You might remember Anna. She’s a high potential leader with great technical skills, but she could use some help when it comes to presenting to senior teams. Her communication style leads others to think she doesn’t know her business. And, she gets flustered when asked a question.

Here are three ways you could help Anna strengthen her Executive Presence (EP). 


1. Connect feedback and career goals.

Most people over-estimate their abilities, and need feedback to understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

If EP has become a barrier to an employee’s advancement, you can start with a feedback conversation. It will help the person if you’re as specific as possible. 

Does their need relate to gravitas (how they act), communication (how they speak), or appearance (how they look)? The combination of these three equate to what they signal to the world, their Executive Presence. On a side note - you may be interested to know that research indicates appearance typically accounts for only 5% of the EP equation. How they act and how they speak are far more important.

During your conversation, connect feedback and career goals so she’ll understand why a stronger EP can help her get what she wants.

If you were working with Anna, you might ask:

  • What are your career goals? 
  • How will you know when you’ve been successful?  [Explain the concept of EP.]
  • How would you assess your Executive Presence?  [Share specific feedback on what you’ve observed.]
  • How would strengthening EP help you reach your goals more quickly?
  • What do you think will happen if this need is not addressed? 


2. Reframe mental models. 

Mental models help us make sense of what we’re signaling to others. 

They’re the underlying patterns of perceptions, thoughts and emotions that guide our behaviors and actions.  Mental models can serve, drive, and support us. But, they can also get in our way and cause missed opportunities. 

Using Anna’s case as an example, if she had a mental model related to work/success that said “I’m not as good as others”, this could lead to a deferential or tentative communication style. She may not appear to be as competent as she really is.

Here are questions you might ask to help someone understand and begin to reframe their mental models.  As background,  explain the concept of mental models and share that they often appear as self-talk when we’re faced with stressful situations.

  • What self-talk do you have around work?
  • How do your current beliefs strengthen your EP? 
  • How might they be getting in your way? 
  • What mental model reframe would help increase your EP? 


3. Provide support.

As always, on-the-job development is the most important tool. Training, mentoring, and coaching can play important roles, too.

Consider recommending books like Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Executive Presence:  The Missing Link Between Merit and Success. You could also identify workshops that would help people try new skills and gain confidence in a safe setting.   

Identifying role models and mentors can be very helpful. These can be senior leaders or peers who demonstrate strong EP. 

Sometimes people need a little extra help. Just as executive coaches help leaders achieve higher levels of performance, EP coaches can provide personalized assessments, customized learning strategies, and real-time support. Perhaps, most importantly, they can bring an outside-in perspective.

As you think about developing your leaders’ EP, what action will you take today?   

What are your development efforts signaling to the world? 

Learn more about ECC’s Leadership Communications Suite, including Executive Presence Coaching, or call us today.