Having a compelling executive presence requires being able to be fully present in a confident, compassionate and compelling way. This week we’re looking at what gets in the way of that, and what you can do about it, to take your career forward.
Presence: Confident about what you have to say. Quietly commanding attention. People leaning in to listen. Words flowing easily, clear and on point. Making an impact.
It’s easy to feel like presence is something that some people have and others don’t. To believe that you weren’t born with it. It’s not you. It’s not available to you.
But that’s not true. The truth is that a solid, confident executive presence is available to you.
Let’s look at what gets in the way, and what you can do to build it.
Past Experiences & Unresolved Feelings
When you’ve had a challenging experience in your career, whether that’s being laid off, or working with a boss that didn’t support you, or being in a role or company that isn’t a fit, that can leave an imprint on you. Those lingering feelings take you away from being present, and therefore having presence. I see this, especially, with clients who are in transition. Something caused them to be in transition, and whatever that was continues to haunt them. One client had been working in an especially toxic environment. Politics had gotten out of hand, and he was treated really badly. At the point we started working together, he had been looking for a new job for a couple of months. But he had a major problem. Every time an interviewer asked him about why he left his last job, all of those feelings would come flooding back. There he was trying to answer the question, but all of these thoughts and feelings were swirling around in his mind. He would answer the question with his practiced response, but he wasn’t present at all. Frankly, he was trying not to cry. Needless to say, he wasn’t getting any offers.
The problem was that he hadn’t yet moved through the bad feelings that he had from that prior job. So in our work together, we unpacked that experience. He got clear about what had happened – what parts were on him, and what parts weren’t. He was able to find compassion for himself and for the situation. He took care of himself. Once he was able to do that, those feelings no longer overwhelmed him in his interviews. He was able to show up fully present, and give a genuine response that he felt good about.
Whatever situation you’re in, whether it’s job interviews, or leading your team, or giving someone feedback, when you’re experiencing an internal wrestling match with your feelings, you aren’t present – and that has an impact on how you come across. So the first step in building you executive presence is to clear out the feelings that pull you out of the moment.
Focusing on What Others are Thinking
Another thing that keeps us from being present are the habitual thought patterns that all of us can fall prey to from time to time. One version is when we’re worrying about what others are thinking of us. Do they like me? Am I saying the right things? Do I look okay?
All of that chatter running through our heads can distract us from being present. It moves us out of connection with ourselves and with the people we’re worried about. We start to relate to our thoughts about, rather than relating to the other people. When we’re relating to them, attuned to them, we see them, rather than the version we’re creating in our heads. We may have hypotheses about what they’re thinking, but we’re not living in it as if it’s the truth. We’re curious and open.
Moving away from these kinds of distractions requires building awareness, so that you notice when you’re having these thoughts. It also requires specific strategies for changing those thought patterns.
Living in the Future
The other thought patterns that pull us out of the present are the ones that take us to the future. We stop listening because we’re thinking about what we’ll say next. Or we predict how the conversation will go. Or we get caught up in all the ways things could go wrong.
All of these thoughts get in the way of allowing the discussion or process to unfold. It’s that sense of emergence that creates an opportunity for creativity and innovation. Building the skill of sitting with uncertainty and allowing is another core component to building your executive presence. When you can do that, people will be excited to work with you – because you see possibilities.
When I work with my clients, we build awareness of these habitual thought patterns. We look for the emotions that need to be cleared. We identify common triggers that tend to pull them out of the present. What does it feel like in their bodies when they’re fully present and grounded in their power, or when they’re not? That way they have clues that can help them notice when they’re starting to drift away. We then work on tactics to lean into their executive presence so that they can show up with that confidence, clarity, and gravitas that will have people experience them as competent leaders.
Whether you’re looking for a new job and you’re interviewing, or you’re wanting to show up as the best version of yourself in the job that you’re in, or you’re going for a promotion, having that kind of presence is priceless.
If you’d like to learn more, let’s talk (ADD LINK). We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes. We’ll look at what’s happening in your career right now, and where you want to go. If I can help you get from here to there, we’ll talk about what that could look like. If I’m not the right resource, I’ll point you to someone who is, but either way, my goal is for you to get some real clarity about how to take your career to the next level. I look forward to talking with you soon!