“When I talk about how excited I am to be working with you, the reaction I have gotten from some colleagues and friends has surprised me. Several have said they hope I don’t lose myflair. They worry that by working on my Professional Presence that I’ll lose who I am, my authenticity, so I explain to them it is exactly the opposite.”, Elizabeth, a Non-Profit Executive Director, shared with me last week.
Presence. Executive Presence. Personal Brand.
Those very words, conjures up many conflicting images. Polished vs. Slick, Buttoned-up vs. Charismatic. Distinguished vs. Generic. Fake vs. Genuine. Substantive vs. Hollow. Pulled together vs. Vain. Contrived vs. Well honed.
Early in my career the mere thought of focusing on presence seemed wrong. Self-centered even, because I thought it was about appearance and has little to do with being capable, knowledgeable, and getting results. I was fortunate enough to have mentors who helped me understand it’s not being an “empty suit”, but about filling out the suit and for the suit to look good it needs to fit.
Presence is More than Appearance
Without substance you can have presence, but it may not be what you want it to be. “Sam talks a good game butcan’t deliver the results.”
Presence is grounded in having substance, and conveyed through how you showcase that substance and remove any doubts about what you bring to the proverbial table.
Appearance is one way to convey your substance.
Presence Conveys Your Merit
Presence transmits to others that you are the real deal.
Who does not want to be seen as the real deal?
When the Vice President of Human Resources for a corporate client of mine, said “I think you’re the real deal”, I knew I had conveyed my subject matter knowledge and my competency in being able to deliver results. That isgratifying. I want for you to have the very same feeling.
Just how do you convey your merit effectively in a way that does not feel like to you are wearing shoes that don’t fit?
Presence Starts with Perception
People, all of us, have a remarkable ability to cultivate a self-image that is positive and clear, and believewe are acting, talking and walkingin alignment with that image. However, howothers perceive us can bequite different. Friends, and family, know us, and are more willing to overlook our shortcomings than other people. People in the workplace are not as willing.
Not understanding if there is a gap between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you is a mistake, one that can be very costly. Other people make a difference in yoursuccess. Your boss chooses who leads a team or a project. Your peers either want to collaborate with you or not. A future employer chooses to hire you. Your clients want to work you or not.
5 Tips to Strengthen How You Are Perceived
- Accept that you need to cultivate your presence. You are not being disingenuous. You are helping people clearly see who you are, and what you bring to the table and how they see you. You do not need to become a washed-out version of yourself, but you do need toascertain the best blend of what differentiates you and what makes you relatable.
- Identify Your Hallmarks. Don’t skimp on the time and efforts to do this justice. You are worth the investment. Identify the words you want people to use when describing youa person. Decide whatknowledge, skills, and experience you want to be known for professionally.
- Look for the Gaps. To close gaps, you first need to find the gaps. Ask for specific, robust feedback from others about how theyperceive you. Be courageous, Identify, 7-10 people toshare the top 3-5 words that come to mind when they think of you. Include peers, customers, supervisor, and/or mentors in your feedback group. You’ll want to share with them you are interested in how you come across as a professional.
- Work to close the Gaps. Assess the changes you need to make to close the gaps and develop an approach to do so. Pull in outside support to help you and continue toactivelyseek robust feedback. You can work with a mentor, a coach, or a reliable confident.
- Give yourself space to grow. Cultivating your presence takes fortitude and time. It is an iterative process. Checking in with yourself and other about what is working and what is not , and keep refining until the gap is no more.
You Own Your Presence
Taking ownership of your career and your presence is part of today’s world. Assuming that everyone sees your merit, orviews you as thewhip-smart, savvy, collaborator you see in the mirror is not enough. Investing in what you own, including your presence, is as smart as investing in other assets, like your retirement savings.