3 Takeaways from “Executive Presence” with Karen Hough
On June 19th, Integrating Woman Leaders Inc. hosted an event focused on “Executive Presence.” This event, facilitated by Karen Hough of ImprovEdge dedicated half of a day to helping us as women unlock the keys to finding this presence. For the purpose of this session, “Executive Presence” was defined as “the ability to engender trust in others through confidence, consistency and calm in chaos and in turn inspiring loyalty, trust and discretionary effort.”
After spending a few hours laughing, learning, and discussing with Karen and a small group of diverse professionals, I left with three main takeaways about how to gain this “Executive Presence” at any stage of a career.
Carry Yourself with Confidence.
The use of improvisation as a means of building yourself as a professional is a unique style that Karen uses in her sessions. It is an incredible tool for understanding just how important physicality is. Through exercises facilitated by Karen, we were able to physically FEEL how we walk and how our bodies change based on simple emotional situations. Have you ever walked down the hallway at work or school and reflected about how you carry yourself. We did. And the responses were things like, “I need to stand up straighter,” and “I didn’t even realize I wasn’t smiling!” Understanding how to utilize these minor, but influencing, physical changes can make our break your entrance into a meeting or your first-impression with a client or employer. So think about it!
Have a Purpose.
Everyone is passionate about something and hopefully (if you are in the right place) you work and career are one of your greatest passions. It’s a wonderful feeling to spend your time working towards goals you honestly believe in. However, I’m sure we’ve all had those meetings that just weren’t quite as productive as we had hoped. Why did we meet? What was actually accomplished? Often when our passions are translated into day-to-day goals and tasks it gets too complicated. We need a concrete plan. Every meeting and encounter should have a purpose. Sit down and really think about what you want to get out of that next meeting, email, or phone call. Craft a clear, concise statement that directly lays out your goal for that specific interaction.
With Karen, each of us thought of an important upcoming meeting and were challenged to:
1) Answer the question “what do I want them to walk away and do?
2) What are the first 30 seconds going to look like?
3) What will the close be?
It might seem simple, but honing in on one solid idea and call to action will take you to will focus your attention, give you better presence in a meeting and likely lead to a better outcome.
As someone who is just beginning their professional life and still uncovering what exactly I want my professional goals to be, it’s important for me to jump at opportunities and proactively work to make connections and seek out open doors. But I really think this is important at any level. Sometimes the most seasoned professionals have the experience, but do they close themselves off to new chances without even realizing it?
In the world of improv, Karen lives by the “yes, and” philosophy. It’s the idea that no idea is a bad idea and instead of answering with “yes, but” or “no” we need to be open to others’ thoughts. She ties this concept into leadership and says by default, people are closed to new ideas.
So let’s try saying “yes!” more often. The next time I find myself automatically hesitating at new ideas and opportunities, I am going to reconsider. You never know when the next person you meet or the next idea brought to your desk could be the next big opportunity.
“Executive Presence” is concept that every professional, regardless of status, should continue to build and master. To engender trust in others you must first understand and trust yourself. Carry yourself with confidence, have a purpose, say yes. By doing these things you can continue to build that “Executive Presence” and in turn, that trust. I hope these three takeaways cause you to reflect and continue to improve.