Many Fortune 500 companies have high potential (HiPo) leadership programs that work together over weeks and come together to deliver a final presentation on a project or idea to the top leadership and CEO. We sometimes get the chance to be brought into these programs to cultivate “executive presence" among these rising leaders. Over the course of several weeks, they work on their presentations, going over every detail with a fine-tooth comb. The resulting presentations tend to be very well scripted, the pressure leads to wanting perfection.
When you actually get to have a meeting with your CEO, you need to be able to also have a conversation about your topic, not a just a script.
We’ve blogged many times before (like here and here) about how to add more executive presence (confidence is another way to describe executive presence). But is there such a thing as too much? Too formal, stiff or buttoned up?
As you strive to boost your executive presence, look out for these four traps that lead to "too much" and hinder your ability to connect with your audience:
1. Trying too hard. Many people make the false distinction that when they are “public speaking” or “demonstrating executive presence,” it’s like playing a role on stage. They also fall prey to White Lie #2: When I’m on, I’m great. Turning it on, for many, can lead into acting, and not being yourself. Instead of coming across as a stiff actor, be a real person. Trust is earned by being real.
2. Sticking to the script, sounding robotic. This stems from over-wordsmithing. We agonize about getting the words just right, and we forget that the words come through us! You do have to know your content inside and out. Whether you’re using a script or your Decker GridTM post-its, the goal should be to speak from concepts and ideas and let your words come out. Your authenticity will help you connect.
3. Not knowing when to shut up. We’ve all heard this happen. The response that could be a one-liner turns into 5 sentences. Richard Branson just shared this point this last week: When you’re done saying what you have to say, stop saying it! Don’t repeat yourself.
4. Not letting people get to know you. An executive I worked with was interviewing for a high-level job. This person had all the credentials, all the qualifications, and after the interview the recruiter came back with the feedback, “They didn’t feel like they really got to know you.” You can’t get to know someone when they’re too buttoned up or too stiff. A great way to loosen up is to tell stories. Don’t be afraid to share vulnerability – it will help people connect to you.
These traps catch people all across all levels of the company, from the most junior team members all the way to the C-suite. We think, to move up to the top or stay at the top of the company, you have to be as stiff, dull or formal as some of yesterday’s leaders. We don't…
Too much executive presence is bad.
Authenticity, warmth, connection and confidence help today’s leaders earn trust.
And after all, you have to connect to influence.