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About This Episode
Most of us would love to be executives.
But almost all of us lack executive presence.
“I have my own executive presence that I’ve been able to build based on being competent and being humble,” Rich said.
He’s here to talk to us about how he found his executie niche to combine his love of selling and his role as a relationship person.
Taking the executive step
A ton of podcast listeners feel that they have the ability to take that next step into being an executive.
Relatively few people end up making that step successfully.
Rich shared the perspective shifts that happened when he began to take on more responsibility in his organization.
“The start of all of this is self-evaluation,” Rich said.
As an individual contributor, you’re self-managing.
As a team lead, you go through a mindset shift: Whoa, I’m not just responsible for myself anymore.
“A lot of first time managers say, I had no idea all this work goes on in the background,” Rich said.
It becomes even more pressured when you’re head of a department. You add the HR/people perspective — and you get heat from your superiors.
“At the executive level, senior director, VP, up to the C-level, there’s another mindset shift,” Rich explained.
“The irony is you once again have to self-manage to the degree that you had to when you were an individual contributor, but every thing you do about self-managing has this reverberating impact,” he added.
- What you communicate
- How you behave
- The way you set the tone
- How you communicate and coach people
In other words, you have to show executive presence.
What’s executive presence?
It’s one of the least understood aspects of making the leap to executive.
In order to break into the executive level, you have to show executive presence before you close the gap.
“You build executive presence slowly over the years — starting with that mindset shift around who and what you’re responsible for,” Rich said.
By the time you arrive at the VP role, you already understand the impact of your leadership and carry yourself like an executive.
The definition of executive presence
“It allows you to collaborate and manage and help people manage every level of that management structure,” Rich explained.
Focusing on the followership — not the leadership — of executive presence helps us build muscles that create good followers.
Executive presence encompasses:
- Communication skills
Great executives know how to delegate responsibility, clearly communicate goals and objectives, motivate people to belong to the culture, and cultivate people who follow.
The tactics of executive presence
1. Delegation techniques
Delegation isn’t getting rid of your work. It’s understanding what work you own and what work others own that you can facilitate.
“My old mentor used to say, ‘You’ve got to know whose backpack this rock goes in,’” Rich said.
Someone with executive presence will pause to consider who a problem belongs to before making sure that person has everything they need to solve it.
If all we do is fire off emails, we will erode our executive presence. An executive doesn’t keep all the work to herself.
“You’re routing the appropriate issues where they need to live until they can get resolved,” Rich said.
At its heart, clarity is about alignment.
Someone with executive presence not only knows that there are two sides to a coin, but can see both simultaneously.
The successful executive understands what the goals and needs of different departments are, especially in times of change.
“That’s one side of the coin: Get people aligned in other departments around your change,” Rich said. “The side of the coin that’s most important is the clarity you provide to your own organization about why this change is occurring.”
Explain your vision to create buy-in with everyone who will be affected.
“That’s the work of executives — we’re constantly driving change. Executive presence is the part that lets you understand your role to play,” he said.
3. Motivating your team
A leader inspires other leaders and creates a followership that cascades down several levels of the corporate hierarchy.
- Communicate. Speak to your managers’ teams when you have something impactful and high level to say, like announcing a change. Own the change and stand behind it.
- Listen. Not only should you be the voice and champion of that change, but you have to listen. Followers expect dialogue, which builds fellowship and helps you inspire.
“Executive presence should be about access, not being walled off because you’re the senior leader of the organization,” Rich said.
Hop on Slack and speak with someone several ranks below you. Be accessible and build relationships.
“Remember that when you make the leap, you’ve got to start finding the other doers out there who are going to learn under you,” he added.
Connect with Rich on LinkedIn.