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What’s Sabotaging Your Executive Presence?

Do you want to advance in your career?  If your goal is to rise up through the ranks quickly, you’ve got to have executive presence.  The impressions you leave can directly impact your ability to move up in the organization, to be trusted with greater and more important responsibilities, and to be an influencer. You don’t have to be an executive to be concerned about your executive presence.  Your executive presence, or lack thereof, can affect you from the start to the end of your career.

Executive presence is a combination of demonstrable outcomes and soft skills that come together to comprise your complete package.  Executive presence is the leadership or executive level capacity others see in you.  It is your package of business savvy, relationship savvy, and professional style.  

When someone tells you, “you need to work on your executive presence,” what does that mean? And, where do you start?  Because executive presence is more than a single dimension, you likely already possess some of the qualities. The first thing you should do is get a better understanding of where you are on the four dimensions of executive presence (business intelligence, business impact, relationships, and reputation), identifying what you’re missing and, therefore, where you need to give more attention. 

Are You Making These Common Mistakes?

In my observations, work, and discussions with professionals at various stages of their careers, I’ve come across 15 of the most common mistakes professionals make across the four dimensions of executive presence. Like many other professionals, you often don’t even realize the impact these mistakes have on the perceptions of your executive presence or your career. 

Review the list below.  Which of these mistakes may be impacting your career?

  • You Lack Business Intelligence 
  1. You don’t keep up to date with your knowledge of the business and industry as much as you should. You sometimes appear to be off the mark in decision making and setting priorities.
  2. You haven’t been invited to the meetings where leaders discuss the quarterly financials. So, you don’t proactively inquire to understand the drivers of revenue, profitability, and operations.
  3. You can’t remember the company’s mission, vision, or strategic priorities.
  • Your Business Impact Is Insignificant
  1. You’re not sure how your work impacts your team or organization’s success.
  2. You take projects as they come, not considering their importance to your team’s or the company’s business priorities.  
  3. You have a hard time demonstrating your impact on key business initiatives and priorities.
  4. You’re not inspired by the work you do and/or your work environment, which makes it tough to give your best.
  • You’re Missing Important Relationships
  1. You’re more of an introvert, which makes you uncomfortable reaching out to form constructive working relationships. 
  2. You haven’t proactively built a network of allies whom you can engage to get things done. 
  3. You’re afraid to speak up with your ideas and opinions, limiting your influence among others in the organization.
  • You’re Not Managing Your Reputation
  1. You’re modest and don’t want to seem boastful. So, others aren’t aware of your personal contributions to the growth of the business and on the success of key business initiatives and priorities.
  2. Your approach in interacting with others sometimes comes across negatively or differently than you intend. So, you’re not necessarily seen as a team player.
  3. You don’t come across as confident and knowledgeable when presenting or speaking.
  4. You dress more ‘casual’ than ‘business’.
  5. You inconsistently demonstrate the leadership values and characteristics respected by your organization.  Leaders don’t connect you with future leadership potential (runway). 

Check out my ‘Troubleshoot Your Executive Presence‘ guide to find out more about your executive presence and take the full assessment at the end to find out where your executive presence could use some work.  

If you’re attending the National Association of Women MBA’s conference, make sure you attend my session on Friday morning, October 20, 2017.

Why Executive Presence Matter

Patricia was considering the candidates from the final round of interviews for her open senior manager position. She asked Ron, her Human Resources partner, to review the applicants with her as she made her final decision. Both candidates were well qualified with the skills and experience needed for the role, and had a track record of execution. But, the success of this person was largely going to depend on their ability to gain respect, trust, and influence. As they discussed Shannon’s fit for the job, Patricia expressed her concerns. “Shannon certainly has the credentials for this role, but I don’t think she has the executive presence necessary to drive our strategic priorities.” Ron tended to agree with her. “Yes, I know. Something about her makes me feel she’s just not strong enough for this senior level position.” Though Patricia and Ron agreed on this gut feeling, they couldn’t exactly put their finger on why they felt that way.

 

“Executive presence” is a commonly used, yet nebulous term. Executive presence often is thought of as just your ‘presence’, or the way you carry yourself. But it’s so much more. People often use it without being able to articulate exactly what it really means or how to fix it. It’s so challenging to describe executive presence because it’s not a single dimension.

 

What is Executive Presence?

Executive presence is a combination of demonstrable outcomes and soft skills that come together to comprise your complete package. Executive presence is the leadership or executive level capacity others see in you. It is your package of business savvy, relationship savvy, and professional style. Even if you are an emerging leader, others can sense your executive presence capability.

Executive Presence is comprised of four key dimensions:

  • Business Intelligence – Your application of business & industry knowledge in your work.
  • Business Impact – Your track record of impact on company growth and key priorities.
  • RelationshipsYour ability to build strategic relationships & influence others.
  • Reputation – Your personal brand around your outcomes, leadership style, and professionalism.

 

Why Executive Presence Matters

When the combination of these four dimensions are strong, your executive presence will be identified as strong. You also will feel confident, and be seen as both confident and competent. Leaders are expected to be well-rounded in their business acumen, meaningful contributions to business outcomes, and leadership skill. Your executive presence shows your ability to fit the character of these expectations at successive levels in your career.

 

Executive presence is critical in the success of your career. The impressions you leave can directly impact your ability to move up in the organization, or to be trusted with important responsibilities. It impacts your ability to earn Invited Reach, where leaders reach out on your behalf as advocates and sponsors to make opportunities available to you.

 

Who can you think of that has strong executive presence. What are the characteristics that give you that impression? How do you believe executive presence may have impacted their success?

 

Like your technical skills, executive presence is a skill that takes work, practice and commitment. Your executive presence will be evaluated. Make sure it’s on your list of things to work on.

 

Check out the upcoming articles in this series for insights on what’s missing in your executive presence, and for tips on making significant improvements.

Building an executive presence is important to accelerate your career, a strong executive presence also extends your invited reach. Download ‘Reach’, chapter 7 of my book to find out more.