Every now and then, someone throws down a challenge for me to bottom-line a super complex topic. Recently, it was executive presence. Perhaps these hacks will support your quest for executive presence too.
Manage the Oh Cool….Oh Crap Continuum We each have a quick gut reaction to knowing that someone will be joining us. If we place these on a continuum, on one end we have Oh Cool, like “oh cool, Debbie’s going to be there” and on the other is Oh, Crap, as in “oh crap, Debbie’s going to be there”. Others have this reaction to you, just as you have to them. For well-crafted executive presence (and leadership performance) we need to consistently land on the “oh cool” side of this continuum. This idea links to the brain’s threat detection systems. If in any way, others feel threatened, suspicious, a sense of dread or less than neutral positive about us, it’s hard to establish the influence and collaborative relationships that executive presence implies. What do you think people think when they know you’re going to be there?
Speak in Straight Arrows If you imagine thoughts as arrows being sent from you to your audience, executive presence is demonstrated with straight, mostly short, communication arrows. Tagging a disclaimer on our thought, like “I don’t know if this is right, but..” or “…if that makes sense”, adds a fishing hook like end to our arrow, and reverses the potential impact of our point. Arrows that look like a windy road ahead warning sign force the listener to wait (and wait) for the information they need. An arrow I see a lot in coaching is the arrow that starts straight and then suddenly bursts into 4+ heads. This often happens with the extemporaneous addition of all that is happening in the head of the speaker. And finally, there is there dotted line arrow created by an overflow of filler words. What kind of arrows do you speak with? What type of arrows do you see in those around you?
Think Like a Boomerang Those with executive presence come to the table with a player (vs. victim) mindset. They understand that it is the whole of them that is thrown out there, like a boomerang, that returns back their desired result. They use their dress and body language, tone, words, reactions, planning, timing, emotions, and relationships to assure that the way they launch a thought or an initiative out into public will return back what they want. If you get surprised by the gap between what/how you thought something would happen and how it did, refine the front end throw of your boomerang, because something in how you launched your boomerang staged the exact reaction that came back to you. Do you think about what you want to have come back to you when you move into action?
Get Your Stress Mindset in Place The newest science of stress tells us that how we perceive it, influences how we are impacted by it. If we view stress as harmful for us, it will be. And it will most often trigger the fight/flight/freeze response which courses deleterious ratios of DHEA, cortisol and other neurochemistry into our system while limiting access to our brain’s executive functions. If we interpret the signals of stress as a reminder that something we care about and important to us is at happening or at stake, we have can activate a challenge response, which has been shown to have a different ratio of DHEA/cortisol chemistry than a fight/flight response such that it impacts our physiology and performance in positive ways. Executive presence, especially under pressure, can be enhanced we understand how stress works, make friends with stress, and learn to harness its resulting energy into being excited rather than afraid, being motivated for the learning versus avoiding, and as an opportunity to use our call on our strengths to navigate the situation we face. What story do you tell yourself about stress? How do you use the energy stress creates?
(Keller, 2012: SixSeconds, 2019: McGonigal 2015)