Executive Presence whether in person or ‘virtual’ is designed to influence, engage, and inspire others to act* and is judged and assessed on the basis of others experience your leadership style. Akin to a brand, your Executive Presence is in the eyes and hands of the beholder. Following the guiding principles below may help but ultimately you need to consult others and gather feedback if you really want to know how you are perceived.
- Appearance – To instil confidence in others you need to look and act like an able executive who is able to adapt. This means being composed, maintaining perspective, and drawing the line between informal and casual. You will be expected to handle situations with tact. Remember everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different. Some of your team may have juggled work and family commitments, others may not have a desk or have struggled to find a space where they can work. So, consider your interactions carefully and prepare what you are going to say and how to say it.
- Switching off your camera is not an option – In a recent webinar judges Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Sir Richard Field commented on the value and importance of observing demeanour to assess the credibility of a witness in a remote hearing. This is holds true for your online interactions. Our decision to trust what someone is saying – even if we know them well, is based on their level of attentiveness and body language. Hence one of golden rules of Executive Presence is ‘to be present’ and to demonstrate interest and concern by actively listening.
- Focus – One of the biggest derailers of virtual Executive Presence is multitasking. Many sensitive high achievers over commit and multitask on calls to cope with an overwhelming workload. Although the aim is to please everyone, by juggling conflicting demands you give an impression of disinterest or disengagement. As a result, interactions are compromised and, in some cases, relationships are damaged and repairing them virtually can be tricky. We are undergoing a massive change management experiment – this is not business as usual, so you have to prioritise, be realistic and manage expectations.
- Be purposeful – Established meeting etiquette is still relevant. Every meeting should have a stated purpose otherwise it is a social. Meeting attendees need to understand what is expected of them in terms of contribution.
- Attention Management – No one can sit through back to back meetings. Decide which meetings you need to attend. Take regular breaks and step away from your desk. When your attention wanders own the distraction. Regardless of how ‘professional’ you wish to appear if you can smell burning do not ignore it. Whoever is speaking will realise you are not giving them your full attention so by admitting it you are initiating an open and honest conversation and possibly opening a creative discussion.
- Adapt – If you hold meetings with global partners share the pain of time zone differences.
In short, virtual Executive Presence is about finding out what resonates with others -a combination of leveraging what worked in our familiar world of work and exploring and experimenting with new behaviours and ways of working together. Through Executive Presence Coaching you can enhance the qualities of Executive Presence you need to succeed in a ‘virtual’ world.
*Bates Communications – Bates ExPI™ (Bates Executive Presence Index™)