Project Management

3 Tips For Cultivating Your Executive Presence

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By Dave Wakeman

How do we present ourselves to our teams? That’s something I didn’t think about deeply until recently, when I started hanging out with Harrison Monarth, author of Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO

I had considered it, of course, but not as something I could focus on or change. And I never connected it to the effectiveness of our leadership. 

But as I thought about executive presence more and more, I realized that everything we do is marketing. So why wouldn’t that bleed into the way we manage our teams? That’s why I wanted to take a moment to highlight how you can improve your presence and leadership. 

Manage How People Perceive You

This became a big issue for me in January when I was at a conference in Texas. At least a dozen people came up to me, waving their phones in my face, practically yelling, “I listen to your podcast and I love it.”

First, I didn’t realize so many people heard my podcast, even though I knew the numbers said thousands of people a month were listening. 

Second, I never thought about the way I presented myself to others because I didn’t realize people were paying attention to me. 

I think many of us fall into that category. We take actions, live our lives and never realize we are being paid attention to. As leaders, we have to manage the way we are perceived. 

This means that our tone of voice, our dress, the way we delegate and lead meetings—basically everything we do—impacts how our teams see us, judge us and react to us. Everything counts. 

For all of you, this means you’d likely benefit from taking a few moments to jot down how you want to be perceived. Then ask yourself whether you are living up to those expectations. If you are, great! If you aren’t, what actions will you take to change that? 

Get Into the Motivation Game 

I like to think everyone has a certain level of self-motivation. I believe this is true, but I’d be lying if I said this means everyone is self-motivated in the way that I want them to be. As a project leader, you are likely confronting this same situation. 

I recently read an interesting story about Pat Riley, the legendary coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. He’s famous for throwing a bag of championship rings on the table when he was recruiting LeBron James to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. 

Riley clearly knows a thing or two about motivation, but the story I read took this to another level. I learned that he would give a new 20-minute motivational speech to his team each day. From what I can gather, he never repeated them. 

This alone is impressive, but what is relevant to our discussion here is that Riley used these stories to motivate his team and to instill the right mindset and values. 

As we consider how we want to be reflected to our teams, it’s important to think about how we want them to act and behave. That doesn’t happen by chance. It is our job to motivate and inspire our teams to do their jobs in a way that reflects our shared values and goals. 

I challenge you to spend a few moments thinking about how you can inspire and lead your team. Consider the following: What stories should you share, which examples should you use and what values do you want to instill? 

Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations 

I don’t know anyone who has rushed headfirst into every difficult conversation. Everyone has struggled to begin a conversation at some point. Yet one of the keys to successful leadership is the ability to deliver difficult conversations when you don’t want to. Often, this ties into the idea of accountability. 

If you bought into my idea about motivation, you probably recognize the importance of accountability. In many instances, accountability, motivation and difficult conversations go hand-in-hand. 

If you aren’t holding people accountable with real deadlines, consequences and feedback, you aren’t really being a leader and your presence is suffering. 

To maximize your presence, you have to be willing to have difficult conversations. You can make them easier by understanding exactly what you need to convey and sticking to your planned talking points to ensure you hit your key objectives. Couple this with meaningful accountability in the form of clearly spelled-out expectations, deadlines and consequences in case of non-performance. By doing so, you can achieve real accountability and ease some of the pressure of tough conversations. 

This idea of presence is something I’m still working through, but I’m curious about what you think. Let me know in the comments. 


Posted by David Wakeman on: August 07, 2019 09:53 AM | Permalink

Comments (17)

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Manage the way how people perceive you is very valid point as we are leaving digital traits in almost everything we do. Thanks for this post, very good points!

Great, valuable points, Dave. Thanks!

Dave, thanks for this interesting blog. The active presence is one of the main treats of leaders and in public sector we see the value of this being exercised. It is hard to exercised but it brings a great deal of advantages to the teams, and to leaders themselves. Many to explore on this topic, from the level of awareness and understanding, the advantages and disadvantages , the differences between private and public sector. I remain interested in this great topic.

Humbling insights thank you for sharing Dave! Learning from seasoned leaders with similar traits as you/your mentioned would be considered privileges for many of us, its infectious. Though I once had been through tough times with few others I knew when the leader succumbed to work bullies for his own security!

Hello Dave: I found this blog spot on! Be an honorable and authentic leader who takes accountability and responsibility for their actions and words. Create an environment of workplace respect. This does not mean a workplace without conflict or differences of opinion - this means being a strong leader who at times delivers tough messages, but always does so wrapped in respect. Love this!

Dave: Thought-provoking and eye-opening insight. Thank you.

I will say just one word for this post " Excellent".

Amazing read, thanks for sharing

Among the 3 tips, I found "Be willing to have difficult conversations" is not an easy one to me because people's ability of receiving feedback are different.

Food for thought, excellent tips!

On the topic of having difficult conversations, I highly recommend a book "Crucial Accountability". Since I have finished this book, I now keep it on my desk as a reference. It contains in great detail, "tools for resolving violated expectations, broken commitments and bad behavior" at many levels of importance, all the way from family issues to workplace challenges. Highly recommend! and Thank you for bringing this topic up to our awareness - can never get enough reminders!

Interesting points! Thank you.

Dear David
Interesting is your perspective on the topic: "3 Tips For Cultivating Your Executive Presence"
Thanks for sharing

3 Good tips to keep in mind:
"- Manage How People Perceive You
- Get Into the Motivation Game
- Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations

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