7 Ways To Developing Executive Presence

Sep 10, 2022

Youniq Minds - Executive Presence - Mentoring and Career Coaching

Executive Presence is the ability to project confidence and gravitas, in front of all stakeholders, even under times of stress/pressure. A person with great executive presence can present points effectively, read the audience’s mind, adapt his/her style if required and most importantly can influence people towards a mutually beneficial outcome. Usually, people with good executive presence are noticed, heard, trusted, and considered impactful/effective. It is important to have executive presence in both personal and professional aspects of life.

If you are working on your Executive Presence or want to work on it then this article is for you.

Let us dive into a few key elements of your behavior or personality. While there are many behaviors and techniques to enhance your executive presence. I have distilled my personal experience and research on this subject into ‘7 Keys’ to Executive Presence.

Let us dive straight into discovering these valuable keys.

1st Key – Your Body Language can enhance your Executive Presence.  

We communicate a lot nonverbally through our body posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. If we become conscious about it, it can potentially become a tool for our success. It can help build positive relationships and can increase your influence. Start paying attention to your own non-verbal communication. Here are a few powerful techniques to make your body language help you create an Executive Presence:

  • Posture – To look confident and in control; keep your posture tall, pull your shoulders back and keep a straight chin. Observe yourself during the meeting and notice your current style and consciously bring change in a way you stand or sit. Notice if you take up space while sitting or sit on the edge of the chair. Notice if you sit or stand differently based on the situation/ people you are interacting with? To practice right posture, you must use the same style in every place so that it becomes your natural style over a period.
  • Eye contact – You may be an introvert, you may be shy, or your cultural background does not recommend looking straight into eyes, even then it is important to maintain eye contact while interacting with the people. It is said that you should make eye contact long enough to notice the color of the eye. 
  • Smile – It has a powerful effect on the human brain. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. So, it evokes a positive emotional state, creates safe space for people to interact and makes you approachable.
  • Use your hands while talking – Hand gestures are linked to speech and thus give power to thinking as well as to your tone. You might have noticed that senior executives use hand gestures when they are quite certain about a point, they are making. But it should not be too much that it starts to distract others.

2nd Key – Tone and Tenor of your Voice creates ‘Magic’.

  • Tone of your voice – Your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. On one hand high pitches are judged as less empathetic, low pitch is judged as less confidence. Have you ever recorded your voice on high, medium, and low pitch to see what impression it creates on you? If not, then try this experiment to identify and practice a tone that creates an impression that you want.
  • Communicate higher tolerance & Reduce nervous gestures– In a conversation we tend to change our tone or posture based on what we are experiencing at the moment. This happens naturally and sometimes without even us noticing it.  Do you know that this change creates a shift in our executive presence and suddenly people around us notice the shift? People with high executive presence have mastered the art of recognizing these natural tendencies and managing it. You can increase your executive presence by identifying your nervous behaviors like tapping your legs, or fidgeting with a pen etc. Becoming aware of your own pattern will help you in catching yourself in the moment and correcting it by taking a deep breath and correcting your posture to send a message that you are calm and confident.
  • A great deal of coaching and training focuses on embodying confidence through clear and concise communication. However, it is important to notice that volume of our voice is also essential. There is one simple thing you can do that will help you which is often ignored is slowing down the rate of speech while talking. Slowing down the rate of speech does not mean lowering energy or expressiveness. It means speaking at a pace that allows you to breathe and think while speaking. By doing this we help our listeners as this enhances listeners ability to understand and retain the information.

3rd Key – Declutter your mind and how not to get distracted.

  • Identify what you are feeling: Emotions play an important role in how we think and behave. The emotions that we feel compel us to take actions and influence our decisions. Even in situations where we believe our decisions are based on logic, emotions play a key role. Our ability to understand and manage emotions is key for enhancing executive presence. You can do that by paying attention to how you experience the emotion, how your bodies react to emotion and how you behave in response to the emotion?  This awareness will help you in addressing them and making sure that they do not come in the way. Here the aim is to regulate them and not to repress them.
  • Modulate your emotions: Over the years, I have learnt to ask this question to myself without saying it out loud. What about this thing is making me angry or sad or annoyed? It does take my attention away from the meeting for a few moments. However, this question helps in pausing in the moment and regaining control. If you choose to experiment with this, you will notice that your focus and responses will become better because you have acknowledged the emotion. Increasing your comfort around intense emotions allows you to fully feel them without reacting in extreme, unhelpful ways.
  • Notice your mind chatter – Negative voices in our head spiral out of control and sometimes generate unnecessary reaction. To enhance executive presence, it is important to break the rhythm of these negative voices. There are a variety of ways to do it, and my two preferred ways are asking these two questions. What is a purpose of this conversation? And What am I trying to achieve here? These questions help me distancing myself from the negative voices or negative emotions and thereafter responding in reasonable ways. Apart from distancing these two questions have helped me in distracting my mind. This technique helps me in getting to a better emotional place.

