Executive Presence —The Differentiator!

Companies are learning that degrees alone do not guarantee the right people are hired.  Nor do they indicate who will be exceptionally effective in each role.  Were that true, in this difficult economy where we have more than enough MBAs, PhDs, and post-PhDs working, every manager and employee would be a home run.

Instead skills improvement organizations like ours are being asked to coach these very talented employees who do good work, but lack executive presence.

What is executive presence? In a nutshell, it is your professional appeal — how you draw attention, how you conduct yourself in groups, and how you garner respect from management and staff.  

It’s more than poise and packaging. It’s more than knowledge. In fact, the person with executive presence – the appearance of being in control and able to identify solutions – can often outpace the most knowledgeable of experts. 

So how do you improve your executive presence?

  • Not speaking in a meeting — The problem is usually shyness. However, no business course addresses this. As a result, otherwise valuable employees fail to give critical information in a meeting, resulting in wasted time and yet more meetings.  Clue?  Realize the meeting is not a social event. It is a business situation, and you have an obligation to your clients (internal or external) to represent their needs.  Speak up.
  • Domineering — The actual description of this individual was “He sucks the air out of the room.”  Clue?  Become more “user friendly.”  Realize that everyone — every Tom, Dick and Harry — is part of the team. You can’t accomplish your goals without each team member’s input and help.
  • Being derailed in one-on-one situations and meetings with staff — This particular client had moved out from under a very dominant boss. As she offered ideas, her voice went up at the end of each sentence conveying a need for approval. Clue? Record/video tape yourself and listen to your voice as you present an idea. Stifle that singsong style that is giving up all the power.
  • Lacking organization — While everyone knows to prepare for a speech, many feel little or no preparation is needed for a group meeting or one-on-one interchanges.  Clue?  Know what you plan to contribute to the meeting. Prepare key words/points and practice how to say them succinctly and effectively. The same applies to your part of the agenda when there are just two of you. Become known as someone who hits the mark every time. 
  • Expressing problems, not solutions — Yes, we know problems are going on in your department or the company itself. However, your complaining becomes annoyingly repetitive. Clue?  The valuable manager is one who is solution oriented. Present the situation with a suggested resolution or, at least, a step in that direction. Addressing options as opposed to just rehashing the problem positions you as a member of the team.

Employers, is it worth the effort to change an otherwise effective employee?  Think about it.  Status quo sends a negative message to your staff.  And the next time that employee is sent to network on your behalf or speak to a client, he or she can be a very poor representation of your firm.

Can results really be achieved with people who don’t have executive presence?  Yes, as long as they are willing to change.  

Improve the employee and you improve the firm’s ability to attract and keep clients.  Improve yourself and you improve your professional appeal – a key differentiator in today’s competitive marketplace.

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