Executive coaching comes with its own vocabulary, one that can be a little daunting if you’re not sure what you’re getting into. In the interest of better communication (one of my favorite things), I’m starting a series called Executive Coaching 101, where I’ll be defining the common terms you hear in the executive coaching space in a way that everyone can understand.
An executive coaching term that has blown up recently is “executive presence.” It’s one the most frequently cited terms that hits my inbox from people looking to hire an executive coach. Usually, the people using this term don’t really understand what it means, just that it’s something they want help with.
The truth is that executive presence is often a term that people will throw out when they don’t know what else to say.
What is Executive Presence?
Executive presence is presenting your skills, talents and knowledge in a way that resonates with the environment you’re in.
What Does Executive Presence Mean?
A common thing I hear from clients is something along the lines of, “I’ve been at my company for a few years and I’m performing well. I’m trying to take on more responsibility and move up the ladder, but I’ve been told I need to work on my executive presence. I’m not sure what that means. Can you help?”
That’s why executive presence seems so nebulous. It can mean different things depending on what your role is, where you work and who you work with.
For example, you could be a great technical lead with a ton of knowledge about operations, but if your communication skills aren’t developed, you may not be considered to take on a leadership role that requires less technical time and more people time.
Even if you have all of the skills, hard and soft, to make a great leader in your organization, those talents may not be recognized if you’re not presenting them in a way that your organization values. You have to package all of these aspects of yourself in way that’s sellable to decision makers in your company.
How Can An Executive Coach Help With Executive Presence?
The first and most difficult step to developing executive presence is figuring out what your company is looking for in an executive. You and your executive coach can analyze your situation and determine where your skills align with your organization’s goals and where you need improvement. Once you’ve developed an idea of what your organization is looking for, it’s much easier to create a concrete plan for cultivating an executive presence.
The actual process of developing an executive presence is going to be different for everyone. It could be different for the exact same person depending on his or her goals and his or her environment.
Your process could be something as simple as updating your wardrobe and practicing your public speaking, or it could be as complex as doing a deep dive into your leadership style and changing the way you react to different challenges and stresses.
For example, I’ve been known over the years for having poise under pressure, an attribute often referenced when speaking of executive presence. But, as I led more and more complex work, I had to strengthen my ability in another aspect of executive presence. I had to learn clarity and how to better deliver a crisp, clear, and compelling message to audiences that had little information on the topic.
This is why executive presence coaching is so valuable. It breaks you out of your own bubble and provides a trustworthy, nonjudgmental perspective on how you present yourself, along with strategies for improving the areas that need improvement. It also gives you access to tools like Hogan Assessments and 360 interviews that are incredibly illuminating about not only yourself, but the environment you’re in.
It’s important to remember that executive presence is something anyone can improve. It just takes a little time, observation and effort. If you feel (or if you’ve been told) your executive presence needs a boost, reach out and I’ll be happy to help.