9 executive presence strategies for a crisis moment

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SITUATION: Katie had completed her work on a project and felt good about her performance. She exceeded her goals in a timely manner. He supervisor asked her to send an email to Alyson, a partner on the project, for an update on her part and asked that he be copied as well as other project partners.

Alyson responded to all that she hadn’t executed her part of the project because she was waiting for the information she didn’t have and implied that it was to come from Katie. This triggered a defensive feeling in Katie because Alyson and she had never interacted on the project.

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Katie’s immediate reaction was to respond with an, it’s-not-my-fault tone. But her self-awareness made her acknowledge that she felt threatened and needed a moment to calm down her ego so that her logical self could make a conscious choice on what to do.

She wanted to maintain her executive presence in what was rapidly feeling like an attack on her.

EXECUTIVE PRESENCE CHOICES IN A CRISIS MOMENT: Katie had several strategies on a card in her desk for when she felt dissonance. She pulled out the card to pick which ones fit this moment.

  1. Do not respond right away.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Physically remove yourself from the situation for a break. Get up from your desk. Take a walk.
  4. Put your hand to your heart and say, “May I be gentle with myself in this moment.”
  5. Talk to a close friend.
  6. Do something mundane. Get a good cup of coffee. Water the plants on your desk. Organize your top drawer.
  7. Ask yourself what you are feeling? Don’t tun away from it. Sit with that feeling for 90 seconds.
  8. Untangle what is an ASSUMPTION and what is TRUE. You are not going to be terminated.
  9. Name what others will view as the big-picture goal to accomplish right now. (Hint – it is not to feed your ego.) What is the best way for you to help get done what needs to get done?

In the end, the time that Katie took to gather her thoughts for a conscious response as opposed to an emotional reaction gave others an opportunity to respond on her behalf. As much as she wanted to weigh in, in this aware state she acknowledged that it was best to sit back and allow the others to clarify what needed to occur to advance the project.

This space made her aware that her non-emotional reactive colleagues were able to focus on advancing the project instead of defending their or her ego. She acknowledged that she felt threatened, embarrassed and unworthy. It was an assumption that she would look bad to her colleagues. It was true that she had done a good job at her work.

Katie realized that in her emotionally reactive state her need to be right exceeded the goal of the project. And that if she had reacted defensively in this state it would have compromised her executive presence, fulfillment and respect from others.

Sure, she was angry. She shared that with a friend on the phone. She used language she dislikes and hardly ever uses.

But her friend understood and listened until she could calm down. She took so many deep breaths that afternoon that she was sure she could have filled a hot air balloon all by herself. But she had a strategy, created space to execute the strategy and was as kind to herself in doing so as she would be to a friend.

Be a friend to yourself. Cut and paste the above nine strategies on a card and put them in your desk for your next crisis moment. If you want more executive presence tips here’s a link to the FREE eBook – 31 Executive Presence Practices for Leaders in the High Stakes Corporate World.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be calmer and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.