Linking Executive Presence and Communication

Communication skills are the basis for building the core skills of presence. The reason is the attributes of presence are most noticed and noted when someone is in a speaking or communicating role.

I often hear, “It’s so frustrating to think that a fifteen minute presentation really weighs stronger on the board’s mind than my presence in those meetings for the last six months.”

“This group knows me. How can my presence on my feet be so important? ”

“I had a great relationship with the CMO. I’m shocked that she feels I’m not confident enough to pitch our strategy to the leadership team next week.”

Frustrating? Maybe it is. But is it real? Yes, very much so. The need for communication skills intensifies as you climb the corporate ladder. When I coach a CEO on a presentation and I sense that he isn’t focused on it, I ask how significant he feels the message is. The response is usually, “This presentation isn’t that big of a deal. It’s just to kick-off the year with employees.” Then I ask, “So after this meeting, when will you pull all your employees together again for an update?” Typically the reaction is, “I’ll do a mid-year update in six months.”

My response is, “So your ‘not so important message’ is going to live with the employee group for six months. Can you think of anything else you’re working on right now that has that kind of impact?”

That usually gets their attention.

It’s easier to communicate as a mid-level manager. While your skills may not be as good as they should be, you can repair impressions in a few days if you interact with the group frequently.

But as a senior leader that’s just not the case. If employees only see you two or three times a year, impressions are more weighted and they last much longer. Imagine an external audience. If I hear you speak at an industry event or on an analyst call my only impression of you is based on those ten to fifteen minutes.

There are different ways to address some of the attributes of presence. For us, helping an executive strengthen his impressions in front of his core audiences is the best starting place. The CEOs we interviewed agree. One said, “When you step up to the podium, you step into a testing zone. You validate or negate your ability to be a leader.”

If you want to enhance your executive presence, improve on your communications!

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the author: President and founder of Sally Williamson & Associates, Sally Williamson specializes in executive coaching and developing custom workshops. Her book, The Hidden Factor: Executive Presence, has received rave reviews. Get more great advice on her blog Executive Presence.

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