She is a founder of Youniq-Minds. “Youniq-Minds” is established with a desire to nurture the uniqueness of every individual, group and enterprise. Follow us on Instagram by clicking on this link https://www.instagram.com/youniq.minds/

What do you do when you are in stress — at your desk or in a meeting? Perhaps you have received a bad email and now you have to go into an important meeting. How can you regain control instead of walking into the meeting with this stress?  Sometimes concerns or stress related to home accompany us to the office and it gets layered with office stress. If it is not managed consciously then it can become a downward spiral and kill your presence as well as confidence. So, to handle stress in the moment, the first step is to identify the stress signals. Remember emotions first show in our body, like stiffness, increased pulse rate etc., and then in our brain. A five-minute pause for quick deep breathing exercise can help you relax.It is a simple strategy for alleviating in-the-moment tension. It has an amazing calming effect on stress. When your mind becomes crowded with negative thoughts, let deep breathing occupy your mind. It will bring you out of that downward spiral and get you back on even keel. 

When we feel anxious, we breath starts to get shorter, shallower, and more irregular. Taking three big breaths while being conscious of your belly expanding and contracting ignites our parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a relaxation response. This is a scientifically proven fact. It will have greater results if one can do it while lowering the shoulders, rotating the neck, or gently rolling the shoulders.

5th Key – Clear your mind!  

Often, we jump from one conversation to another or one meeting to another without realizing that we may be carrying emotions or experience from one conversation to another. This generates fatigue and depletes the executive presence. So, get into a practice of getting yourself ready for each conversation. One needs time for preparation and thus if you can then try and keep a gap of 15-to-30 minutes from one meeting to another. But if this is not possible, then do keep a 15-to-30-minutes free time before critical meetings or meetings with key stakeholders. Preparation can include revisiting the objective or agenda of the meeting, thinking about what might get discussed there, what questions might come to you and thus what could be possible responses. This practice will help you to be calm, collected, and the person who is in control.  But if that is not possible, practice taking a pause to connect with your senses or breath so that anxiety disappears. Both these techniques are amazingly powerful and will get you into the groove before every meeting.

6th Key – Be Authentic

Think of a person who you think is authentic and has executive presence, you will notice he/she is not perfect but creates a perfect connection with us. Have you wondered what do they have that makes them connect with people so easily? Is it knowledge, is it intelligence, is it competence or is it all these plus warmth, open mindedness, and at times vulnerable? To bring authentic self out, we need to interact with people in a way that presents us as a human and not an agenda driven person. At times it means showing our vulnerabilities and at times it means recognizing other limitations or insecurities. According to me, we can increase the authenticity by being consistent and non-judgmental. People experience consistency in actions/ communication. Authentic people mean what they say, and they say the same thing everywhere. When you start faking it, it’s caught and it creates distrust. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen. On the contrary, authentic people are open minded, like to hear new ideas and encourage participation. 

7th Key – Project Confidence

Confidence is the foundation of executive presence. After all, if you do not believe in yourself, why should anyone else? But, like motivation, confidence can also go through peaks and turfs as per situations. There is a proven technique that helps us to boost confidence and can have dramatic results. That is visualization. Neuroscientists report that visualizing oneself doing something in the future serves as a “rehearsal” for that activity, reduces stress and gives a chance to imagine how to overcome certain obstacles that could arise.

This is a common topic in coaching conversations and we have noticed that the process to strengthen executive presence is accelerated when we work with a coach.

Written by Jyotsna Dobriyal

Jyotsna K Dobriyal is a Leadership Coach and People Services Advisor. As a coach, she works with professionals committed to their development and growth. She helps them discover their authentic strategies to develop confident personal brands and lead at higher levels. Her knowledge, sensitivity, and passion for helping professionals find their voice, explore their confidence and activate their higher potential gives you a strategic partner on your career-life path.

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