• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Executive presence (2)

Executives

believe that physical appearance – how you look – counts when it comes to the projection of the right executive presence. Appearing well groomed all the times, especially at events is important. Even more head-turning is having a personal dress that is uniquely you and projects your personal brand.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a strong tendency for positive value judgements to be passed on an executive based on his appearance alone. Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook, irritated the investment community when he showed up at the New York Stock Exchange in May 2012 in his celebrated hoodie instead of the Wall Street uniform of business suit, shirt and tie. Many Wall Street analysts described his dressing as immature and unbecoming of a Fortune 500 organisation.

Karen Friedman proposes the following 12 steps that will help develop executive presence so that one can be visualised you as a leader who can instill confidence and genuinely connect with others.

1. 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.

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2. State your beliefs: Articulate your ideas even if others don’t agree. Leaders stand up and voice their opinions without apologising 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.

3. 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”.

4. Passion: Speak with passion, energy, conviction and commitment. High energy and emotional content appeals to people on a very human level. If you don’t believe in what you are saying, no one else will.

5. 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 continually thank people for their input.

6. 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 also help you come across as comfortable and confident in your delivery of information.

7. 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 the issue and make informed decisions.

8. 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 look or help, but then suggest: “why don’t you put it together and I’ll take a look at it”.

9. Manage the message: Avoid too much detail when presenting/speaking to executive audiences. 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.

10. 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 quick, 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.

In conclusion, what can you do to immediately impact your Executive Presence? My first recommendation is that you sign-up for an executive presence workshop or executive presence coaching. If you cannot do that in the short run, you can take the following steps

Capture yourself (video) in conversation, meeting or giving a presentation. You need to see how you are perceived by others. Review the video and begin to itemise the areas of improvement. It will be a good idea to bench-mark against a recording of someone generally agreed to have superior Executive Presence.

Secondly, talk to some friends/colleagues whose judgement you trust and involve them in your project. Ask for an honest feedback on your performance. Your colleagues at work will be particularly useful, since you interact with them in various settings in the workplace.

Practise! Actively begin to make the changes recommended in the 12 steps above. Get in front of a mirror and practice. Practise in front of others, as well. You’ll also want to video yourself periodically to see how you’ve changed and what still needs further work and tuning.

Chinedu Duru

Duru is presently the managing consultant of Hamilton Lloyd and Associates, a boutique human resources company based in Nigeria. Specialities: Executive Search, Recruitment, Out-placement, Training, Leadership Development, Out sourcing, HR Strategy and Systems