Executive Presence while WFH

18th January, 2022

Most people in the middle management never makes it to the top. There seems to be glass ceiling between middle and top management which is very difficult to realize that it exists till you hit hard by it. Shyam has worked in the IT industry for 20 years, and last 15 years with the same IT company.  He manages larger portfolio than most of his peers and exceeded his target consistently for a last four years. He was sure that he would get his promotion which he thought is overdue in the current promotion cycle. The promotion announcement surprised him, since he did not see his name, while he saw many unexpected names in the list. Flabbergasted Shyam met his boss and found out that lack of “Executive Presence” is the reason why he did not make it.

Middle management focus on the yearly KRAs assigned to them. However, in most promotion and also in hiring decisions, the decision makers look for Executive Presence as the key quality in the candidate.  It comes out even more important than the past performance and credentials. Many people wonder what exactly Executive Presence is. Forbes has given a practical definition of executive presence as “your ability to inspire confidence”. People in the top management need to have the ability to inspire sub-ordinates to follow them, inspire the peer groups to garner their and also need have the ability the gain the confidence of the supervisor that person is capable of successfully accomplishing the task. This ability is Executive Presence.

In the pre-pandemic era, one used to demonstrate their executive presence in the board room, in the meeting rooms, in the elevators and even around the coffee machines. This is something executives demonstrate through their Appearance, Behaviour and Communication and felt by people around the person – his supervisors, sub-ordinates, peers, customers and at times, community and Govt agencies.

In the WFH age, you hardly meet people in person. You never shake their hand or meet them informally before or after the meeting.  No sidebar conversation. No business lunch or dinner. The WFH Executives need to find ways to inspire people 360-degree around them through their virtual presence.

Apply Fundamentals of Effective Communication

In the heart of EP lies effective communication which follows Albert Mehrabian’s  rule of 7-38-55. Only 7 percent of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language. During our virtual presence, executives need to take extra care about the tone and the body-language. Executives should ensure sound and video quality is in it’s absolute best when it reaches the audience. One technique is to keep audio volume at medium. Executives should be mindful about their facial expression, hand gestures, posture, position of legs and arms. Executives need to have their own strategy to communicate their emotions properly. For example, you may show Thumbs Up sign little longer to exude your support on certain topics. You may want to use Emojis in the chat window. You need to adopt right techniques depending upon your personality and the audience.

Virtual Meeting Hygiene

Minimize distractions. The background you are using should not distract the audience. Ensure that their is no background noise. Speak in the medium volume to ensure minimum distortion when the sound reaches the audience.

Executives seldom get into solving technical glitches in a business meeting. Before the meeting, double check the quality of sound. Also check your background/lighting in preview mode. Get a technical person available to support you during the meeting, if you are not comfortable with the technology features of the online meeting software. If you need to lead as well as moderate a meeting, better to have somebody else moderate, so that you can focus on your EP.

Take advantage of new technologies

Sudden exponential growth in WFH has ushered in advent of plethora new technologies. These technologies provide additional capabilities which were not available in the past.

Biggest challenge in developing Executive Presence is getting appropriate feedback.  Accurate feedback about our appearance, behaviour and communication helps one to correct them.  Most meetings are happening over video or audio calls. People developing Executive Presence can see for themselves the recordings or give the recordings to their coach for analysis. Coach can come out with appropriate strategy for enhancing their Executive Presence.

With technologies, with the use of mouse, keyboard and stylus, one can be very productive during virtual meetings. Many tasks can be done better in virtual meetings with the help of technologies, like taking notes, keeping screenshots, diagramming while speaking or listening. You can convert voice to text. Handwritten data to spreadsheets. You can use one screen entirely for the display of your audience and another to draw diagrams using your styles.  You can use chat window to engage with your audience. The possibilities are endless. For WFH Executive Presence, we need to leverage technologies heavily.

Do not defer Network & Relationship building

Many people are aware that one of the major factors the success at higher level in one’s network and ability to build relationship. Unfortunately, most of these people are holding the activities in this direction due to the pandemic.  Precisely that is where the opportunities lie. This is your chance to differentiate yourself to proactively reach out to people and groups, and connect with them.

Remember basics of Executive Presence

You don’t need be extrovert or gregarious or outstanding speaker to display your Executive Presence. It’s your composure, ability to draw attention of the audience, ability to engage with them that matters. Executive presence is confidence, clarity of thought and clear communication and ability to build credibility. Build a strategy to develop and apply them while WFH.

Good news is that one can develop Executive presence. We help working professionals enhancing their Executive Presence, with particular emphasis on how to demonstrate while they work from home. If you want to know how we help professionals like you. Please book a free appointment with us using the following link.