Have you ever sat waiting for a meeting to start and when the CEO walks in nobody notices? Have you stood at a social event wondering who the host is? Have you ever had a client meeting when you wonder who’s in charge? For many people the answer is bound to be yes, yes and yes! Unfortunately too many executives and small business owners allow themselves to be either invisible or instantly forgettable. They lack any sense of presence and therefore people don’t look at them as natural leaders, professionals or people of some value and credibility. That’s not good and it needs to be addressed.
Executive presence is easy to see and yet hard to define. When you have it, people will want to listen to you, follow you, introduce you to others and do business with you. Executive presence is not just something for those working in the corporate world. As a small business owner it applies just as much – sometimes even more. Having a sense of presence is very much part of your personal brand and therefore represents the very essence of your business. But executive presence doesn’t come with the job, it has to be developed, practiced and perhaps most of all, it needs to be demonstrated.
We all judge a book by its cover. First impressions are critical! The way we present ourselves speaks volumes about us as professionals. The fact is you need to dress appropriately and be authentic. What you wear should make you feel confident and fulfilled. Polished personal style isn’t just about your clothing; it’s about how you feel in those clothes, and how you appear to others. Here you need to resist the temptation to be the same as everyone else, to dress down rather than up, often wearing cheap shirts, no tie, trousers that haven’t seen an iron in months and shoes that have probably never seen a tin of polish! There’s an old phrase – you can always judge a man by his shoes and I think that still has some value today.
Fortunately, women always seem to make much more of an effort with their appearance and consequently they leave many men in the shade. But they also face many more demands and always have to manage that conflicting requirement of wanting to look feminine yet also professional. Many hit the right note all the time and gain our respect and admiration accordingly. For men in particular however, when it comes to what we wear here in Australia there is a tendency to bring our relaxed dress codes at home into the work place on the assumption that its somehow says something about your sense of independence and non-conformity to dress very casually – ‘I don’t care because I don’t need to’ attitude. Quite frankly that is self-defeating arrogance and no one in business is going to be particularly impressed by your laid-back style. Gentlemen, we need to lift our game.
OK, so we can’t all be 6 foot tall and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Elle Macpherson. They do have some natural advantage after all. But physical presence is important, very important. Here your body language will of course speak volumes but your physical presence is more than just your body language. It’s your confidence, spirit, and energy. It’s your general physical fitness and posture. It’s the way you walk and the way you hold yourself. People notice these things and it says a lot about your professionalism. Walk The Walk – Talk The Talk. Knowing how to use your voice effectively is one of the secrets to standing out. Learn to speak with clarity, brevity and impact. Put some energy and enthusiasm into your voice. Understand how to have an effective conversation with people and whole audiences. Learn how to improve your presentation skills so that when you do speak you demonstrate your authenticity, your experience and your credibility. What unique thoughts do you have that you can share with others? You are an expert in your field. You may be the most knowledgeable person in your industry but if you cannot communicate that knowledge, skill or insight to lots of people, you won’t get the recognition you deserve. You will need a different approach to be able to spread your ideas.
Listening is a core leadership skill. Those who listen stand out and are remembered. Listening includes being accessible, encouraging people to express themselves, listening with mindfulness, not speaking too much, and taking a genuine interest in others.
It sounds obvious, but good manners are essential to having executive presence. People with good manners really stand out and good etiquette is easy if you just remember a few things:
• treat others as you wish to be treated
• put their comfort ahead of your own
• be gracious and charming to everyone you meet. People may not comment on your manners, but they will certainly notice them.
Your work space is a reflection of you and how you work. A messy office does not look good. Clear it out, find a home for everything and keep electronic files of most documents. Make your office space an organised and attractive environment for you and others to be. This is not only important to your image, it will also help you feel better.
Lift Your Game!
Having that sense of presence when you walk in a room, meet your clients, attend a social event or just conduct your daily business is important. It is highly tangible, you can see it, touch it, feel it, and when someone has it, well everyone notices. So as part of your campaign to stand out and not simply fit in, work on your executive presence. Introduce the change slowly, be aware of how you look, how you sound and what you say. If you can develop that sense of self-awareness then you’re a long way towards demonstrating that all-important sense of leadership and presence.