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How to Enhance Your Executive Presence, Part Three

How to Enhance Your Executive Presence, Part Three

In Part One “How to Enhance Your Executive Presence”, you inventoried your strengths and received feedback on how others view your strengths. In Part Two, you took a closer look at the expectations of individuals with executive presence and compared your strengths with those expectations. You are now stronger than ever and ready to dig into three ways we express or show our executive presence.

Three Ways to Express Your Strengths

People perceive us as having executive presence based on three critical components. Consistent mastery and delivery of these components creates the perception we are in the presence of executive material.

1. Behavior

This is about self-control. Control your body, face and hold up under pressure. Studies have shown that there is a powerful connection between the mind and the body. As your body expresses strength and confidence, your mind begins to catch on. People around you also catch on and perceive strength. No matter what intrinsic strengths you possess, the outward manifestation must be positive, in control and convey the message “I have strengths”.

Control of your body does not mean you become a robot. Instead, deliver a firm, straight up and down handshake; keep your posture open and upright both standing and seated; be civil; offer a genuine smile and make eye contact.

Self-control when under pressure is a critical litmus test for our executive presence. You do not really know a person until you have seen them in stressful situations. I have found that when under fire, if we keep our posture open and upright, breath, listen and use a touch of humor we will stay focused and show our executive behaviors. No matter your unique strengths, focus on showing those strengths with positive self-control.

2. Communication 

What we say, how we say it and what we do not say will either enhance our presence or derail us. Communication, in all of its forms, spoken, written and on-line, will reinforce your strengths or hide them. The 2012 Center for Talent and Innovation Study emphasized the importance of strong public speaking skills for executive presence. Public speaking is critical and there are ways to enhance your communication now whether in-front of a group or one-on-one.

  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Keep your communication concise and relevant. Remove fillers i.e., "ummm," "you know," "like," "so," "I may not know what I’m talking about..."
  • Know what you are talking about.
  • Always keep it clean and civil. Show you are articulate without using foul language.
  • When speaking, moderate and vary the speed, pitch and volume of your voice.

3. Appearance

While this is not the most important way to enhance your executive presence, your appearance can derail you the fastest. This does not mean that you must wear a black, grey or navy suit at all times. (Black, navy and grey look bad on many people.) Instead, be clean, neat, wear clothing that flatters your shape and stay well groomed. Wear what is authentic to you and fits the needs of the job. Both men and women need to avoid extremes and tight or revealing clothing and heavy make-up. A great rule is to dress for your brain.

These three components, behavior, communication and appearance need to consistently align with our strengths. When are are inconsistent or unauthentic, we create distrust and confusion.

It is also important to act within the context of your audience, your role, the circumstances and the environment. For example, speaking to a large group of scientists as a subject matter expert is very different than when you are interviewing a person as a potential employee. Each audience, role, circumstance and environment requires some adjustment to how we behave, communicate and appear.

Start Simple

Look for areas where if you make slight behavior adjustments, you will see the biggest impact. These are your best leverage points. Chose one behavior that you will consciously adjust to better highlight and build upon a strength.

Change is Awkward

At first, a slight change in your behavior might feel a little awkward. That’s normal. Consistently practice and work on it. Keep practicing and it will feel more natural. When you are building from a position of strength, work consistently and embrace accountability, the awkward time will be shortened.

One Step at a Time

Remember Lisa who received a big promotion to executive director in Part Two? She knew one-on-one communications and connecting one-one-one were two of her strengths. She struggled when it came to giving presentations to groups of eight or more people. She determined she needed to take her communication skills to larger groups building on her current strengths to succeed as an executive. Lisa took on the challenge to build her communications skills to larger groups.

Lisa created a plan that she could work on every day in steps.

  • First, she created accountability by telling her team and a trusted advisor that she was determined to build her communication strength to the point where she would be considered a good communicator in front of a large group. She solicited their help through the process.
  • Second, she created her clear and concise message for an upcoming presentation.
  • Third, she practiced out loud over and over. She practiced in from of her team, trusted advisor and recorded herself. She used their feedback to adjust her message and how she delivered the message. She worked on better controlling her voice, strong posture and gestures. She practiced, adjusted and practiced again.
  • Fourth, she thoughtfully chose a simple outfit in flattering colors and lines before her presentation. She looked strong, she stood strong she communicated with strength and she knocked it out of the park!
  • Fifth, she continues to take the same approach to each of her presentations. Her presentations are clear and strong, she has an added measure of confidence that she earns, and her presence is more authentic and confident.

Make It Happen!

You now have a roadmap to enhance your executive presence. The critical pieces include:

  • Know your strengths and how they align with ways executives with presence behave.
  • Identify the strengths that if you leverage by making a slight adjustment, you will make the most recognizable impact.
  • Start simple, practice and consistently work on behaviors, communication and appearance that effectively emphasize your strengths. Work through the awkward and adjust with feedback.

Good luck! Keep me posted on your progress. Contact us at KM Leadership Solutions with any questions.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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