Building Your Executive Presence

August 7, 2023

I once sat in a Board Meeting where the Directors were chatting with each other about their businesses, portfolios, and the market. When they got to me, they asked “Angie, how are the kids?”

I was a Director, too. And an entrepreneur. I wanted to talk about business, not my family at this time. But in that moment, I saw how I was seen: as the youngest Director and only female on the Board, I was seen as a mom. 

Has this ever happened to you before? That you’re not viewed in the right light. Others see you as one way, but there’s a whole other side of you that has value to be brought forth?  

And during my long flight home, I reflected on why I was perceived the way I was, which turned out to be an enlightening experience because I unlocked a few realizations that helped me take control of my brand:

  • They saw me as a mom because I do talk a lot about my kids. Maybe I don’t talk enough about the business side of my life, which is something I have 100% control over.  
  • I can read the room better – is this MOPS, or is this a Board Meeting? If I want my value to be valued, I have to present myself differently.
  • I then thought about my appearance and presence – I’m short, I don’t have a booming voice, and I’m not the first person to assert myself in a conversation. And when I’m the youngest, and presumably the most inexperienced, in a room, I can shrink into my shy, quiet, comfort space – the one that doesn’t advocate for myself. All this can work against me when I want to convey my executive presence.  

This entire experience was transformative because it allowed me to shift how I showed up in a space, without compromising my integrity and authenticity. 

I made some changes:

  • I started engaging Directors on different subjects – rather than kicking off with, “Steven, how’s the family?” I’d try a different tact: “Steven, you’re an investment banker – how did you get into this field?  Tell me more about your background.”  Suddenly, I got to know Steven – and I also got to learn about the path to becoming an investment banker – win-win.  We have a variety of different ways we can engage people – I’d been engaging to relate, now was a chance to engage to learn.  Here’s the thing, too: people love to share and teach, so our job as conversationalists is to ask and listen!
  • I started pushing myself in conversations to showcase my business experience, which, as an entrepreneur, is different than someone who grew up in a corporation. Through the process, I strengthened my own confidence in my view point – it was because I had a completely different perspective, which is the true value of diversity. I was different – my difference brought value to the conversations we were having.
  • Finally, and this is cosmetic, but I’ve learned that appearance does matter … I wish it didn’t, but it does. So, I upgraded my professional attire to look more polished, mature, and composed.  I’m 5’3” – I tend to avoid circle patterns and ruffles because they make me look like a baby doll.  

I wanted to write this right now because we’re wrapping up summer and heading back to a more rigid work schedule, which I liken to a new routine. Whenever a new season is upon us, it presents an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves. While you can’t change someone’s perception of you, you can influence it over time with intention. I just wrote this piece for Strategic CHRO on (re)building your brand – you can find it by clicking here.

Take the Lead!

Hey, what can one day do?  Well, not only can you get a free headshot, but you get the chance to step back, reflect on your leadership style, then charge forward.  Join us – there’s still space!!

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You’ve got dreams, visions, and goals that are ready for your attention and action. What stands between you and your potential is your willingness to bet on you.

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