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The answer to "How can I improve my executive presence"

‘You need to further develop your executive presence.’

This phrase, often heard during performance reviews or feedback sessions, can be a source of frustration and confusion.

Many of my clients come to me, disheartened, feeling that despite their hard work and readiness for promotion, this elusive quality of 'executive presence' seems to be holding them back. The question often asked is, "How can I improve my executive presence?"

To create a simple roadmap, I have broken down executive presence into four dimensions - confidence, communication, character, composure.

east indian woman executive in armani suit
Dimension of Executive Presence

1. How can I improve my executive presence - Confidence

  • Expertise: True confidence stems from mastery of your subject. Most women who work with me find it easier to speak with authority if they know their subject. "Faking it," seems too far fetched for most. Take the time to learn the subject. The more you know, the more confidently you will navigate complex situations. And when you find yourself in a tight spot, pull your mind back to the thought, "I am the expert here," which will boost your confidence.

  • Proactive Engagement: Engage with stakeholders before key meetings. This ‘shadow negotiation’ helps you understand their perspectives and primes them for your ideas, enhancing your confidence when presenting.

2. How can I improve my executive presence - Communication

  • Assertive, Not Aggressive: Women often find themselves in a double bind where assertiveness may be perceived as aggression. By adding phrases like, 'How is this landing with you?' or 'What are your thoughts on this?' you invite the other person to share their thoughts. This approach 'softens' your communication while still allowing you to maintain your position." Some of my clients will add a small smile at the end. Use the technique that is most naturally you.

  • Structured Speaking Technique: Consider using a numbered list for your arguments to enhance clarity. For instance, begin by stating your main point: 'This is what I believe we should do next.' Follow this with three supporting arguments or examples. Conclude by summarizing your stance: 'And this is why I believe we should proceed in this manner.' This method not only helps you to be more succinct but also ensures that you articulate your ideas more clearly.

  • Non-Verbal Cues: Body language speaks volumes. Maintain eye contact, and use gestures that convey authority and openness. Mirroring your audience’s body language can also create a subtle, positive connection.

3. How can I improve my executive presence - Character

  • Integrity: Your character is your bedrock. Maintain a strong ethical stance. Do what’s right for your team and organization, not just what’s easy or beneficial for you.

  • Cultivating Inclusivity: As women, we are often socialized to excel in playing in groups, nurturing relationships, and fostering inclusive environments. These natural inclinations can be potent tools in the leadership toolkit, especially in an era where companies are striving to bolster their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

4. How can I improve my executive presence - Composure

  • Emotional Intelligence: Navigating disappointments and setbacks with grace is a sign of a mature leader. Understand and manage your emotions, and respond to challenges with composure.

  • If you find yourself grappling with counterproductive emotions, one effective technique is breathwork.

  • Inhale for 5 Seconds: Take a deep, slow breath, counting to five. This inhalation is not just about filling your lungs but about mindfully acknowledging your current state of mind.

  • Hold for 5 Seconds: Hold your breath for another count of five. This pause is crucial. It's a moment of stillness that allows you to interrupt the flow of stressful thoughts and emotions.

  • Exhale for 6 Seconds: Slowly release your breath over a count of six. This longer exhale is key. It signals to your body to relax and activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body's 'rest and digest' response.

  • Professional Appearance: Your appearance is part of your personal brand. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident and authoritative. It's not about adhering to a strict dress code, like a black suit, but finding a style that resonates with your professional persona. It's not a power suit, it's a confidence suit.

In conclusion, remember, executive presence is about how you carry yourself, how you communicate, how you interact with others, and how you handle challenges. It involves a combination of confidence, clarity in communication, strong character, and composed behavior, all of which can be developed through conscious effort and self-reflection.

Contrary to what many may believe, it's not an elusive or inherently difficult trait to develop. With the right mindset, guidance, and practice, anyone can cultivate the qualities that constitute a strong executive presence.

In my coaching program, I offer in-depth guidance tailored to enhance your executive presence. My aim is to equip you with practical action steps that foster a strong sense of presence and confidence. The program is meticulously crafted to streamline your journey, minimizing trial and error while alleviating frustration.

Steer your career to the next level. Book a Discovery Call with me. This complimentary 30-minute session is an opportunity for us to explore how I can assist in accelerating your career path.

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