Frustrated, you cancel your dinner reservations. You thought for sure you’d be out celebrating your promotion tonight. You have the skillsets, the experience, even the longevity with the company. But once again, you were passed over. “Why does this keep happening?” you wonder. Sure, the person they hired looked like an executive her first day in the office. You actually thought she was in the wrong meeting when she walked into the conference room. But appearance shouldn’t matter--especially when you’ve proven your talent and your loyalty over the years.
So, is there anything you can do to prove that your exec material? The answer is, yes! There are several adjustments you can make that will help others perceive you in a different light that will make it easier for them to imagine you in a higher position. Plus, a few adjustments will help you start seeing yourself in a leadership role, rather than just hoping you’ll be considered for the next promotion. However, it’s important to remember that these tactics are not designed to help you become something you’re not, or just look the part. It’s a new skill called executive presence that helps you become a better version of yourself. Like any skill, learning executive presence takes time and practice. It’s not about expensive clothes and disingenuous behavior. But if you’re ready to learn a new skill and, in turn, begin to shift your superiors’ perception of you, then start practicing these skills today.
1. Change Your Mindset
Executive presence is defined as how one acts, speaks, and looks. According to a study for the Center of Talent Innovation, it accounts for 26% of what it takes to receive a promotion. But rather than simply changing your appearance to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” executive presence starts with your mind. How do you view yourself? If you are riddled with insecurity and self-doubt, others will notice. If you’re not confident you can successfully do the job, others will be unsure too. You can strengthen your leadership presence by changing the conversations that take place in your mind. Begin telling yourself true things that boost your confidence: I am capable. I am smart. I deserve a seat at the table. I have good ideas to offer. I will succeed. Before long, your behaviors will follow suit.
2. Be Self-Aware
Good leaders are self-aware. They are aware of both their assets and their vulnerabilities. And they are hyper-aware of how they are perceived. This is not an unhealthy obsession with what others think of them. It’s not about trying to be liked or trying to make others fear you. But it gives you perspective on how your team views you. Do you lean into your talents and use your skillset well? Do you delegate well, giving others a chance to step up and fill in your gaps? Do you validate others or take all of the credit yourself? Begin asking for feedback from others so that you can have a balanced understanding of how others perceive you and how well you utilize your skills and your team.
3. Master Body Language
Do you show that you are relaxed, comfortable, and confident by the way you handle yourself? Your body language says more about your engagement and your self-confidence than the words you speak. Start mastering your body language in these three areas to increase your executive presence:
Eye Contact: When you make eye contact, you communicate a sense of self-assurance and show that you are actively listening to others. Too little eye contact communicates dishonesty and disengagement.
Facial Expressions: Along with eye contact, you communicate your thoughts through your facial expressions. Men and women with executive presence maintain a calm demeanor while expressing their emotions by laughing, smiling, or frowning. Awareness of what your face is doing while someone is talking is a learned skill set. You do not want to appear bored, have an angry or judgmental facial expression, or even show zero emotion while in a conversation or a meeting. People will find it easier to connect with you when you prove that you’re paying attention to their words by simply nodding and smiling when it’s appropriate.
Posture: If you have a habit of crossing your arms in front of you during a conversation or a meeting, you are communicating disinterest and promoting distance between you and others. An ability to connect with others is a critical part of executive presence. Work on correcting any tendencies to slouch. Walk through the office with your shoulders back and your head up so that you look confident and approachable. During meetings, sit up straight--it will force you to stay engaged and show your team that you’re paying attention and ready to participate.
To learn more about how to improve your leadership skills and increase your potential for promotions, contact Front Line Leadership today. Our unique 10-module program provides current, new, and aspiring managers and supervisors with a toolkit designed to increase employee engagement and team effectiveness.