Exuding Executive Presence

Female executive Iowabiz post dec 2016

Rita Perea is President of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Most of us have had the experience of being with or in front of a director, manager or senior leader who had a powerful presence. Maybe we left the meeting saying, “I want to be like him/her someday!” Executive Presence, or EP, is also known as charisma, the “it” factor and the confidence code. In a survey of Chief Information Officers conducted by Gartner, E.P. was second on the list of the top 20 leadership traits that make a difference in people’s career trajectories. That same group ranked technology skills as 12th on the list.

What is the “it” in the “It” factor and how do you get more of “it” to increase your executive presence?

Executive presence is not about being ego-based or the most outspoken or gregarious person in the room. It is, however, all about making a genuine connection with others, one-on- one or when addressing a group. EP is also about operating from a place of deep awareness and presence- your true north- with conviction and caring. Certain qualities, traits and skills demonstrate that a leader has executive presence.

My newest book, The New Executive Presence- Leading with Consciousness and Awareness, explores how you can enhance your executive presence by focusing on the following traits:

  1. Composure - Emotional intelligence, self-awareness and understanding others, is important when we discuss executive presence. The ability to recognize emotion in other people, and control your own emotion in response to them is key. Keeping your composure in difficult or challenging situations is learning to manage your responses.
  1. Communicating with confidence- To show executive presence it is important to communicate confidently both what you say and how you say it. First you must look the part so begin by choosing your wardrobe carefully and dress for success. Next practice standing tall with good posture, making eye contact with different people in the audience by using the “one thought, one person” technique, and being sure that your facial expressions match your message. Last but not least, pay attention to your voice and be sure the volume, pitch and pace are appropriate for your message. When you are practiced, polished, look and feel your best, you exude confidence. People want to hear what you have to say.
  1. Connection- People who embody executive presence have the ability to draw others towards them and make a genuine connection. The ability to be present, focused, not distracted and actively listening to another person lets them know that they matter to you. This connection, in turn, motivates and engages others.
  1. Conciseness and clarity- We have all been around people who ramble on and on when they are asking a question or making a point. We intuitively know that being verbose kills executive presence. To command attention and demonstrate EP , ask yourself “what is my message in 10 words or less?” If you can’t articulate it briefly and with clarity to yourself, others will lose the meaning as well.
  1. Credibility- The content of your message is critical, but even more fundamental is your choice of words to deliver the message. Useless words such as “um”, “so”, “sort of”, “you know”, “you guys” immediate hinder your credibility with the listener and detract from your powerful presence. Putting yourself down in front of others or mentioning “this may not be a good idea, but...” will also minimize your message. People take note when someone with strong conviction and credibility delivers a well-prepared and polished message.

With honest personal reflection, practice and a bit of coaching, Executive Presence can be learned and is within your grasp. Make a commitment to yourself to enhance your EP to be more effective and at the top of your game.

Rita Perea can be reached at:
Website and blog: www.RitaPerea.com
Phone: 515-577-5666
Connect with Rita on LinkedIn
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From Frantic to Fabulous: Finding Balance by Kicking Stress to the Curb

Suitcases #2

Rita Perea is President of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Are you feeling frantic? Overwhelmed by responsibilities on the job and at home? Do you feel like a hamster running on a wheel without a way to stop and jump off? Are you feeling exhausted but don’t know where to begin to feel better and more in control of work and life?

One way to move the needle from feeling frantic to feeling fabulous- shiny, sparkly and having it all together- is to take a good, honest look at the stressors in your life and at work. And then do something about it! Most people find that targeting and minimizing one or two areas of stress feels doable and empowering. Trying to tackle all areas of stress at one time can feel, well, even more stressful and overwhelming. That’s not what we are going for here.

These five stress-reduction tips can help you feel at the top of your game again:

  1. Give yourself a break. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, it is important to remove yourself and take a time out, even if it is only for a few minutes. Do you have a supervisor at work who is unpleasant and relentless? After an interaction with him/her, take a short walk outside for a little fresh air to gain your perspective again.
  2. Do it now. Procrastination, putting things off and telling yourself that you will get to these tasks later, causes stress that we may not even be aware of. Think of each task that you procrastinate about as a new little sticky note attached to your brain. Too many of these distractions hanging there waiting for attention can cause the a person to feel overwhelmed and to not be able to think clearly. If you adopt the mantra of “Do it now!” you can minimize stress-producing procrastination and decrease your to do list.
  3. Change your thinking, change your life. Stress is a way of reacting to events and problems, and you can lock yourself into one way of viewing your situation. If you can take a few minutes to try to view a situation from different angles and change our thinking about the situation, you can choose to react differently. You can seek an outside perspective of the situation by talking with a trusted friend, coach or counselor, and then compare it to yours. A change in attitude can unlock your stress- filled condition.
  4. Do something for others. We can find ourselves stuck in the cycle of negative thinking which can lead to fear, anxiety and despair. Our focus can get locked on ourselves and how miserable we are. If we do something for another person, especially someone less fortunate than ourselves, we can can mentally and emotionally move from having our own little pity-party to feeling gratitude that our situation is so much better than we thought. Spreading love and cheer is a wonderful way to support others as well as ourselves.
  5. Be present in the moment. Focusing on the future or the past can cause fear, anxiety and stress. When we are mindful and present in each moment, we are not worrying about what the future holds or regretting the past. The negativity is sometimes called “stinking thinking” and we can get stuck in this unproductive mental loop. When we are present in the moment we are not standing in fear. We are simply noticing and aware of our thinking and our feelings moment by moment by moment. When you find your mind wandering off to the past or the future, you can simply notice what your thoughts are and return your attention to the present moment. Being mindful will slow you down, reduce your stress and help you feel focused and relaxed to complete the task at hand. You can take this a step farther and incorporate mindfulness meditation into your day. This is a supercharged way to get work and life feeling balanced again. Visit the Succeed! blog on my website to find out more about mindfulness meditation and taking a time out from stress.

