Brenda's Blog

All articles from the 'Personal Branding' Category

The 15 Most Important Characteristics of Executive Presence

I am often asked, “What is the most popular topic clients request when it comes to leadership development?”

Boost executive Presence

My answer? “Presence” — specifically Executive Presence. I have found that Executive Presence is that “special sauce” which separates good leaders who “do well” from outstanding leaders who catapult to the top of their organizations.

Let’s face it – most leaders have good enough technical skills, business acumen, and all-around smarts to achieve a certain level of success in an organization. But, a powerful sense of “presence” – that je ne sais quoi – is often what’s missing, and that is what can hold back many leaders from advancing in their careers.

What is Presence? And, more importantly, how do you get it? The way I like to define Executive Presence is a certain set of attitudes, behaviors, and skills which – when combined – send the right signals, influence others, and ultimately drive results. When you develop powerful Executive Presence, you automatically strengthen your Leadership Personal Brand, i.e., the way others perceive, think, and feel about YOU™, which is a critically important foundation of success.

YOU(tm)

“That sounds appealing,” many clients have told me, “but can Executive Presence really be developed?” Absolutely. Let’s face it: No one is born with Presence – it is a learned behavior with multiple facets which is strengthened through intention and practice.

What is the essential first step in developing your own Presence? It’s getting clear on how well you currently fare with the various aspects that make up Presence.

With that in mind, I’m sharing with you below a self-assessment that highlights some fundamental facets of Executive Presence. This will help you review the state of your own Presence, both in your personal and professional life.

In addition, further below in this newsletter, you will find a link to more complimentary tips through dozens of articles I have written on Executive Presence and leadership branding.

Assess the State of Your Own Executive Presence

Take this quiz, and see how well you are doing on these key facets of Executive Presence, which can in turn impact your Leadership Personal Brand.

test taking

On a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 the lowest score and 6 the highest score, rate yourself in the following areas. (Be honest with yourself!)

  1. I have a strong positive influence on my family, my team, coworkers, colleagues, and superiors.
  2. I manage my emotional reactions well at home and in the workplace, and I stay calm under pressure.
  3. When I need to let someone know I’m unhappy with a situation, I speak to them calmly and assertively. I don’t express my feelings in a passive-aggressive way.
  4. I am resilient when pressure builds at home or on the job.
  5. I speak up in very important meetings and when in the presence of more senior leaders.
  6. When I am attending a gathering or a meeting, I am able to focus 100% on the topic at hand, without distracting thoughts or checking my phone for messages.
  7. Based on the way others relate to me, I believe I exhibit charisma both at home and on the job.
  8. I have inner self-confidence, and I believe in myself.
  9. When team members and others push back on my decisions, I manage the situation in a professional, balanced way so that the best choice is made without harming workplace relationships.
  10. I’m capable of thinking on my feet when under pressure.
  11. When conflict arises, I manage it steadily, without damaging personal or professional relationships.
  12. I am aware of and effectively manage my Leadership Personal Brand, not just within my organization, but also externally within my industry.
  13. I know how to maneuver office politics, as necessary.
  14. When I’m called upon to make a presentation, I do so powerfully, engaging my audience from beginning to end.
  15. I use storytelling as a means of engaging others when I communicate

Obviously, if you rated yourself a “5” or a “6” on all 15 of these Executive Presence attitudes, behaviors, and skills, good for you – well done! Based on my experience though, that would be rare. It’s not unusual to have room for improvement on a fair number of these attributes.

So, take a moment to review your self-scores, and write down two or three aspects of Presence that are the most important for you and which you would like to improve.

Action Steps

review

Sit back, and assess your scores. Where did you do well? In which areas did you score lower?

On the statements where you scored well, ask yourself what allows you to do that. What makes you think those are areas where you exhibit strengths?

Now, look at the statements where you ranked lower and choose a specific aspect of Executive Presence that you would like to strengthen the most.

