A common theme that emerges with my coaching clients is how to develop more executive presence. The kind of presence someone creates as they enter a room, take their seat at the table and begin to communicate effectively with those around them.
Do you remember a time when you met someone in a leadership position and you just didn’t like them? They didn’t listen to you. They hogged the conversation. They were only interested in their point of view. They dictated the way to do things. They judged you. Imagine if this is what others felt about you!
The problem with a lack of executive presence is that you have reduced personal impact. Others will overlook your leadership qualities and you will go unnoticed when it comes to opportunities for development and promotion.
Whilst it is important not to judge a book by its cover, it is our human instinct to respond to first impressions. It is therefore critical, when developing your personal leadership, to think about what impression you are creating as you enhance your own executive presence.
Developing your executive presence will enable you to engage more effectively with others, increase your level of attraction and achieve greater personal and business results.
The key to elevating your executive presence is to know how to use your body language effectively. Alternatively, you may sabotage your effectiveness by not knowing how to use it correctly. Research suggests that our body language can be responsible for up to 80% of how we come across to others, positively or negatively. The benefits of recognising the subtle messages we and others send as well as making others feel at ease are critical in getting ahead in all areas of your life.
What often holds people back in creating the executive presence they desire is that either they shrink back and come across as unconfident or they are pushy, aggressive and overbearing.
Using your body language effectively is the secret to developing your executive presence. Good leaders adopt the natural body language of a senior director to maximise their interactions with others. Here is how they do it:
1. POSTURE. Using an open, relaxed, upright posture irrespective of the environment.
2. SPATIAL AWARENESS. Knowing how to take charge of the space around them. Taking their seat at the boardroom table and using it effectively. For example, papers spread out in front of them, sitting sideways along the table edge, taking up more space. Knowing where to stand when making a presentation to connect best with their audience. Knowing where to stand when meeting someone for the first time or at an event that allows others to join the conversation. Knowing where to sit in a 1:1 meeting. All of these will have an impact on how others see and experience you.
3. EYE CONTACT. Being aware of the importance of eye contact as a way to engage others. Knowing when to utilise eye contact to generate more thinking in another. Knowing how to hold a soft gaze rather than a hard stare. Eye contact is one way to make or break effective communication.
4. SMILE. Knowing when to use a smile to engage and welcome others. Knowing when to smile less to have greater effect in communicating your message.
5. VOCAL VARIETY. Adapting your tone of voice and pace at which you speak is a powerful tool and used by great leaders. Women are sometimes encouraged to lower their tone and speak more slowly to create greater executive presence. Unconsciously a lower, deeper tone is heard as a more authoritative individual and commands greater respect. Research reveals that by lowering their tone, strengthening their posture, centering their emotions and grounding their body, women demonstrate strong leadership qualities without forgoing their female attributes contributing with great effectiveness.
6. HAND GESTURES. Providing clear, definite hand gestures to amplify your message whether when presenting or an interaction with another. Open hand gestures to welcome others, palm down to direct or make a point, open fingers as if cradling a ball to draw people in to your idea.
7. MOVEMENT. Less is more when wanting to create greater executive presence. Imagine seeing someone rush into a meeting, coat falling off their arm, papers flying and almost tripping as they enter the room! (I have seen this happening). Walking calmly and with purpose creates a strong impression. Stillness when communicating is a great leadership quality. When presenting, some movement is a powerful way to anchor your message. Pacing across the stage can be a distraction.
These 7 simple steps in effectively using your body language will maximise your executive presence. If you are looking to build on your executive presence and create a stronger leadership brand, then contact me for a free initial coaching conversation to discuss how I can help you take your leadership to the next level.