A few years ago, I met a brilliant young lady. I had just finished a group coaching session when she walked up to me and asked me to help her. She had had her eye on a promotion in the company she worked for, and the fourth year had just gone by without her winning it. She explained to me that her assessment showed that she was bringing in a lot of returns. After consulting with her on our next meeting, I was able to identify what the challenge was. She appeared to be lost even in her own skin. She slouched when she stood and always belittled herself. Despite the fact that she was one of the best in her firm, no one could see that when they looked at her. She simply lacked presence. “Presence is not some innate quality that you either have or do not. It is a set of learned behaviors that enable you to command attention. And when you are fully present, it inspires others.” (Forbes, 2011).
The position she had her eye on was an executive position. She simply needed to act, behave and become an executive even before she could be handed the position. The concept of executive presence is not by default but by design. It is the potential leaders and existing leaders who decide to take time to build and develop themselves in the area of executive presence. Usually, it goes with the basic concept which I have termed Define, Refine and Shine.
To define yourself is to basically look through the mirror of your past, the present of who you are and the future of who you want to be. By defining yourself, you are intentionally teaching yourself what to be and you will act accordingly. To command a certain kind of presence, you need to have people focus on you. And the focus is not necessarily on what you wear or what you do not wear. It is simply the aura you bring when you enter the room. Have you ever met anyone you were so intrigued by, and you thought to yourself, “I do not know what it is about this person but they are simply great!” To define, you must break down who you are; go through the process of becoming self-aware. You can identify and leverage all your strengths while showing up your weaknesses to your advantage. During the definition stage, you also assess your appearance, your behaviour and communication skills which are closely related to your grooming. All these attributes are accessed through the windows of our past, present and future. When it comes to executive presence, you look at what you are seeking to achieve and where you are looking to go to define yourself.
On the third occasion on which I had met this lady, I noticed something different about her. She was better put together. She had been paying attention and was gradually refining herself. She did not change who she was. Her favourite colour still remained black along with a lot of other things. She simply wore black differently, in a way that was more admirable.
Refining is the process of getting to a place where the need for training, personal grooming, non-verbal communication and its impact and public speaking becomes a necessity. Executive presence is not limited to the way we dress but extends to our grooming.
There are 3 ways in which one can develop an executive presence; Packaging, Positioning and Propositioning. The Executive Presence must carry all the various facets of the package i.e.Appearance (how you look), Gravitas(how you act) and Communications(how you speak).
From research, we understand that Gravitas is the winning factor. This is the element that draws people to you and allows them to trust in your abilities. It also involves being assertive, actively listening and handling difficult situations with poise. Gravitas entails your being able to convey a message with clarity and brevity.
According to the results of the CIO study, communication is the second most important aspect of presence, with 28% of the votes. Executives with presence have an assertive and authoritative voice. They speak without doubt in their voice, allowing others to see nothing but power of strong conviction.
Lastly, your appearance or outlook always speaks volumes about you. I suggest you always dress the way you want to be addressed. The way you dress must convey success, confidence and respect.
After building oneself to be the entire package, you need to strategically position yourself to be well directed and well accepted before you make your proposition.
COMPONENTS OF EXECUTIVE PRESENCE
External demeanor: Appearance is a part of Executive Presence. The way you look gives people the conviction to trust you. Appearance represents just a small part of it, but people surveyed said major mistakes in appearance can be detrimental. More than three-quarters said unkempt attire detracts from both men and women’s executive presence, and among women specifically, 73% said too-tight or provocative clothing undercuts it.
In addition to outward behaviours, your mindset also helps you cultivate presence. A large part of how you come across to others is driven by your personal belief in your abilities. In this day where we are required to wear masks, I have noticed how many people are thoughtless about the kind of mask they even choose to wear. It is best to pick out a plain and clean mask because any other thing can be a distraction to who you are talking to and what you are wearing. I have seen people show up to meetings with stained and dirty masks, and it is immediately evident that they are not conscious about hygiene and that they do not care about structure.
Body language: If you had no voice and yet you had to speak, would your body be able to rightly project your thoughts or the right message? Your action must always follow through with your vision. If you are short and wish to stand tall, you should never slouch. Always view your actions as a signature to your words. If you do not sign the check, anything on it becomes void. Action always speaks louder than words.
Intentionality: You have to be strategic and intentional about the energies you generate and focus in realizing your vision. Being intentional requires you to be very deliberate about your decisions and actions with expectation of attaining a particular result.
Interactivity: Suzanne Bates, a leader in communicative leadership explained this quality as that which promotes an interpersonal, relaxed dialogue and the exchange of timely information to coordinate action.
Integrity: Every individual needs to have personal standards and core values carved out for themselves. This way, you can look back and assess how true you are staying to yourself in terms of keeping your word and living up to your personal expectations. It is only by being an example that you can be a successful leader and exude executive presence.
Clearly from the above research, we realize that we need to Demonstrate, Act and Deliver. In all these areas, it is important that we make use of all our quotients; our emotional quotients, intellectual quotients, body quotients. We must remember that our intellectual quotients are a very small part. We therefore have to take time to assess our emotional quotients, body quotients, moral quotients and other quotients. When you understand and define your packaging, you should start to work on them through executive coaching courses. These interactions of coaching and training will help you to see and understand what could be customized to your type, format and standards.
Over time, you will then start to refine yourself through practising etiquette, conversation and communication, the dos and don’ts of networking, just to mention a few. These processes require that you tie your emotions to them so you can source some feedback. Feedback is your path to shining.
What does it mean to shine? Stars are known, not seen. All the idols, celebrities and other dignitaries known as stars are not just seen but they are known. To have executive presence is to be seen and known for the right reasons. To achieve executive presence is to be able to achieve a response from someone who you engage without having to engage them verbally. The process takes patience, direction and guidance.
There are levels of presence that are inherent in people. Even in those peculiar cases, there is a need to design. The key is to first define; understanding who you are from your past, present and future packaging. Refine; to work on your areas by tying all your quotients, expressing and projecting them. To shine is to start receiving feedback and engagement. These are signs indicating that you are on the right track to finding the lost leadership language. The process is a search.
You have to be conscious in the process to find the needle in the haystack just as we grow flowers from mud. The process is an unending wheel of fine tuning.
To end, I am happy to say that the young lady was appointed into an enviable position 10 months after we completed her course. Sometimes, all it takes is guidance to find your leadership.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.