  1. Find a role model (boss, peer, colleague) whom you think embodies that particular aspect, and seek their advice on how they have managed to succeed in that area. You might even ask them if you can observe them in action and take note of what they do to really excel at that particular Executive Presence characteristic.
  2. Check out the articles I’ve written on various executive and leadership topics. These articles can be found here.
  3. Lastly, consider having an “accountability buddy,” someone to help support you in developing your presence, and share your plan with them. Ask if that person would be open to following up with you on your plan as well as giving you honest feedback as you progress.

Are YOU interested in the topic of Executive Presence?

I regularly present keynotes and offer interactive, live-learning programs on the topic of Executive Presence to audiences around the world. These programs, which are popular with corporate clients, have been proven to drive lasting mindset and behavior changes in leaders.

Click here to learn more about our Executive Presence keynotes and other popular programs we offer, or feel free to contact me at Brenda@BrendaBence.com.

Of course, I also work one-on-one with individual coaching clients to build and strengthen Executive Presence. You can find out more by visiting www.BrendaBence.com/Coaching.

Here’s to YOU™!

The Secret to Avoiding Failed New Year’s Resolutions

I spend a large part of the year in Asia, so this is one of my favorite periods of time. We’ve come off of the busy-ness of calendar year-end holidays and we’re approaching the end of the festivities of the Chinese New Year. The energy is great – people are having fun, celebrating with family, sharing oranges, and spirits are generally lifted!

But, no matter where you are in the world, this is also the time of the year when one seemingly-universal phenomena has taken place: Those calendar year-end New Year’s Resolutions – which everyone was so intent on achieving on January 1 – have by now fallen by the wayside.

The statistics around failed New Year’s resolutions are not pretty. In 2013, Forbes magazine stated that only 8% of resolutions are actually met, which means 92% fail. U.S. News had a slightly more positive take, reporting in 2015 that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. No matter which source you refer to, those are high rates of unfulfilled goals!

resolutions

What is the reason behind so many of us “falling off the wagon” when it comes to achieving what we wanted at the beginning of the year? Multiple studies have tried to answer that question, but in my experience as an Executive Coach, I believe there is one critical yet overlooked cause of our inability to stick with what we set out to do.

It’s not that we don’t want those goals to come to fruition. We definitely desire to lose weight, exercise more, be better organized, stop procrastinating, listen better, delegate more, and on and on. So, it’s rare that a lack of motivation is the true cause of resolutions going off track.

Instead, I believe the heart of the issue is our belief that if we just “do” things differently, all will be well.

For example, I often hear, “Once I get my calendar under control, I’ll be more productive.” Or, “Once I make more money, I’ll be happier.” Maybe you’ve made a similar statement in the past?

But, in my experience coaching executives across the globe, those types of “if-then” statements rarely become reality. And, when you don’t achieve your resolutions, you’re likely to feel more angst and frustration than you did before … not to mention feelings of failure. That just makes it even harder to set and achieve new goals in the future.

The “Ah-ha!”

So, what do I think is the biggest reason that such a large percentage of New Year’s resolutions aren’t achieved? It’s because the types of goals we set tend to focus on what we hope to “do” rather than how we need to “be” to achieve what we want.

a ha moment light bulb

We must first change how we are “being” before we can truly alter what we’re “doing.” After all, we are human beings, not “human doings,” right?

Let’s look at an example: Put yourself in the shoes of a leader at work. Your stakeholder feedback reveals you have a tendency to “tell” more than “ask,” and this behavior is having an impact on your success. Since you’re simply “telling” your team what to do, they aren’t developing as they should. If you asked powerful questions instead, you would develop their thinking and leadership capacity.

You’ve been told that your own career will stall if you keep this up because you won’t have developed a successor who can take your place. So, this behavior is not only preventing your direct reports from moving up, but it will also hold you back from moving up progressing, too.

