If You Build It, They Will Come

Steve Jobs had it, Oprah Winfrey has it, Anthony Robbins has it in spades.  Executive Presence is something we know it when we see it.  But when it comes to discerning it in ourselves, sometimes we struggle.  Is it charisma, dressing for success or having a strong brand that people relate to?
The answer is….yes, it’s all of that…and more. 

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on Executive Presence to several individuals in career transition.  Over the past several years, many of my coaching engagements have included helping leaders improve their executive presence, but this was the first time I’d looked at it from the viewpoint of obtaining that next position in your career.

In a study from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), the senior executives surveyed said that “executive presence” accounted for 26 percent of what’s required for promotion.  It stands to reason that it is a critical element in getting hired as well.  So let’s take a look at this thing that is so important yet potentially overlooked in the job search.

When you unpack executive presence, it has four major components: Confidence, Credibility, Communication and Connection.  Each of these elements show up a little differently from person to person, but they all show up if that person has executive presence.  And if you build yours, opportunities will come knocking.

This blog article will address the first of the four components – confidence – with subsequent articles discussing the remaining three.

Displaying Confidence Inside and Out

Think of confidence as the cornerstone of executive presence. If you have it, you can more easily acquire the rest.  Where does confidence come from?  Experience?  Yes.  Successful track record?  Check.  Is that all you need to exude confidence?  Apparently not.  How many people do you know who have a ton of experience and a strong track record, but nobody knows it because they lack the confidence to talk about it? Confidence is the result of having true alignment in your core values and beliefs about yourself with how you see and talk to yourself.  If those are in sync, you show up confidently.

Henry Ford said, “Think you can or think you can’t; either way you’re right.”  And he was right.  Many researchers have proven that our thoughts impact our ability to achieve our goals.  The question then is, are you aware of your thoughts?  Do you know how you talk to yourself?  If you are self-sabotaging, you’d better get a handle on that pronto.

I’m coaching two leaders right now who have incredibly impressive resumes yet, because they are in new roles, are suffering from the ‘imposter syndrome’.  They are both afraid of being found out that they don’t know what the heck they are doing. Part of our coaching is grounding them in their past achievements to rebuild their confidence.  This phenomenon affects more people than you might think.

Power Posing

Did you know that confidence is affected by our body language?  Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who researches how people judge and influence each other, has determined there is a ‘bidirectional relationship between feeling and behavior’.  Not only do our feelings affect our bodies, but we can use our bodies to affect our feelings.  Watch her TED Talk on body language and you’ll see how Power Posing can increase your confidence.  (Think Super Man and Wonder Woman.) You will want to use them before going into an interview.

It’s a Balancing Act

What happens if you have too little confidence?  People will never know your achievements because you either don’t promote yourself or you don’t achieve in the first place because you got in your own way.  In contrast, if you have too much confidence, you come across arrogant or aggressive.  Neither of these will get you hired in most cases.

Eight Steps to Give Yourself a Boost

So how can you build your confidence? Here are a few that, if you practice over time, will lead to feeling more confident.

1.  Stop negative thoughts/self-talk

Stop thinking you don’t have a chance if you don’t have 100% of the skills and experience required.  Only about 2% of candidates do, and they may or may not be interviewing.

2. Challenge your self-doubts

Do you have any real, objective evidence of what you doubt about yourself?  A healthy awareness of your strengths and opportunities is fine, but doubting yourself is not part of that equation.

3. Take stock of your talents

Look at the job requirements and compare that to your work experience.  Build a STAR log of your technical (job specific) and transferrable (used in almost any job) skills so you have them readily available to discuss.  STAR is an acronym for Situation/Task, Action, Result.  Be sure you can tell the interviewer what YOU did in that situation that demonstrates your skill.

 4. Get comfortable with your fears

Everyone is afraid of something.  Confident people just acknowledge the fear and move through it.  Afraid you won’t get the job?  If you don’t, then it wasn’t the right job for you anyway.  Onward!

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

We are all on our own journeys with our own mountains to climb.  It’s not helpful to concern yourself with someone else’s journey.

6. Master your craft

Knowledge breeds competence, which breeds confidence.  Know your stuff!

 7. Set and celebrate attainable goals

Acknowledging small successes helps convince your brain you are successful.   When we think we are successful, we are more relaxed and more willing to risk.

8. Be overly prepared

Doing everything you can to prepare for an interview will tell your emotional brain to calm down and allow your logical brain (the one you need most in an interview) to be fully engaged.

Ten Ways to Know if You’re Coming Across as Overly Confident

Arrogance is a surefire way to blow an interview, unless that is specifically what they are looking for.  And arrogance often goes hand in hand with aggressiveness.  When you have too much confidence for your own good, it looks like this:

  1. You believe your opinions, beliefs and rights are more important than anyone else’s.
  2. You take control in most situations, even when it’s not your place
  3. You talk over people because what you have to say is more important
  4. You are not open to others’ viewpoints
  5. You are unwilling to be flexible or accommodating – ever
  6. You step on others’ ideas, words or actions with overly direct communication
  7. You don’t respect others’ personal space
  8. You get mad if someone challenges you
  9. You like being the center of attention
  10. You can’t admit you don’t know the answer or are wrong

Don’t misunderstand, it’s good to recognize your worth and be assertive.  You just need to balance confidence with humility.  Tim McGraw’s says it best in his hit song, “Humble and Kind.”  Let yourself feel the pride, but always be humble and kind.

In the next blog, we will look at credibility – how you establish it and who judges it.

Thank you for reading and make it an EQ day!

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