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.
I’m sure most of us are unaware of how often we make assumptions. We make assumptions every day about how other people think and feel, and these assumptions then lead us to behave in ways that sabotage our relationships, our careers, and erode our self-confidence. We make assumptions based on gender and race. We make assumptions and judge people based on their background, education, religion and age.
Have you ever thought about how dangerous it is to make assumptions?
We certainly don’t want others to make unsubstantiated judgments about us, right? We don’t want the decision makers in our company to assume that because we are women or that we are mothers, that we are less competent or less committed to doing the job or taking the promotion. Yet, how many times do we sabotage ourselves because we ourselves make false assumptions?
Here are the top 10 assumptions that can prevent you from getting ahead.
- You assume that people understand how valuable you are to the organization even if you don’t tell them.
- You assume that people will recognize and reward you even if you don’t let them know what you’ve accomplished on a regular basis.
- You assume that you will get promoted just because you are talented and work hard.
- You assume that if you are assertive people won’t like you.
- You assume that it’s important that everyone like you in order to get ahead.
- You assume that embracing the workplace politics is just for men.
- You assume that networking means connecting with people you like and know.
- You assume that the salary or raise you are offered is the best final offer.
- You assume that if you negotiate for a raise it will be viewed negatively.
- You assume that opportunities will surface solely because of your excellent track record.
Are you guilty of making any of these assumptions? Which ones?
These assumptions are sabotaging your efforts to accelerate your career!
Take control of your own career destiny and make it your intention to let go of these assumptions and do the work to move yourself forward.
Last Friday at the Bay Path Women’s Conference, I listened intently to Queen Latifah talk about her career and her bold move at 17 as a hip hop star to call herself “Queen Latifah”. She said Latifah was always her nickname, but putting “Queen” in front of it was certainly a bold statement, especially at such a young age. But she did it and the rest is history!
This made me think about the different bold moves I’ve made in my own life and career and specifically what has prompted me to step out of my comfort zone at times. I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker, but a risk taker in a very strategic way. Sure, sometimes I do things impulsively but for the most part I seek opportunities to move my career forward and evaluate those opportunities that present themselves to determine if they make sense for me and where I am in my career.
After having been with one company for 9 years and losing a promotion, I took a tremendous leap out of my comfort zone. I moved from the east coast to Chicago to run a national healthcare company. It was a huge step up to be a CEO and I could have easily talked myself out of it. “I’m not ready to do this.” “It’s scary to move away from my family and friends.” “I am afraid I’m not good enough.” I’m sure you’ve all had similar thoughts, but in the end despite my fear I was bold and made the move and I’m happy that I did. It was a turning point in my career.
Being bold can be different things to different people. In some cases, it’s taking on a new job, changing careers, leaving work to raise a family. In some cases it’s calling yourself “Queen”.
In the end, Queen Latifah said she was comfortable enough in her own skin to celebrate who she is, as she is and told the women in the audience to strive for the same.
“Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self,” she said.
What bold move have you done lately?
I was dumbfounded and perhaps a little embarrassed when in an interview last week with Sharon Sayler, body language and communications expert, she said that to look more intelligent we should breathe through our noses. Who knew I was coming across as stupid when my cold forced me to breathe through my mouth? I felt lucky just to be breathing quite honestly!
The lesson here is not to dwell on my recent cold, but to make the point that there are many ways that our body language influences the way we are perceived by others.
There has been much talk lately of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and her new movement. I happen to be a fan of the premise of the book that as woman we can learn much about how to better position ourselves for success. Certainly our awareness of not only our communication patterns but body language is a great place to start. In fact, leaning in, is literally one way that you can communicate to others that you are engaged and ready to listen and take action.
You can listen to the full interview for more great tips, but the take-away here is that we already know that we need to do great work to be recognized. Of equal importance is positioning ourselves in the organization as confident and capable of taking on more responsibility and challenges. Confident and competent women are much more likely to be considered as having leadership potential.
Another pointer that I picked up from the interview with Sharon Sayler is that keeping your chin up helps you to look more confident. Can you fake confidence until you feel it? Apparently so! Keeping your chin up is one way to demonstrate confidence. Try it before you head into a meeting or make a presentation. Lifting your chin actually feels powerful and does give you a feeling of confidence.
Maintaining eye contact during conversations and presentations also contributes to the perception that you have confidence in what you are presenting or discussing.
Try some of these simple tips and see how you feel. Even when you make small changes in your behavior it changes the way others think of you. Ask a trusted colleague or mentor for feedback as you continue to try new approaches to your communication and body language.
Lean in. Chin up. Step up into your own talent and power and demonstrate to others that you have the potential to move up.
