One of the buzzwords that drives me absolutely crazy is “executive presence.” In business school, I was told that working on my executive presence was one of the best things I could do to increase the respect that I received from others, and give me a head start on climbing that corporate ladder into the big, fancy, swivel chair at the head of the boardroom table.
What was frustrating, though, was that “executive presence” and “being female” seemed to be at odds with each other. Speaking with authority is great… until you sound like a directive B. A firm handshake is ok… until you’re crushing knuckles with a dude. I don’t know how many times I was told to wear a bold color, like a red blazer… but seriously… when have you ever seen a guy walk into work with a red anything on? Why do I have to wear red?
In time, I figured out that “executive presence” was really just window dressing for a traditional corporate POV of what good looks like. It wasn’t what I needed to be influential and impactful in my work. At wolf & heron, we’re more interested in helping you develop your presence, and that’s something only you can find.
Here are our tips and tricks to get you started:
1. Practice influence
Ok… it’s no surprise that influence tops our list. But we’re not talking about “management” or popularity. Begin thinking about influence as a practice. Come back to it day in and day out to build the muscle and keep getting better. Lots of skills fit under the umbrella of influence - relationship-building, storytelling, reciprocity, increasing steps of engagement - we’ll leave those for another day.
2. Prepare for First Impressions
How often have you gotten on the phone with a new client or walked into a networking situation planning to just “wing it?” I know… winging it is WAY easier, because, well, you don’t have to prepare. And although you may find that winging can get you somewhere okay (because you’re an impressive lady), putting in that 10% effort to craft your first impression goes a long way. As Harvard Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, mentions in her book Presence, the impact we have on others is usually created within the first 7-10 seconds of them knowing us. Introduce yourself to people with intention. A good first line can go a long way.
3. Dress to Impress
All the science and research out there points in the same direction. You are what you wear… and not only because what you wear subtly signals to others how to respond and react to you, it also has an impact on how you think of yourself. In fact, what you wear actually affects your cognition. So put yourself together right. This isn’t about suit and tie or fitting into a box. Pay attention to how your outfit makes you (and others) feel, and dress for the version of you that you want to be.
4. Smile and Engage
The key to being influential is getting people to like and trust you. In order to do that, you have to authentically build relationships with the people around you. Don’t smile to smile, and don’t chat for the sake of small talk. If you want to create followers or get people on your side, have some curiosity about them and build a connection.
5. Know Your Values
Hells to the yes. When you know your values, you know when your work is in or out of alignment with them, and you can very effectively communicate where your boundaries are. You’ll know what to say yes or no to without agonizing over it. You’ll understand the best way to follow-up once you get to know people. By knowing your values, you can be consistent, which people will see and respond to in kind.
- Stephanie Judd, Boss Lady | Wolf