Corporate talent expert Angela Nuttle teaches business people how to show up with executive presence.
But what is “executive presence” and how can you use it in your career?
“There has not been a formal definition established because it is largely based upon perception. Some say it is ‘gravitas’, influence, or other factors. Based on extensive research, executive presence is perceived when there’s a consistent demonstration of 10 core characteristics. Some of these include: values in action, communication ability, engagement, business intelligence/savvy, status/reputation and confidence,” explains Nuttle. “Based on my research and experience in corporate America, I define it this way: “The power of an authentic person to put plans and actions into effect in a way that he/she is seen, heard, valued and celebrated.”
If you don’t have it, you can develop it. “Everyone has the ability to develop executive presence because it is really a result of what I call ‘inside out work’. People who show up with presence are more likely to be at peace with themselves–strengths, faults, and everything,” notes Nuttle. “However, most people struggle to show up authentically and with confidence. Four things get in the way of people developing presence: affinity (feeling the need to fit), order/structure (things have to happen in a certain way), knowledge (I already know everything so you can’t tell me anything new), and success (this has always worked before so there’s no need to try anything else).”
So, how can you develop it? “Anyone who says executive presence can be learned in a half day workshop is simply after your money. I spent 20 years in corporate America teaching people how to do this successfully. I learned that building presence requires behavioral and emotional changes- that takes time and significant support,” says Nuttle, who launched The School of Executive Presence, a 12-month program. “I use a system, process, and tools to help people to ‘unlearn’ what has gotten in their way, and replace that with behaviors and actions that align them with their values and authenticity. We literally work from the inside out. They learn how to manage perceptions through social agility and I give them practical tools that structure thinking and communication. There is also a success blueprint I use to help people understand how to gain the right visibility and focus at work.”
Tapping into your executive presence can help you better navigate the corporate world. “Executive presence is important because research shows that it is ruling business decisions. In a recent study of 500 CEOs and executive leaders, 89 percent agreed that you have to have executive presence to be successful in business. Seventy-eight percent agreed that absence of it will bring your career progress to a halt,” says Nuttle. “I recently conducted a session with a large HR team about the latest trends in talent management, and they described their struggle with getting top talent recognized and accepted by executive leadership. The top talent was seen as having the ability to bring significantly better results for the company, but leadership complained that most were lacking presence. The impact was that these talented people were being passed over for key positions, and ultimately hurting the financial position of the organization.”
Being fully present will allow you to better handle any situation–in and outside the workplace. “I want to re-emphasize that executive presence is the result of who you are on the inside, so it’s not really a tool you pull out when it’s convenient; it’s who you should be showing up as on a regular basis – no matter the situation. If you are showing up as yourself, being fully present with those around you and doing/saying what’s right (as opposed to worrying about saying the right things), then executive presence will serve you well in any environment, and will ultimately advance your mission,” Nuttle points out.
How do you know if you have executive presence? Pay attention to how others react to you. “Executive presence involves two parties: you and your audience. From an audience perspective, you know you have presence when people begin responding to you. They seek you out, and sometimes even argue with you, but they respect you. Some may even be intimidated by you and may be silent, but you see by their body language that they have an interest in your words, actions and results. For yourself, when you are being authentic, staying true to and aligning to your values, and you are not afraid to do what is right in a mindset of courage, you are starting off well,” offers Nuttle. “Executive presence is not about self-promotion; it is a focus on your mission and demonstrating passion around that. When you get over yourself and it becomes about the mission, you are more likely to be demonstrating executive presence.”
There are downsides of not having an executive presence. “The downside of not tapping into your executive presence is the lack of visibility of your brilliant ideas to the business world. Organizations are actually suffering loss of profit and acquisition of new business because the right people aren’t always visible. People notice people who are living courageously and standing up for what they know their mission is,” concludes Nuttle. “When you don’t show up, someone is missing out on your message and mission.”