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VOL. 41 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 10, 2017

Increasing your executive presence

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I recently had the honor of speaking on the topic of executive presence – not just once, but twice.

I participated in panels discussing the importance of executive presence to your career and another on how to increase your executive presence.

So, the first question that comes to mind is probably, “What is executive presence, anyway?”

Business Insider says that it includes these seven traits: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity and conciseness.

As is clear, many of these qualities are superficial. It’s unfortunate, but it makes sense. First impressions are made in about seven seconds. And a hiring manager makes their decision about four minutes into the job interview. That doesn’t leave much time to make a good first impression.

Executive presence is even more important when you’re new to a field or when you’re different in some way.

At my first job, I redesigned parts on cars for General Motors. I was 19 and 20 years old. Soon after starting, the plant manager called my boss and said, “Who is this little girl, and what is she doing with MY cars?”

It quickly became clear to me that in order to get my job done, I needed to do my best to fit in.

As time went on, I worked to refine my own executive presence. I dressed more formally. I worked to speak more loudly and confidently. I paid attention to my posture. I made a point to be on time and to keep the commitments I made.

My devotion to this idea helped. Despite being young, I was promoted to director at 27 and vice president five years later.

Don’t get me wrong. The types of biases described are not necessarily fair. Many are not terribly related to our ability to do a job or our intelligence. But they are real. Because of that, it’s important to be aware of them and of how they influence your career.

So, what can you do if you want to increase your executive presence? One of the best things is to observe those around you.

For example:

  • What do your colleagues at work wear?
  • How do they communicate during meetings?

Then, consider the details, such as how you react under pressure and whether or not you follow through on your commitments.

Your colleagues will notice these things when they decide how they feel about you. Work to be genuine. Even if you’re professional, if your presence is off-putting, it won’t help you in the long run.

The feelings others have toward you will have a large impact on your career success. Often, our success in business isn’t just about how smart we are. It’s about how good we are with people, and how well we work together with people is influenced by our own executive presence.

If you’re struggling to achieve career goals, this could be a moment to take a step back and look for opportunities to grow your executive presence.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.