We all have stress in our lives, but too much can make us feel sick, overwhelmed, irritated, angry, distracted and frantic. By kicking the excess stress out of our lives and to the curb we can feel fabulous, relaxed, in control and balanced.


Rita Perea can be reached at:
Website and blog: www.RitaPerea.com
Phone: 515-577-5666
Connect with Rita on LinkedIn
Be Rita's friend on Facebook
Follow Rita on Twitter

About willpower

Jann Freed is a leadership development and change management consultant at The Genysys Group.

Have you ever said to yourself: I wish I had more self-control or willpower? Life is complicated and presents us with many temptations. Having more control over how we make decisions regarding relationships, health and financial security would likely improve the quality of our life. Research shows the two personal qualities that are said to predict “positive outcomes” in life consistently tend to be intelligence and self-control. While intelligence or IQ is hard to increase, researchers have discovered how to improve self-control. In their book "Willpower: Discovering the Greatest Human Strength," Roy Baumeister and John Tierney share research that supports improving willpower "is the surest way to a better life.”

Much is written about the value of the mindfulness movement (being present, paying attention, being focused) in leadership and business and medical arenas. Google, Target, General Mills and Intel are a few of the companies that have had mindfulness programs for several years. Based on mindfulness research, managers are realizing that allowing time for reflection, creativity and resilience has a positive impact on employees through stress reduction that results in improved productivity.

However, people forget about willpower, and this is probably the most underutilized human talent. Based on research by Baumeister and Tierney, willpower is something that can be actively trained, harvested and used in whatever direction we choose. Their research concluded:

  • We have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as we use it.
  • We use the same stock of willpower for all manners of tasks (work, diet, exercise, attitude).

In fact, Baumeister and Tierney divide the uses of willpower into four broad categories: control of thoughts, control of emotions, impulse control, and performance control or focusing energy on the task at hand. One way to build willpower is the use of “bright lines.” These are rules that are clear, simple and nonnegotiable. You know when you have crossed a bright line. “Once you’ve committed to following a bright line rule, your present self can feel confident that your future self will observe it, too. … Your belief becomes a form of self-control: a self-fulfilling mandate. I think I won’t, therefore I don’t.” This is a way to develop discipline in making decisions in life and in work. Life is complicated, and following these rules can simplify your life. Ironically, the more we follow bright line rules, the less energy it takes and the more willpower we have to use in other ways.

26938Most people think that change happens gradually in life, but change does not happen gradually. You build up momentum to make a change that happens in a moment. You gather enough energy and evidence to support making that change. The actual change itself is instantaneous.  

I discovered that the awareness of mindfulness helped me build willpower as a tool that is transforming my life. From my research, I learned the value of having a practice that quiets the mind at the same time that it builds strength, enables flexibility and works on balance. Since my book was published in 2013 ("Leading With Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts"), I have been committed to practicing yoga six times a week. While I have learned many things from my instructor, James Miller, it is his willpower I find most inspiring.  

Miller created Adamantine Yoga™, in which the books "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience," written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and "Willpower" are the psychology and foundation behind his approach. “While 'Flow' is about optimal experience, 'Willpower' taught me the philosophy to empower people to activate the psychology of optimal experience.” Miller often reminds me that “every moment we have the power to make a decision — choice. We can go one way or another.”

I realized my yoga practice would improve if I lost weight, and this has never been easy for me to do. But being mindful of what I was eating by paying attention was worth it. Miller recommended The Whole 30 Program based on “bright line rules.” Cut out grains, dairy, legumes and sugar for 30 days as a way to push the “reset” button for the body to determine how various foods are having an impact. I completed this program, achieved my goal and realized the power of willpower by following clear rules. It took less energy to make healthy dietary decisions.

When we have a stressful day and are committed to eating and drinking in a certain way, it is harder to use our willpower to make the right decisions. While we know this intuitively, now there is research to support this. People who use bright line rules to help guide their lives use less willpower in doing so. When willpower is depleted, frustrations and stress increase, which have negative consequences on personal decisions and relationships.  

It is easy to think that some people naturally have more self-control than others. But now we know everyone can improve their willpower in order to improve their quality of life. Additionally, one of the most interesting research findings in "Willpower" is this: “People with stronger willpower are more altruistic. They’re more likely to donate to charity, to do volunteer work and to offer their own homes as shelter to someone with no place to go. … Inner discipline still leads to outer kindness.”

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