The phrase “executive presence” is not new, but it’s gaining traction. I heard it referenced in seven meetings with executives from seven different companies last week, alone.
What does it mean? It’s a way to describe confidence. Not to be confused with arrogance, demonstrating executive presence means showing that we are comfortable in our own skin, that we can go anywhere, that we can handle anything we’re given, that we can ‘own it,’ and that we can be trusted.
From your posture to the words you use, the way you convey ideas and the way you incite action, there are so many nuances to executive presence. On a high level, we can think about The Four Ps. On a tactical level, we must begin by focusing on one area: Our Eyes.
Recently, someone came into my office with eyes darting all around – left, right, up and down. This person displayed a lack of confidence. And what’s worse, it looked shifty, unsure, and a bit jittery. When I saw this, I translated it into a lack of trust for this individual. I couldn’t help it – nor can you… it’s an instinct, a feeling.
Rather than coming off as capable, this person appeared hesitant, anxious, and apprehensive. This is not someone I wanted to hire. This is not someone with whom I wanted to do business, and it’s certainly not someone I wanted to promote.
Even if this isn’t your downfall, improving your eye communication will increase your executive presence. What does that mean?
Hold your gaze.
When you are looking at someone – around the boardroom table, in a small group, in a large audience – hold your eye contact. The ideal time is 5-7 seconds (more on that, here).
Try This: Practice holding your gaze in a restaurant, at a sporting event, or on the subway. Instead of scanning the room or the crowd, hold your eyes in one spot. Be intentional. Count to six. (Try not to be creepy or glare – remember, the goal is to be more confident and approachable.)
Nobody wants to appear shifty. Whether you use the phrase ‘executive presence’ or confidence, you can elevate your role as a parent, spouse, volunteer, non-profit leader or executive.
Start with your eyes.
The post Establishing Executive Presence appeared first on Decker Communications.
If there were Survivor for words, I’d vote off “literally.”
It’s inserted into sentences for no real reason.
I am literally the hungriest person in the world right now.
I am literally going to break this printer in a minute.
The coffee machine is literally the slowest thing on the planet.
Sound familiar? Maybe you even use it that way? You are not alone. Similar to “um” and “uh”, “literally” has become a common filler word – tossed into sentences unnecessarily.
Honestly… (as if you’ve been lying up until now)
You probably have a distracting filler word, and you just don’t know it. The word “truly” got me a couple years ago, and once focused on it, I was able to get rid of it in about a day.
Here are three tips for cutting out the ums, uhs and literallys:
It won’t take extra time – it will just take extra effort.
The payoff for this is tremendous: Heightened credibility. A better delivery. Best of all, a clearer message without the distractions – like the ones you notice in others.
We were lucky to take part in TED 2014 last week. Of all the ideas shared, the most conversation-spurring topic was privacy: Do we want it? Do we have it? Is it eroding? Are we okay with that? What is the threat?
The team at TED surprised everyone by introducing an unannounced speaker: Edward Snowden. Appearing from a remote location in Russia, Snowden engaged in a real-time conversation with TED’s Chris Anderson via video robot. It stunned the audience.
Following a recent video-appearance at SXSW, Snowden took full advantage of the TED 2014 stage, clearly articulating his POV on privacy, whistleblowing, secrecy and constitutional rights. And – unlike the video footage of Snowden we had seen when he landed on the Top 10 Worst Communicators of 2013 list – Snowden showed confidence and graciousness, smiling (and even laughing at times) through his remarks. His remote presence had strong eye communication, an earnest sincerity and persuasive, listener-focused point of view – all elements that made us want to like him.
(Keep in mind we are keeping politics and content aside in this blog – for we know if you are ardently biased against a communicator, you’ll never like/agree with what they say!)
Following Snowden’s appearance, the NSA elected to respond on the TED stage in a remote video interview with Chris Anderson, as well.
We, of course, approach it from a communication perspective.
While it would have, indeed, been a missed opportunity had the NSA not accepted the chance to address the leading minds, innovators and technology activists on the TED stage in response (and rebuttal), the interview was a marked contrast in effectiveness, doing little to fuel trust or change opinions.
NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett was amazingly counterproductive to the NSA cause. Setting the tone from his opening line, his behaviors are not consistent with what he said (saying “thank you” and “happy to be here,” without showing a smile or lightness). He also has 6 “um”s in that first sentence, followed by 80 more in the next 10 minutes. It’s painful to hear his responses – especially the first 20 seconds of his answers where he is halting, thinking – getting his thoughts together and detracting from the entire experience. But it wasn’t just the non-word abuse that lost us.
He almost seemed soulless with his monotone voice and lack of facial expressions. Stiff as a board, he didn’t show energy or humanity in his tele-presence. He didn’t appear motivated or interested – certainly not to answer the TED questions – and that absolutely could have (and should have!) come across through his behaviors. What’s worse, he had many telltale eye darts, urging the audience to wonder just what he was covering up.