Knowing this, you’re now very determined to make this change! You set a goal for yourself to ask more powerful questions rather than to tell subordinates what to do. You even go so far as to establish a measure – you’ll ask 60% of the time and tell only 40% of the time, at least as a start. (That’s a big shift from where you are now, which is 90% telling and 10% asking).

behavior change

At first, you do well with changing your telling and asking behaviors. But then, pressure builds up at work, and you think it takes too much time to ask. So, within weeks, you’re back to your old self, telling your subordinates what to do 90% of the time. You’ve gone full circle, and you’re back where you started.

Get to the Core

The goal of “telling less, asking more” is an example of a “doing” goal. If you only stay at that level, you haven’t yet reached the crux of the issue. It’s fundamental to ask yourself: What is at the core of my need to tell so much?

That core is about how you are being, feeling, and thinking. At the heart of every desired change in behavior is a deeper state of “being” that must first be addressed.

Target into Bulls eye

In our sample case, what’s driving the need to “tell?” It could be many things. Two possibilities are: (1) a need to display all that you know so that people think you’re smart; (2) a “need for speed”

and a strong desire to get things done quickly because you believe it takes less time to tell someone what to do.

Let’s work through this second perception. How can “being,” feeling, and thinking differently result in different outcomes that create long-lasting, positive change?

A Case in Point

My client, Augustina, always wanted to get work done quickly, and felt that telling her direct reports how to do it (as opposed to asking them to discover ways to do it for themselves) was a more efficient way to meet deadlines.

So, we addressed this issue with the use of my “Think-Feel-Behave-Results” triangle below, starting from the bottom and working our way up.

First, I asked Augustina to tell me what she “thinks” about telling direct reports what to do, versus asking powerful questions. Her answer was, “Telling them what to do is faster and more efficient than asking questions.”

Next, I asked her how that thought made her “feel” about telling when the need to do so arises. Augustina said, “I feel productive and in control, and satisfied things are getting done quickly.”

“So, how does that emotional reaction make you behave? What are the actions you take as a result?” I asked her. “I quickly tell direct reports what to do without wasting time,” Augustina responded.

Lastly, I asked her about the outcomes of this behavior. She thought for a moment, then said, “Well, it’s true that things do get done on time, but my team doesn’t grow, and I won’t progress in my career long-term if I keep that up.”current - what you think

When I asked her to sit back and reflect about the overall impact of this behavior on her individual brand as a leader, she admitted that this probably made her look like an ineffective leader. She agreed that wasn’t the outcome she wanted.

Let’s Shift the Thinking …

In order to alter that result, we went back to the beginning and changed the way Augustina was “being” – how she thought about telling people what to do – keeping in mind that “what you think is what you get.”

This time, I asked Augustina to come up with a constructive thought about asking powerful questions. This thought would replace her existing thoughts about telling. She responded, “Asking direct reports powerful questions helps grow my team and will help my future career success.”

“Great!” I said. “Now, how does the thought of helping grow your team and your own future career success make you feel?”

“I feel empowered and proud. It feels good to think of being helpful by asking my direct reports powerful questions, and it certainly feels good to be more successful myself,” she said.

Identifying the feeling helped Augustina begin to behave differently than before. She would ask powerful questions far more often, no matter how much time it took.future - what you think

The ultimate result? Her direct reports would grow in their roles, which would lead to increased productivity, and Augustina’s ability as a leader would improve and be recognized, too. That, in turn, would end up providing more career opportunities for herself.

By simply changing the way Augustina was being and thinking about a limiting behavior, and by changing her feelings about that, she could immediately become a stronger leader. This would, in turn, improve her leadership brand.

Actions to Take:

Self check

Walk through the triangle exercise, from bottom to top, asking yourself about your thoughts related to a challenge you’re facing. How does that specific thought make you feel? How does that feeling cause you to behave? What outcomes does that behavior have on your success and on your brand as a leader? Sit back and reflect on how that underlying thought – how you are being – is impacting the results you get.

Then, work your way through the triangle a second time, this time thinking a positive, forward-focused thought about that same challenge. How does this new thought make you feel? How would this feeling make you behave? What result would you get from this new behavior?

