Communication & Leadership

with Peggy Klaus

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Executive Presence

Executive presence brings both warmth and strength to your communication.

Peggy Klaus

Communications & Leadership Guru

Lessons Learned

What is it about you that people like, respect, and want to be around?

What can you do to be heard and seen as a leader?

We need a kindergarten curriculum addition of accepting differences.


Lesson: Communication & Leadership with Peggy Klaus

Step #4 Executive Presence: Executive presence brings both warmth and strength to your communication

What can you do to make a positive first impression? First of all, it comes down to the fact that you have to know what it is about you that makes people like you, that makes people want to be around you, that makes people want to listen to you and finally, when you're a leader, what makes them want to follow you?

So you have to really be self-aware and self-scrutinize what are what I call the "pluses", the things that are very advantageous to you in your personality and your communication, strengthen those and reinforce those. Subsequently, what is not being of service to you, what I call the "deltas" try and, well, eliminate them, if not alleviate them.

That level of scrutiny has to go on first. So if you know that you have a good sense of humor, if you know that you have great eye contact, that you're a wonderful story teller, those things need to be enhanced and strengthened, for those situations where you would find yourself uncomfortable and melting down in your communication.

I use them, then, in the first impression, those first 7 seconds or 30-60 seconds that are so crucial, in knowing that, if you are very personable and very friendly, that when you walk into a room of people you don't know, rather than choosing a chair away from everybody else, not talking and burying your head in your Blackberry, that you walk over, you extend your hand, you smile and you greet them with a lot of enthusiasm, energy and delight to be there. That's really where you first have to start.

Then in terms of getting your confidence, I think it is getting feedback on what you do well and, again, strengthening that and reinforcing that. Then making sure that those things appear, time and time again, especially in situations where you don't feel comfortable.

So for example, a lot of people feel very uncomfortable in front of their boss' boss, senior management, the CEO, the chairman, especially younger people. Although, I actually see this very prevalently even in senior managers, who feel very nervous, when they have to go and have a conversation with the chairman or the CEO.

Make sure that those situations you are prepared for, you are practiced, you have rehearsed what you want to say. When I say "rehearsed", so that it comes trippingly off your tongue, so that you know what you want to say and you can say it in lots of different ways. That also connotes a lot of confidence.

Well, you know it's interesting. I have a program around executive presence, around bringing both warmth and strength to your communication. There is something that I call "the narrow band" of acceptable behavior and communication, which affects women and men and women, even more, of color.

Most people will say to me, "But Peggy, why should I change? It's a corporate world and we should teach these white men how to change their behavior and their leadership style and their communication." I say, "Well, you know, that would be lovely. But it's probably not going to happen in my lifetime. So as long as you are in the game, what can you do to be heard and to be seen as a leader?"

I really tell my women clients that they can do and say whatever it is that they need to, they just have to be more mindful about the way that they do it. It is that narrow band. It can be a real tightrope.

But I think, again, going back to what a good communicator is, knowing what your likability factor is and what is it about you that people respect and like and want to be around, to bring that to every situation. Can women pound the table? Can they use expletives? Can they be as strident as men? No. It doesn't work because then we're called "a bitch". But we can say what we need to say without being coquettish, without being indirect and really being heard.

The Heidi/Howard case study is really interesting. There have been lots of other ones that have played out in interview and negotiation situations. I think it's very unfortunate. As I said around the executive presence piece, I think that we have to be more mindful, more thoughtful and more careful about the way that we could be perceived.

I know that this was non-verbal. This was a case study. I think what has to happen is a teaching from the very early stages, from kindergarten, of the acceptance of differences. Acceptance not only of gender but of individuals and how they communicate – introverts, extroverts, male and female. So that we are more open to viewing someone who has a different form of communication as not wrong or bad or not leadership material. That's how I see it.

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