Do More Than Dress the Part

Blog 20-07-07 Executive Presence

When corporate clients say they want to be coached for (greater) executive presence, my first question is “what does that mean to you?”

Then come either the blank stares or a laundry list of tactical things – change the way they dress; shift their tone and/or cadence of speech; change their presentation style. More often than not, they’ve just been told – or read – that executive presence is something they need in order to move ahead. And because they don’t think they have it, they want it … because they want to move ahead.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I knew only one person. I went to lots of networking meetings and events – it was a great way to get to know people in the community as well as look for a great place to work.

I recall one meeting in particular – not because of the event itself, but because of one individual. There was a certain something about her. Sure, she was well-spoken, dressed nicely and knew her subject matter cold; now, several years later, I couldn’t tell you how she spoke, what she wore, exactly what she looked like, or even what she talked about. What I do remember vividly is how she “held” the room. She was obviously comfortable with herself and exuded a knowingness about herself and the subject that invited others into the conversation, while still leading the discussion.

Drop the mike! Now that’s at the core of executive presence – gravitas. It’s a person’s grounded-ness, something that emanatesboth comfort and confidence. It’s an assertive -yet- non-authoritative way of signaling: “I have nothing to prove in order to have a seat at this table. I’m open to new ideas and, yet, I will also stand firm when warranted.”

Yes, executive presence is the ability to connect with people in just the right way to have both the intention to serve the greater good and the impact that is desired. But that outcome is the result of focusing on the hard stuff: a deep knowing of who you are; what’s important to you; and the courage to bring you to every situation.

This Week: Here’s some of the hard stuff … Write down everything you know about yourself – your strengths, your values, your convictions, your energy, your skills, your struggles. On a second piece of paper, give yourself a “score” to represent the level of gravitas you believe you have. Then, write down the impact you have on people – if it’s different for different people, be specific for each. Now, pick three people and ask about their perceptions. Share your first document: What do they see differently as well as similarly? Where are the gaps? What surprises you? Then, without sharing your second document, simply ask them how they view/experience your impact. Again, what do they see differently as well as similarly? Where are the gaps? What surprises you? With this feedback, write down the areas and ways in which you want to explore and grow your presence. What/who do you need to help you?

In Next Week’s Post: Room for innovation.

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