12 steps to get it and keep it!
In the past six months, we’ve had an increased number of calls from business professionals who say they want to “develop executive presence”. Some have stated they need to develop this quality so they are seen as leadership material during these uncertain times. Just last week, a client confided, “My boss says I’m off the charts in substance, but the company doesn’t see me as executive material.” So, what exactly is executive presence and how do you get it?
If you asked ten people to provide an explanation, you’d probably get ten different answers. Executive presence isn’t easy to define because it means different things to different people. But when you have it, people seem to take notice. They’ll say things like: “he controls the room” or “she commands attention as soon as she speaks” or they have “it”. From our work with hundreds of executives on four continents for more than a dozen years, I think it’s important to tell you what “it” is not before we talk about what “it” is and how to get a strong dose of “it”. Executive presence is not about first impressions. It’s not about ability and it’s not necessarily about content, though knowledge and expertise is important. Executive presence is about consistent long-lasting impressions created over time by the way someone continually expresses themselves and engages with others.
Often, when someone is said to have executive presence, they are perceived as a person who can walk into a room and immediately command attention by the way they stand, speak and make steady eye contact. Some say those with executive presence have a “wow factor” and are typically not afraid to voice their ideas even if those beliefs are contrary to other opinions. In our work we’ve noticed a common trait. People who exude executive presence seem to understand their ability to impact or influence others is not based on job title. They know what they say will be judged by how they say it. Executive presence is how you use your personal style to empower and connect with others.
The following 12 steps will help you develop your own executive presence to so others visualize you as a leader who can command attention and instill confidence.
- Speak Up: Be a regular contributor at the table. Don’t wait for others to ask questions. To provide valuable input, prepare 3 to 4 points you want to deliver in advance of a meeting or important conversation.
- State Your Beliefs: Articulate your ideas even if others don’t agree. Leaders stand up and voice their opinions without apologizing or making excuses. State what is correct, not what you think others want to hear. By taking personal risk, you project confidence and self assurance.
- Use Strong Words: Avoid disclaimers and tentative phrases such as “It seems I get results” or “I hope to have the plan by August” or “In my humble opinion” or “I think or “I guess”. Replace these soft words with stronger more assertive language such as “I believe”, or “I would like the plans on my desk by Monday”, or “I get consistent results” or “The facts are as follows”.
- Passion: Speak with passion, energy, conviction and commitment. High energy and emotional content appeal to people on a very human level. If you don’t believe in what you are saying, no one else will.
- Take Credit: You need to be your own cheerleader. Self promotion is not bragging. It’s taking ownership and credit for your hard work so people notice you. Certainly give credit to others where credit is due, but it’s not necessary to overly compliment or repeatedly recognize others especially when you have contributed to the project’s success.
- Pause: Don’t feel a need to fill the silence. Give people a chance to think for a second about what you’ve said before you move on. This will position you as a more thoughtful speaker and help you come across as comfortable and confident in your delivery of information.
- Ask Challenging Questions: Show you will not take things at face value and want to continually get as much information as possible to accurately understand issues in order to make informed business decisions.
- Delegate: There is a difference between delegating and doing. It’s always important to help people but that doesn’t mean doing their work for them. Instead of continually offering to “put something together for you” or “give it to me and I’ll see what I can do”, it’s important to take charge. Offer to help, but don’t be timid to suggest: “why don’t you put it together and then I’ll take a look at it”.
- Manage the Message: Avoid too much detail when speaking to colleagues. Most listeners do not want to sit through a bunch of historical perspective and background. They want you to get to the point quickly. What do they need to know or do to move forward? Think about delivering a few key points with relevant examples that tell them why they need to listen to you.
- Direct Delivery: Instead of backing into conversations or delivering details first, think big picture and state your main point up front so you deliver a clear concise message and are more definite in your responses. By getting to the point quickly, you are in a better position to address concerns and persuade others to see your point of view.
- Stand Tall: Positive body language draws positive attention. It’s important to stand tall and straight, make steady direct eye contact, offer a firm strong handshake and speak in a strong voice. When speaking to a group, think about using your space purposefully by standing still when you make a significant point and projecting to the back of the room to give more oomph and passion so you come across as animated and energetic.
- Have a Heart: Being firm and definite doesn’t mean you have to be rude or nasty. If you aren’t true to yourself, people will likely see right through you. Always be polite and use tact when questioning or challenging the opinions of others. It will help you foster conversation and put people at ease so you can create an atmosphere of trust and open dialogue.
By implementing these steps at all levels from the mailroom clerk to the CEO, you can begin creating your own authentic style so others see you as a self-confident and sincere leader that others want to follow.
© 2009. Karen Friedman Enterprises, Inc.