Changing the way you are being and the thoughts you have create a powerful shift that will drive positive, long-lasting change.

Make a commitment to yourself that the next time a challenge arises in the workplace, you’ll remember to think differently about that challenge, and alter the way you are being/thinking/feeling. Ultimately, that’s what will result in greater short- and long-term outcomes … and, yes, successfully achieving your New Year’s resolutions!

When Risking Failure is a Good Thing

How can failing ever be a good thing? The best leaders know that if you aren’t risking failure at least part of the time, you’re playing it so safe that no one on your team is learning and growing. “Failing small” can be a great way for everyone in your company to learn. After all, isn’t that how you learned the best lessons in your own career?

Sounds intriguing but not sure how to put this into action?

–          Allow enough leeway in projects so that if small failures occur, you have time to recover, learn specific lessons from the failures, and get back on track.

–          If you’re concerned about your employees making costly mistakes, determine the points at which you need to influence the project’s outcome the most. Then, set up specific times to meet with your direct reports, either by date or by completion of certain steps (check out the “metered with milestones” delegation style in Would YOU Want to Work For YOU™?). In that case, if something is truly off track, you can realize it, say something, coach them through it, and have enough time to make a correction.

Playing it 100% safe in business is not how the most successful companies have gotten where they are today. You have to step out and take calculated risks now and then in order to get big rewards. What risks will YOU take today?

Brenda Bence Bio

Hardbound-Amazon-Kindle copy Ebook-Kindle copy Audiobook-Audible copy

Development is an Ongoing Task

 

professional-development

In my recently released book – “Would You Want to Work For You?” How to Build an Executive Leadership Brand that Inspires Loyalty and Drives Employee Performance – I argue that building people is simply part of your job as a leader, and I offer strategies for developing your employees on a day-to-day basis.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where do you place your focus as a leader?

The focus of your attention affects everything you do as a leader. Where you choose to place your focus and how you choose to use your time says as much about you as a leader as any other indicator.

A model called the “Five Levels of Focus” gives you a simple but powerful framework for this. Created by Australian author and consultant David Rock, applying the Five Levels of Focus helps leaders choose where to place their energy and attention at any point in time. According to this model, there are five distinct levels: (1) Vision, (2) Planning, (3) Details, (4) Problems, and (5) Drama.

Read the rest of this entry »

Would you rather be liked or respected?

 Liked vs Respected

As leaders, we want to be liked, but we also want to be respected. Can we be both? Not only do I believe it’s possible, but I’ve personally witnessed many leaders walking a beautifully balanced line between the two.

Accomplishing both isn’t always easy, though. What happens when the balance tips too far in one direction or the other?

Read the rest of this entry »

Quiz: What is the #1 cause of employee turnover?

 

Bad-management

To answer this question, take a moment to reflect on the best and the worst jobs you’ve ever had. What role did your boss play in how you felt about those positions? If you’re like a large number of the leaders I’ve worked with, the best jobs you’ve had involved a great boss who spent time with you and taught you a lot. Your worst jobs, on the other hand, probably involved a boss you didn’t like that much—someone who micromanaged your activities or put you down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Put an Employee in Your Shoes

In my upcoming book – Would You Want to Work For You? – I discuss employee development strategies and how to build your people without losing precious time. I also talk about the importance of receiving feedback from your team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Does your company “get” you?

1 team(4)

Communication is everything, so if people aren’t understanding your message, you may as well be speaking to the wall. This recent Forbes.com article, “When CEOs Talk Strategy, 70% of the Company Doesn’t Get it” outlines the issues that cause miscommunication and misalignment and ways to make sure your people “get” you and your message.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are you a good listener?

shutterstock_17244469

As leaders, we often overlook listening skills. After all, aren’t leaders supposed to tell people what to do instead of listening? Aren’t great leaders supposed to be heard instead of hearing what others have to say?

Read the rest of this entry »