The dos and don’ts of executive presence when the pressure is on

When you are in that high-stakes meeting, sales presentation, interaction, or conflict your executive presence is both emotional and physiological. Your thoughts race and your heart rate escalates. People watch you. How do you execute when the pressure is on?

Confidence and self-esteem are two different things. Both are essential for executive presence. Confidence is being capable, but that isn’t enough. Self-esteem is feeling worthy – that you belong. We build both intentionally by challenging ourselves and regulating our emotions in the moment. That means you know the goal but focus on being your best without pre-occupation with your performance. Slow down your breathing and move your focus from anxious thoughts to following your breath. That clearing allows you to observe your behavior before emotions move you into a fight-or-flight mentality.

A prime athlete trains to win. When the game is played she isn’t focused on the score, just doing her best right now. A good goalie knows if he lets a shot go by he needs to move on to the next shot. If he gets frustrated, he’s off his game and into doubt.

Executive presence derives from two pivotal traits

  1. Self-esteem – how valuable you think you are to yourself and others. Your worth.
  2. Self-efficacy – your ability to execute that value. Your effectiveness.

Executive presence dos

  1. Do what you believe is right in the face of controversy.
  2. Be vulnerable. Step outside what is comfortable to risk the unknown.
  3. Have the humility to admit your mistakes and learn from them.
  4. Don’t need outside validation. Your internal satisfaction and self-acceptance are enough.
  5. Give away the glory because the goal was a team goal and you’d have never achieved it without them.
  6. Build your self-awareness to be a third-party observer of yourself and people’s perceptions of you without feeling judged. This free book – Be the New Smart Leader Workbook shows you how to have unflappable grace and certainty without all the stress.
  7. Accept compliments graciously. “Thank you. I’m pleased you find it useful.”
  8. Notice self-doubt and act anyway as opposed to waiting for perfection. Done is better than perfect.
  9. Let go of something whose time has passed. It doesn’t serve you. Do this by turning toward the discomfort and not away. Name it. Own it. And retire it or it will keep chasing you down.

Executive presence don’ts:

  1. Modify your behavior based on what other people think.
  2. Play it safe, freeze or lash out when you feel judged, hold back because it “isn’t fair,” or “not the right time” and avoid risk.
  3. Deny mistakes, cover them up, blame others, or hope to remedy the problem before anyone notices.
  4. Seek attention and recognition to validate your good work.
  5. Brag about your virtues or take the credit for the work of others.
  6. Dismiss compliments offhandedly because you don’t feel you deserve them or the attention makes you uncomfortable.

Build your executive presence by noticing your thoughts with routines. Execute mindful choices in real time. Mindful practices that build presence include: being able to pause, paying attention to your breathing pattern for three minutes – “I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out,” writing two things you are grateful for each day in a Gratitude Journal, and setting a daily intention or promise to yourself – “I will listen before I respond today.” Your presence starts with your acceptance of yourself with all your imperfections. You are capable. You are worthy and belong. You are effective.