How to Enhance Your Executive Presence

During my coaching engagements and while talking to clients, often people ask me how does one foolproof one’s career and what does it take to be successful.

Here I propose three key aspects to keep in mind and work on it regularly to ensure you never miss the bus. Read on. I hope you will like it.

How to Enhance Your Executive Presence

On a sweltering summer afternoon, I was out for a meeting with a prospect; let us call him, Ajay. The lady at the front office told me Ajay is out for a meeting, that he would be back soon and has asked me to wait.

I was happy to have the cold water offered to me and to settle in on the sofa in the air-conditioned waiting room. The walk from the car park to the office block was hot!

As I waited there, I saw many people go by, some guests, some employees, some more entered the office and as I observed, none of them “looked like” the CEO Ajay. I had not yet seen Ajay, nor his picture anywhere; not even on his LinkedIn profile. While in that waiting room, I was trying to search for what could be Ajay’s photograph in those many pictures and certificates on the shelves.

Just then as the door opened, I turned towards the gentleman walking in. “Ajay, the CEO?” I thought. “He looks like he is Ajay.” I said to myself. Two seconds with the secretary and then he walks straight towards me and says in a very polite yet strong voice, “Dipan? My name is Ajay. Sorry I had to keep you waiting. Come let us go my meeting room.”

For the next hour I pushed aside all thoughts except the agenda for the meeting.

After a fruitful meeting with Ajay, on my way back, I picked up my thoughts from where I left. Before he walked up to me, I almost knew he was the CEO. As he spoke his voice had that “CEOness”. Here was a leader who was unmissable.

What about Ajay was so different when compared to others present there? Why did I feel that he “looked like” a CEO should? What was the “CEOness” about Ajay? Something about his voice? His posture and body language? Or was it his overall executive presence? Are people born with “Leadershipness” or do they acquire it? Is it learnable? How does one go up the ladder of success? I pondered while my cabbie concentrated on the traffic.

Haven’t you come across people who just “are” their roles! They walk in the room and you just know it is him / her.

My thinking and some research led me to learn more about executive presence. There is a lot written about this concept; experts teach us, consultants sell the idea of and how to enhance your presence and there are many videos available on the internet. The endeavor here is to provide an uncomplicated guide to understand what it takes to succeed at work and in life.

It must be mentioned that I owe this learning to my seniors, peers, leaders I have come across who taught me how to behave and some others who demonstrated how not to.

There are three things that influence whether, when and how you will achieve success viz P, E and I. Let’s call it your “pIe”.

P = Performance. What you must do, you must do! The results you are accountable for, you must get them! “P” is about your goals, results, KRAs and KPIs, etc. Not achieving your goals makes one a liability to any organization. Performance at work and in life as measured in terms of achieving what you are supposed to, is a pre-requisite.

E = Exposure. What kind of exposure have you had during your working? What have you added to yourself? More importantly, what value have you added to the organization? Are you making a difference? It is about new projects, the size and complexity of projects, cross functional projects, worked at diverse levels in the hierarchy. But your pie is not complete without the “I”.

I = Image. Image is not about perception or about “my boss knows me well” or, “I have a good rapport with my boss” or, “this will make a good impression” Here, “I” is about how others perceive you. Do you come across to others as “living” your role or the next role you aspire for? Consider your appearance, voice, tone, choice of words, body language? Are your thoughts, feelings, and actions congruent? And, most important – relevant?

“I” is about integrity, propriety, and genuine intent. It is about being trustworthy – your character and competence. These are guidelines and it is important to calibrate these attributes within the culture of your organization; to ensure you are relevant to your organization. Be mindful of the fact that you cannot re-create your past company culture and processes in your current organization.

The P, I and E have an impact at an unconscious level and, it happens in an instant. You need to be consistent, do repeatedly, many times. You must first “become” what you want.

If you are at a middle / senior level, here are three points for you to get started:

1.    Prepare an elevator pitch about the work you do, some challenges and promises ahead. This will ensure you know where you are going, help you stay focused and be ready to communicate the right message succinctly.

2.    Introspect whether you need to fix / enhance your “P” and / or “E”. These form the foundation for any career growth. Working on “I” without a solid foundation has no value.

3.    Understand the culture in your organization, be open and adapt to the environment. Introspect or seek feedback from your supervisor or mentor and identify the “I” spots you need to work on. Make an action plan and consistently work on it. This takes time.

Get a coach if you need help. Working on your “I” requires that you get feedback, that you introspect and are willing to learn and change yourself.

Is your pIe big enough?

Do write to me if you want to know more about how you can enhance your Executive Presence.

Hope you liked reading this and find it useful. Do share your comments or feedback and let me know how you liked it.

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