Do you have the drive to be successful?
I interviewed media executive Cathie Black this past week on my radio show and we discussed the attributes of successful women. According to Cathie, having not only the ambition but the drive to succeed is critical.
I couldn’t agree more so I put together a “Driving Test” for you to assess how much drive you have.
Here you go:
1. Have you identified a career goal?
2. Have you created a strategic action plan to achieve your goal?
3. Do you dedicate time each week to network and build a power network?
4. Do you have a sponsor?
5. Do you consistently talk about your accomplishments?
6. Do you understand the way decisions are made in your organization?
7. Have you put a plan in place to meet these key stakeholders and build relationships?
8. Do you seek out high profile projects and assignments?
9. Have you asked for a promotion?
10. Have you identified what skills and experience you need to reach your goal?
11. Have you put a plan in place to acquire those skills and/ or experience?
12. Have you taken action on this plan so you can drive your career forward?
How did you do? You should have most of the above in place to qualify as a someone who is taking control of their career and driving it forward.
If you answered yes to up to three questions, you are in slow motion.
If you answered yes to five to seven questions you are in first gear.
Seven to 10 and you are stepping on the gas!
Ten to twelve and you are speeding ahead!!
Ambition alone will not help you reach your goal, but combining ambition with drive gives you the fuel to accelerate your career.
If you are invested in your career and professional growth and are looking for advice on the best path to the top this show is a must! Joining me today is bestselling author and media executive Cathie Black, whose incredible career is a great role model for all of us. Cathie will offer her best advice to navigate the often challenging workplace and what she believes is necessary for women to achieve success in business today.
Cathie Black is a well-known media executive, best-selling author and now an advisor, board member and investor in digital start-ups and entrepreneurial companies. She was president, then chairman of Hearst Magazines, one of the world’s largest publishers of monthly magazines for 15 years, and oversaw such titles as Cosmopolitan, Food Network Magazine, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, O, The Oprah Magazine, Town & Country and nearly 200 international editions. Called “the First Lady of Magazines”, Fortune Magazine and Forbes named Black to their annual “Most Powerful Women in Business” lists numerous times.
Cathie’s New York Times best-seller, translated into 12 languages, “Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)” offers invaluable lessons about the workplace with stories of working with media greats like Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch and Gloria Steinem.
She served on the boards of IBM and the Coca-Cola Company for 20 years, before becoming Chancellor of New York City Schools in 2010. She is a member of the National Council of Foreign Relations, a trustee of The University of Notre Dame and the Kent School. She currently serves on the boards of Vibrant Media and Zuse.
“Quid quo pro” is a reciprocal exchange. The definition is “something for something”. In plain English, it’s called trading favors or in slang, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
Reciprocal relationships in the workplace are powerful. Reciprocity, if done effectively, helps one gain influence and access to those people who can potentially serve as allies to advance your career.
Women typically shy away from this type of behavior as they see it as manipulative and political. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace. As a consequence, they lack access to the informal networks and decision makers who can make or break their career.
According to the Center for Work Life Policy,
“To their detriment, women perceive cultivating relationships and mobilizing them on their behalf as, at best, an occasional necessity rather than the key exercise of leadership. They fail to see that the practice of seeking out powerful people, cultivating favor and cashing in those chips is itself a demonstration of leadership potential.”
On the other hand, research indicates that,
“Men view politics as part of the rules of the game, and they use informal systems built on the notions of loyalty, trading of favors and protection. They use informal systems to gain access to early information and to read political currents within the organization.”
Without access to these informal networks, how do women get this critical information?
The answer is they have to rely on the traditional organizational channels. And it’s often too little too late. Key decisions have already been made. They are powerless, therefore, to influence the decisions that influence their careers. The goal, therefore, is to get access to the decision makers and information beforehand.
This is where reciprocity comes in. Reciprocity helps to build strong allies who can, in turn, provide access to critical information. Collecting favors by scratching someone else’s back is like influence in the bank. Those who have the political savvy know best how to spend these chips or favors wisely at key decision points.
What is the best approach for women who are uncomfortable with trading favors?
It took me a long time to learn this. I suffered from the disease to please! When I first started my business, I wanted every client and I would bend over backwards to accommodate them, even if it meant putting my own needs aside. As a result, my schedule was crazy and it was difficult to be productive and stay focused.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to do everything to make your clients/customers happy, but not when you are potentially sacrificing your own well-being and income. There is a smarter way to work and that involves planning and setting boundaries.
In what way does “saying no” improve your business or career?