Now, we understand regulations prohibited him from giving more detail on some aspects (just like many of our clients in industries like finance and health care have compliance and regulatory limitations). But had Ledgett looked directly into the camera, with a light presence and energy in his voice, we would have been more willing to take him at his word. And although his content might have been good for supporters of the NSA, he wasn’t going to convince anyone who was neutral, or change anyone’s mind. (Like this audience member’s tweet indicates).
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: People buy on emotion and justify with fact.
That means, it’s not just the words you say that matter – it matters how you say them. You own the experience you create. The fixes that Richard Ledgett could have done – should have done – are simple.
Trust is built through emotion, through positive associations. Consider your listeners. Always. Show your human side. Be compassionate, and remember that you don’t always have to be serious to be taken seriously.
Don’t fall into the NSA trap (no pun intended).
Images in this post are from www.TED.com.
What’s your point of view?
It’s not a “nice to have,” it’s a “need to have” – and let me tell you why:
It’s hard to argue with getting better results.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Recently, a self-proclaimed “Decker Super-Fan” (for reference – she’s taken Communicate to Influence 10 times!) was reflecting on each new team and each new company. Even after delivering 12 keynotes last year, she maintains, “This isn’t a main-stage skill. I finally learned in my board meetings and my management meetings that it’s not about agreeing with others or stroking egos, but the impact comes from delivering a strong point of view.”
Every time you open your mouth, you have an opportunity to persuade.
Change culture. Change your organization. Be actionable and move the ball forward.
Get better results. Have a point of view.
Every time you speak, you create an experience for your listeners – whether they are your colleagues, kids, PTA or soccer team. In the case of Oscar acceptance speeches, it is no different. What is said and how it’s said combine to create either a this-is-a-great-time-for-a-bathroom-break or a riveting, tear-jerking, gut-busting, inspiring moment.
Matthew McConaughey wisely did the latter. It wasn’t just closing the speech with the very line that he made famous “All right, all right, all right…” – which I hugely appreciated as Dazed and Confused is a favorite in my house. McConaughey gave probably the best all-around Oscar speech I’ve ever seen, and therefore worthy of three lessons of which we all need reminding:
1. Show it!
We want to see real, raw emotion…especially from actors. From McConaughey’s zillion-watt smile that lit up the room to him mimicking his father dancing in heaven – we saw it.
Your colleagues want to see the same thing. Don’t just show polish. Show passion. You’ll connect with them and create rapport, rather than allow them to tune out.
Whether it’s a three-act play or a campaign slogan, the Rule of Three is an excellent and effective tool in getting your audience to remember and respond. We’re wired for it – humans have been doing it for centuries…the Latin phrase, “omne trium perfectum” means everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete.
McConaughey cited three things he needs in life:
1. Someone to look up to
2. Someone to look forward to
3. Someone to chase
He created a moment where we waited with anticipation for him to address each of those things. Your audience also latches on to structure. They want to know where you are going to take them. Set up your points and knock them down. They’ll stay with you and be engaged, even motivated to take action. Are you structuring your messages in a way that people can remember and respond?
Here’s a great corporate Rule of Three for your next meeting: Situation, Complication, Resolution – think of it as a narrative to the initiative, product or idea you are proposing.
Stories have details. Really good, juicy, concrete details. That’s why they give Oscars to cinematographers, sound editors, and costume and set designers – because details matter. McConaughey added story to each of his three main points. And he did it so well that the vision of McConaughey Senior eating gumbo and a lemon meringue pie while dancing with a cold Miller Lite will become forever seared in the audience’s mind.
Chances are your last Quarterly Business Review was not seared in your boss’ mind – add some concrete details to your story and see what happens!
Bonus! (Ok, there are really four lessons, but I tried to follow the Rule of Three):
In the Hollywood world of “me,” all of the watch-worthy speeches made their wins about more. They created a message beyond appreciation for the Academy, their agent, immediate family and colleagues (a missed opportunity by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for their acceptance speech for Best Original Song – which was a cute couple’s speech and plug for their next gig, and totally forgettable).
In addition to McConaughey, his co-star Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o touched individual hearts by tapping in to our shared humanity – around the circumstances in which we were raised, where we are from, what we dream, and who we love. They did it in an authentic and connecting way to attract the listeners, rather than repel them as Michael Moore did in 2003.
We recently coached a couple of executives who accepted awards on behalf of their companies for contributions to a non-profit organization. The main shift in their messages came when they moved away from “me” and on to “them.” They took the opportunity to call the audience to be involved and act. That minor change completely shifts the experience and creates the opportunity for influence.
Every time you communicate, whether for the Oscars or the boardroom, create an experience.
You might just end up a winner.