Research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation reveals that top jobs often elude women and professionals of color because they lack executive presence or underestimate it’s importance. When working with high-potential leaders to enhance their executive presence, we focus on a couple of key areas including their ability to thrive in uncertain work situations as well as connect with and inspire an audience.
Learning to adapt your leadership and thrive in unpredictable conditions is a critical aspect of your executive presence. The following steps will help you to navigate the workplace even when the goal posts seem to be in perpetual motion:
1. Engage with colleagues in different departments and different industries, to learn how they have tackled complex or challenging situations. Adopting an external perspective is helpful when you need to reframe your situation.
2. Look for opportunities to learn new skills and encounter different scenarios. Volunteer for a short-term developmental assignment. Take an improv class that requires you to think quickly on your feet or pursue challenging somewhat uncomfortable roles every two to three years to accelerate your learning and ability to adapt.
3. Learn to share a focused, concise, balanced point of view in a convincing manner. The key is to share your expertise or insights in a way that inspires your audience to act on your recommendations or to think about their business concern differently.
4. Identify someone at your organization, who expertly commands a room, someone who is listened to as well as often quoted. Look for opportunities to observe them in action: What do they say? How do they say it? How do they engage with their audience and how does the audience respond? Then incorporate some of the best practices to strengthen your communication in a way that is still comfortable and natural for you.
5. Ask a manager or peer for feedback on your communication skills. Be sure to probe to ensure their feedback is actionable. For example, “You have great communication skills,” is not helpful. Gain further clarification by asking for a specific example of how you have communicated effectively: “From your perspective, what was it about what I said or how I said it that was effective?” Set up a post meeting debrief to get an understanding of what you did effectively and where there is room for improvement. The key here is to be open to the feedback and proactive about what you are going to work on going forward.
Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Do you use a lot of fillers, “ums” and “ahs?” Is your tone tentative or decisive when you share a point of view? Are you able to influence people to act on your recommendations or enlist their support? Are you unflappable when challenged? If it was your meeting, how effectively did you hold the floor?
These steps will enable you to prepare yourself to adapt as well as glean enough information to refine your communication and influencing skills.
#Soundoff: What action are you going to take to hone your executive presence? Follow me on Twitter @mawuku, and share your comments below.
Michelle Awuku-Tatum (@mawuku) is a career advancement & transition coach and founder of myfactor Coaching & Consulting. Since 2007, Awuku-Tatum has coached hundreds of clients to secure new jobs, transition into entrepreneurial endeavors, and implement leadership strategies to enhance their effectiveness and overall performance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in process technology & management studies from London South Bank University, in England; and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.