Executive presence is important for anyone who is seeking to move to a leadership position. Why? because people need to see you as a potential leader; as someone who has the potential to take on more responsibility and grow professionally.
What you may not know is that you have control over the way you are perceived. You don’t need to leave it to chance. Once you decide how you want others to think of you, you can create that professional image.
Here’s how to start:
- Write out at least 10 descriptors of how you want to be perceived.
2. Look for a female role model within your company who has achieved leadership success. How does she communicate, behave, manage and lead others, motivate others. What does her body language say about her? Does she come across as confident? How does she demonstrate that confidence? Write down your observations.
3. Ask trusted colleagues at work to give you honest feedback about how they currently see you. Then share your intentions for how you want to be perceived and ask permission to check in with them to see if they see any changes.
4. Make sure you are dressing the part. Take extra care to look professional and polished.
5. Pay special attention to your verbal communication so that you are not sabotaging your efforts by using minimizing language.
Keep the list of 10 descriptors posted where they are accessible and visible. Look over the list before you go into important meetings or even before you start your day as a reminder.
Over time you can change your professional image and support your advancement efforts.
My mom is in her nineties and she is constantly telling her friends to focus on what they can do; not to dwell on what they used to be able to do when they were younger. “That will get you depressed. Having a positive attitude is everything.”
It’s not easy getting old in our society. (That could be the subject of a whole other blog and is not the focus of this one.) What I really want to stress here today is the great lesson I have learned from my mom about having a positive attitude.
Mindset is everything when it comes to living a purposeful and fulfilling life. Mindset is everything when it comes to building a successful career. You can always look at the half empty glass and bemoan your lack of progress. You can always see a glass ceiling as a formidable barrier to your success. But none of those perceptions help you to move forward. Not only will they keep you stuck and frustrated, but can contribute to your unhappiness.
So it’s Mother’s Day and as I write this blog to honor my own mother and the best lesson she taught me, I want to use this opportunity as well to remind you that your mindset about your life and career shape your life and career. What you believe is what will happen!
Happy Mother’s Day!
I recently addressed a large audience of women at the annual NAPW conference in New York City. I asked them to raise their hands if they considered themselves to be ambitious. Most everyone raised their hands with much enthusiasm. I then asked them to keep their hands up if they were ready to take action for their ambition. All the hands stayed up.
That was a great response but in reality how many of us truly believe that our ambition will be rewarded and recognized? How many of us believe we are worthy of this recognition and most importantly, how many of us will take positive action to realize our goals? The truth is that the negative preconceived perceptions we have about our ability to succeed will sabotage our success. And these deeply held beliefs we have about not being good enough will continue to work against our success no matter how ambitious we say we are.
These belief systems are formed early in our development. Brain science teaches us that if we believe we are unworthy, we will continuously look for situations to validate that this is so. What this means is that on a conscious level, we look for opportunities to advance our careers, but on an unconscious level we seek to validate our unworthiness. This unconscious pursuit will undermine our promotion efforts unless we are aware of our limiting beliefs in this area.
According to Dr. Jacqui Grey, author of Executive Advantage,
“We look for evidence to validate our existing beliefs, and the filters ensure that is all we see. These form patterns which our brains recognize, sometimes erroneously because our brains are recognition machines: they will take the best pattern match rather than look for contrary evidence.”
This is tricky, isn’t it? How do we counter this unconscious sabotaging behavior?
Dr. Grey states,
“Executives can substantially improve their promotion prospects just by looking for evidence that confirms their capabilities rather than their flaws.”
Keeping a success journal can help you to disregard your preconceived perceptions and build new neural pathways to support more positive beliefs.
To help you figure this out, ask yourself these questions:
Am I ambitious?
Do my actions support my ambition?
If not, what is really getting in the way?
Perhaps your self-doubt is the answer. Perhaps you truly don’t believe you are worthy of success. Understanding what possible limiting beliefs you may have and how they are keeping you from reaching your goals is critical to taking positive action to support your ambition.
I have spoken with thousands of women since I started my coaching practice in 2006; women of all ages, with very different backgrounds and experiences; all interested in being successful in business. Most recently, I asked myself why some of them succeed and why others never do. I came to a conclusion based on my years of coaching that may surprise you.
Experience and educational background don’t seem to contribute to career success as much as mindset and attitude. The secret sauce to success is owning your ambition and taking action.
When I look back at my own career, I see how my ambition and drive contributed to my success. I wasn’t looking for excuses why I couldn’t succeed, but focused on what I needed to do to get where I wanted to go…and I did it. No excuses! I started with no business experience. I was divorced with two young children and needed a job. I knew I didn’t know much about business but I was willing to learn and I surrounded myself with people who could teach me what I needed to know to be successful. I took action and embraced my ambition wholeheartedly.
Many women pay lip service to their ambition. They say they want to get ahead but they back off. They opt out. They look for excuses why they can’t make it instead of finding ways to make it. These are the women, who no matter how talented and well-educated, don’t make it to leadership roles.
So the secret sauce to success is to embrace your ambition and take action. Ask yourself how serious you are about your professional growth. If you truly are serious and intentional, then take action. Put a plan in place to reach your goals. Invest in your professional growth.
What I’ve learned also is that women who do this are my ideal clients. If you are ambitious and are willing to take action and want a clear plan to reach your career goals, give me a call.
Dove recently ran an interesting campaign to determine how women see themselves. Their goal was to see if women see themselves less accurately than strangers do. The results were dramatic and the campaign offers proof in the form of forensic sketches.
They invited seven women of different backgrounds in for a day and asked them to describe themselves to an FBI trained forensic artist who then sketched them based on their descriptions of themselves. Then they spent some time with strangers. The strangers then described these women to the same artist and guess what? The strangers viewed these women very differently than the women viewed themselves. The strangers saw them as much more attractive. Surprised?
It is clear that we don’t see ourselves the same way others do. We look at ourselves through a negative filter. We focus on the flaws while others see our beauty. This poor self-image affects everything we do in our lives and our careers. It creates self-doubt and a lack of confidence to put ourselves forward and stand in our authenticity and power.
I have an exercise for you. What are your unique strengths? Take some time to think and write them down. Look at the adjectives and descriptors and reflect for a moment. Now take a piece of paper and pencil and draw yourself as a SUPER HERO. Use your imagination and have fun with it.
How did your sketch turn out? What are the SUPER HERO qualities that make you stand out?
How can you use your super powers to help others?
Now keep this sketch visible in your workspace and use it to fuel your actions to do your best work and let others know how you can contribute.
What did you determine your super powers to be? I’d love to hear from you.
Whoops. Gotta go help a woman who needs my super powers to accelerate her career!