A lot of women I coach who aren’t yet in the c-suite struggle with executive presence. They want to be seen as a competent, polished executive, yet they don’t know how to get there. Below are tips that I’ve gathered from the many coaching sessions I’ve had on this topic.
Before we get to those, though, I want to be sure we’re on the same page about what executive presence is. It’s actually probably different than you think it is. A lot of times, when I ask what it is, women will say that it is dominating the room or looking good in a suit. In reality, executive presence is actually the SENSE that others have about you being ready to bear responsibility for the organization and its people. So, you really have to influence the SENSE (or feeling) people have of us. With that in mind, here are the tips.
1. Exude confidence
Women must demonstrate confidence to those around them. Here, confidence is twofold – keeping a positive mindset and preparing the right material for the right audience. A positive mindset is a big struggle for women who ruminate on feelings that they don’t belong in the room or they aren’t as talented as those around them. This is why I coach through strengths, because I want women to know exactly why they’re pulling their seat up to the table. If you can’t articulate what sets you apart from the other leaders in the room, you likely won’t exude the confidence you need to display.
2. Display grace under fire (and grace to grow)
It is perhaps the most unfair of all these tips, yet it’s true that women, more so than men, must display grace under fire. We face more scrutiny, microaggressions and attacks and we are expected not to let any of it ruffle our feathers. Nothing eats away at credibility more than the display of stress behaviors. We must maintain composure through challenging situations or critical conversations. The women I coach all acknowledged that they haven’t always been grace under fire. It is hard to display this all the time. They have learned to give themselves grace to grow.
3. Be forceful and assertive
This was a surprising one that surfaced for the women in my coaching groups. This means that you are confident and direct when trying to get what you want or saying what you want to say. One woman I coach said she got feedback that she “does not navigate the grey areas well”. She laughed at this feedback the first time she heard it as it was ironic, since she works in the communication field and prides herself on helping clients speak into the black, white, and grey areas of life, yet she, herself, struggled with this. Now, when she catches herself feeling unsure about something, she pauses and assesses whether she needs more information before she asserts herself.
4. Read a room
How many times have these women stepped into a room and never paused to take note of the non-verbal cues? Many – but not anymore. Through our discussions, they reminded each other that it’s important to be aware of the audience and watch their non-verbal cues. By doing this, they can see whether the audience is receiving their message and can adjust their tone, style or even presentation to keep their attention.
5. Maintain a healthy appearance
While we let out a big groan about the fact that our appearance matters, one woman pointed out that appearance seems so trivial yet it can ruin your credibility in an instant. Another woman was outraged that physical attractiveness or a healthy appearance carried so much weight to which another woman pointed out that she feels more confident when she feels healthy and can fit into her smaller-sized clothes. When this final woman shared, everyone in the room agreed that when they are taking care of their bodies, they feel better and display more confidence to those around them.
As always, I allowed my coaching clients to pick one thing – just one to work on after our meeting. So, what one thing will you try in order to develop your executive presence?
Work with me
You’re not the only woman longing to rise to the c-suite and needing to work on executive presence. I work with women all the time in the same boat as you and I have a seat in my mastermind group just for you. Click here and schedule a time to talk about pulling up the seat at the table.