Academic credentials and professional experience are admirable and certainly needed, but are these attributes alone sufficient to achieve your desired outcome for a promotion? A book launch or tour? An extraordinary deal or funding? A C-suite advancement with an appropriate increase in salary? A project that is a stretch with a new client company?
Whether you are seeking the next coveted job opening, pitching to potential angel investors, addressing the 300 managers at your company’s annual conference or auditioning for a position as conductor in a symphony, how you show up is vital to how well you will be received. Your ability to connect, engage and communicate with others while projecting a poised, confident self-image are key factors in your professional success.
As Sylvia Ann Hewlett says in her book Executive Presence, “It is executive presence—and no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be.”
If your presentation skills need honing, enroll in a Toastmasters group or a university extension class, or seek out a specialized speaking coach. When you work privately or in a small group with a speaking coach or trainer, the course is designed to enhance your strengths, diminish your weaknesses and move you forward rapidly.
In an appearance before business students at Columbia University, Warren Buffet said you can increase your professional value 50 percent simply by improving your speaking skills.
In Amy Cuddy’s book Presence, she states that “Poor communication tends to show up as poor performance.” It is therefore vital to your success that you master the art of public speaking. That way, your influence, effectiveness, presence and credibility shine forth.
Many executive women have mastered the “bold” factor. They have studied, invested long hours at work and taken on additional projects in spite of crushing deadlines to garner the attention of higher-ups. They are not shy about being assertive. However, they may be lacking in the manners, etiquette and poise needed to set them apart from more polished colleagues. People notice how you treat others and are always weighing whether you deserve their loyalty and support.
If you are in a corporate environment, agility in adapting your communication style can be crucial. During times of stress and uncertainty in the workplace, other departments, direct reports, peers and clients look to their leadership to communicate confidence and gravitas. Grace under fire is a much-desired trait in executives.
Moreover, showing up disheveled and disorganized, with your hair sticking out, does not elicit confidence in your ability to lead. Always be well-groomed and appropriately dressed for the occasion.
Convey your poise and power by erect shoulders and a confident stride – avoid hurrying or scurrying. Make warm eye contact with several people as you enter a meeting or take the stage, and consciously relax your facial muscles. These subtle adjustments to your body language communicate your authority and commanding presence.
About Your Columnist
Catherine Mowbray-Lorenz is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers executive presence. Catherine helps catapult professionals and entrepreneurs to success in the areas of communication, professional development and leadership.