Here’s an example from my own business. I didn’t plan my time well and so I would book clients all week at all times. This resulted in a chaotic schedule that left me no time for planning, writing, networking, marketing and administrative tasks associated with running a business. At best I had an hour in between appointments and that was not enough time to settle in and focus. I had to prepare for my next client. Because I had no time during the week, I ended up working every weekend. The result: burnout.
When I was working in corporate, I suffered the same disease to please and let everyone else control my schedule. I realize that to some extent we are at the whim of others as an employee. We still have the ability to “say no” to some meetings or ask to move appointments to better fit our schedule.
The first step to take control of your schedule and improve your productivity is to time block. Set aside periods of time during the week when you can close your office door or shut off your phone and do the work necessary to help your business and career.
The second step is to honor your schedule as best you can and “say no” when appropriate.
As an example, I set aside Monday and Friday each week for networking, research, writing, and planning. I fill the other days with client appointments and my radio show.
At my suggestion, one of my coaching clients who owns and manages a small business has started to time block and close her door and this has significantly improved her ability to manage her business. Before, her employees would constantly interrupt her and she was frustrated and unproductive. She now has time each week to do the planning and administrative tasks that she previously was spending nights and weekends doing.
My corporate clients have been able to shift their mindsets from being “doers” all week to thinking more strategically about their careers and setting aside quiet time to reflect and network to build relationships in the company. This is the first step in moving from a manager to a leader.
This all may sound simple but by planning and “saying no” you will see a tremendous improvement in your productivity and well-being.
Imagine: More time to be strategic, to accomplish tasks, to plan, to network and grow your business or build your career, and less stress.
Try it and let me know how it goes!
It’s no secret that we can’t be successful working in a vacuum. We need other people to accomplish our goals. This can be a real challenge in the corporate environment. Resources are often scarce and access difficult due to certain loyalties and politics.
Have you noticed how some people never seem to have a problem getting what they need and others are left out in the cold?
The secret to the access is building social capital across the organization specifically with the stakeholders who have the power and influence to provide resources, and this must be done with finesse or political savvy.
Successful individuals are those who have done their homework and know their audience. They can adapt their behavior to each social situation. It’s not only what to say but when, where, and how to say it. This is where the finesse comes in.
In their article, “Gender and Career Success: The Facilitative Role of Political skill”, authors Perrewe and Nelson state:
Politically skilled individuals not only know precisely what to do in different social situations at work: they also know exactly how to do it in a manner that diffuses any potentially manipulative motives….Individuals who have political skill are excellent observers of other’s behaviors and are attuned to subtle differences in social situations.
Can this skill be learned? Yes.
Your success depends on listening and observing to establish strong connections with your network.
Here are some success tips on how to use your finesse and political savvy to get things done in your organization:
- Clarify what you are trying to achieve and what you need to accomplish it.
- Understand the dynamics and current politics and alliances that control the resources.
- Identify the people who have the influence and power over the resources.
- What do you already know about them? What’s important to them? What motivates them? What else do you need to know to help you build a relationship?
- Position yourself as someone who can help them achieve their goals (using your value proposition.)
- Be visible and build long term relationships with a strategic focus.
- Look for opportunities to expand your network and your influence across the organization.
Don’t be left out in the cold or stuck with a huge project and no resources. Begin to build allies and bridges to give you the resources you need to accomplish your goals.
It happened to me. I was blindsided. I was an AVP with a track record of great accomplishments. My territory consistently performed well and exceeded budgeted gross and net income. I was able to grow the business significantly by adding new product lines and I had a reputation as a supportive and fair manager.
A re-organization in the company resulted in my position reporting to someone new; someone with whom I did not have a relationship and who had a reputation as being difficult. I kept my distance from him. He was part of the “boy’s club” that ran the company.
With the re-organization, a VP position became available. I let him know that I was interested. It was a natural step up given my experience. Many of my direct reports called him to lobby on my behalf. I truly believed that my achievement in the AVP role would land me the job, no question.
But that assumption was a big mistake! The newly appointed SVP had his own agenda for the territory and the business. Because I had no relationship with him, I didn’t know what was involved in the decision making process. What I thought was a shoe-in, ended up being a “blindside”. I did not get the promotion.
High potential women are more confident than ever. Recent studies by Catalyst show that we are getting better about letting others know of our achievements and asking for promotions. But if we continue to avoid the politics, we will continue to set ourselves up to fail.
The workplace is a political environment where decisions about who gets ahead, who gets access to scarce resources and plum assignments are made behind closed doors, doors that are often closed to women. Informal networks, sometimes referred to as the “boys club”, have the power and influence over career decisions. Because women don’t have access to these networks and don’t have access to critical information about how decisions are being made, they risk being blindsided. They simply don’t know the rules of the game.