’s this less judgmental way of thinking that can reduce the emotion and enable you to remain composed through the situation.
Now of course, this is easier said than done and it’s REALLY, REALLY HARD to do this in the moment – but if you practice not judging situations as good or bad it can really help you maintain your composure.
If Executive Presence is something you’re working on and you’re interested in getting some help, please reach out to me at email@example.com and we’ll get a conversation started.