As the majority of executives spend at least 80% of their working day listening and/or speaking Executive Presence reflects an individual’s ability to communicate – to influence, engage and inspire others to act.
Effective communication requires both a common understanding of a course of action and a trusting relationship. What is said, when it is said and how it is said form a commitment and the basis of trust. Platform skills – eye contact, voice projection, pace and posture may enhance the presentation, but the substance of the message is fundamental.
This is the second of three short articles covering how you present yourself, how you present your ideas and what others see and experience in terms of your Executive Presence. This article covers your listeners’ expectations and provides a short checklist of aspects to consider before expressing your ideas:
Reconnoitre – Conversations are an exchange of thoughts and opinions. Take the time to give the other person your full attention. Show genuine interest in the other person’s position. Ask questions, listen carefully, check that you have understood and probe the answer for any concern or vested interest. This will help you gauge the receptiveness to your ideas, position your suggestions and influence their opinion.
Credibility – As we all wear different ‘hats’ assist your listener by clarifying which one you are wearing in this conversation. What qualifies your opinion on this subject? Your role? Your experience? It is sufficient to preface a statement with a short phrase, e.g. ‘as your manager’, ‘as the Health and Safety representative, in my experience’ etc. This not only projects confidence, it also helps the listener to understand why you hold a particular view.
Sincerity – You need your listener to trust you. Only promise what you can deliver. Be clear about roles and responsibilities. Manage expectations and establish boundaries in terms of what type of information can be shared. Your listener will quickly pick up on any pretence, deceit, or hypocrisy.
Sensitivity – For a message to resonate with others you have to appreciate and acknowledge the listeners’ situation and respect their concerns. This does not mean messages have to be diluted, sugar coated, or bad news disguised. A resonant message is realistic, positive, and respectful.
Clarity/conciseness – ‘If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter’ Sometimes the message gets lost in the narrative. During the preparation distil your message down to a few bullet points which answer: Why? What? Who? When?
Confidence: Whilst projecting a tone of confidence is crucial for cultivating executive presence this has to be counterbalanced by humility. In times of uncertainty, no one has all the answers, listeners are looking for honesty and a realistic appraisal of a situation.
Consistency – The best course of action may be a ‘U’ turn if you are going in the wrong direction. Providing you give an explanation or in some cases admit that you were wrong and apologise – your listener will understand. They are looking for consistency in your attitudes and behaviour in order to judge your authenticity and integrity.
Composure: A listener expects you to react in a reasonable manner regardless of the situation. To be calm in a crisis. This requires you to pay attention not only to your message but also to your tone. You cannot and should not hide or disguise your emotions. Help your listener to understand your position by calibrating your feelings and articulating them. Eliminate doubt in your listener’s mind by telling them that you are happy, delighted, irritated or annoyed or angry that something has happened.
In conclusion, well crafted messages and compassionate listening go some way towards building goodwill, understanding and a match between your intentions and how others experience your Executive Presence. However, we all slip up from time to time. The acid test is feedback. Ask the people you work with for feedback and seek guidance on how to adapt your style from your coach, mentor.
Schedule an online meeting with Sally Ann to find out more about Executive Presence