Hone Your Leadership Skills To Perfection With 'Executive Presence' By Shital Kakkar Mehra
The book Executive Presence: The POISE formula for Leadership by Shital Kakkar Mehra, has been declared a bestseller by Amazon. Published by Harper Collins, this self-help book is a must for every corporate leader or employer. The book deals with Executive Presence, which in simplest of terms is effective leadership skills to get the optimal productivity from one's team.
Author Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her 2014 book had called Executive Presence the link between merit and success. Executive Presence is a skill and can be honed for the best results. In this book Shital Kakkar Mehra talks about POISE, the five-step proprietary formula for assessing and developing executive presence.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Executive Presence – we admire it in others and want it for ourselves! Also called Personal Presence, Leadership Presence or the ‘it’ factor, this intangible, difficult to define yet must-have trait is found in business and political leaders across the world.
In today’s competitive world, technical and intellectual skills are not enough to guarantee success as a business leader. While in-depth industry knowledge is the foundation to your career, your ability to deliver and articulate a confident message which engages your audience, and is consistent with your corporation’s value system, and at times, even a calibrated response in stressful times, is a leadership skill which inspires trust.
Your executive presence is on display when you:
1. Meet with prominent clients and important prospects
2. Communicate with your team
3. Work with stakeholders to get buy-in for your ideas
4. Increase your internal and external visibility at public forums and networking events
5. Present your company to the shareholders, investors and media
Leaders know about this influential dimension and believe that communication is made up of both verbal and non-verbal components and know how to use both effectively. Your body movements, posture, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and attire influence audience and inspire trust. By integrating their verbal and non-verbal communication, they deliver a powerful signal saying ‘I am capable and confident’. It’s necessary for creating powerful impact when interacting with clients, board members, teams and shareholders. As defined by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, ‘Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence’.
After researching for over two decades, I have come up with a proprietary formula for assessing and developing executive presence –
P – Physical Presence
O – Online Presence
I – Influencer Presence
S – Stage Presence
E – Engagement Presence
Personal Branding: Build Your Persona
In today’s day and age, and a highly digitized and virtually connected world, personal branding and image management has become ever so important. Chances are you are working on your personal branding – without even realizing it.
Every Facebook post or tweet on Twitter is an opportunity to let others know – who you are. Unlike traditional meetings or conversations; our digital footprint are here to stay for a very long time. It not only creates a lasting impression on internal and external stakeholders but also helps ensure better networking for the individual which is an important factor for success in today’s world
The word branding conjures up an image of logos, advertising and models, which till today forms a large chunk of how companies spend on a brand. Think IPL – look at the millions spent by team owners and their battery of consultant to ensure they look different from the other teams and their fans recall their brand. For the past decade, each team IPL has ‘invested’ millions on their logos, cricketers, sponsorships, parties and cheerleaders.
Presence, Poise and Positioning:
The Leader as a Statesman: There’s something about Deepak Parekh that inspires confidence. Maybe it’s his serious demeanour or his succinct manner of communicating, but when Parekh makes a suggestion, people listen and act upon it. This explains why he is invited on the boards of the best companies and by the government’s most important policy-making committees. How has he managed to create this aura of calm energy around himself? In his long career as a banker and head of HDFC, the country’s premier housing finance company, he has built an impeccable reputation for his integrity and decisiveness. Following in his footsteps is the younger Uday Kotak, CEO, Kotak Bank. If Kotak makes a comment in the press it is respected, if he is on a committee to define corporate governance, investors believe he will steer it along the right path. Parekh and Kotak are the most mature kind of leaders we call ‘statesman’ and it is gravitas on display.
As per research done by Princeton University, people decide on your trustworthiness within a tenth of a second. Whether it’s at an office meeting or a large social gathering, successful leaders have an uncanny ability to command the room. They get noticed when they walk into a room and as they work their way through the room, they make a connection with everyone they meet. They look people in the eye, give them their full attention, listen to their story and say things that make the other person feel good about the interaction. Interestingly, they linger in your thoughts even after they have left. Clearly, leaders are in complete agreement with American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou who had famously remarked, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Managing and Influencing when working for a remote team
Today, managers and their teams are finding it challenging to transition from high-contact face-to-face meetings to remote interactions. Despite the circumstances which have led to this sudden shift, it may prove to be the new ‘normal’ for the next few months, maybe even forever. Today, it has become a forced reality. The organizations of future may not need a physical location as their employees collaborate from remote locations, creating new opportunities for both people and companies.
Leaders are expected to add value by inspiring and motivating remote teams; the traditional role of the leader as a supervisor is no longer relevant. As team members are capable of solving their own problems, they need a leader who is a coach and mentor. Simply put, leaders of remote teams have to make things smoother for their teams to achieve their targets and stay engaged with the organisation.
As a leader, create a structure which allows smoother flow of information. Spend time both at an individual level and at the group level getting to know your team members better. Get answers for critical questions: What are the work timings of each member? What is each member currently working on? How can you contribute towards their goals? Set the frequency of your check-in calls, their timings and the technology tool you will be using.
Focus on enhanced communication: We have to make changes in our communication-style to less distant and more accessible to our colleagues. Communicating using technology requires a little more enthusiastic greeting, speaking a tad bit louder, using a few extra gestures and spending a little more time setting the context. Monologues will make remote teams to switch off; instead, focus on dialogue and ways to make conversations more interactive. With the use of technology, it’s better for leaders to over-communicate as it helps retain connect and shows accessibility.
Encourage participation: A common complaint by all leaders is that team members appear distracted during face-to-face meetings. With remote teams, this problem has increased several folds. To encourage participation, assign and allocate agenda items to team members. Ask specific questions to individuals e.g. ‘what was the highlight of your last week’s project? ”, “what more did you learn about this problem after speaking with the client?” This encourages participation as it subtly forces each member to speak and opens the door to new ideas. Do set a few ground rules at the start of the call - everyone should be on mute and only the assigned speaker will share his/her views.
Redefine trust: When you can see a team member sitting across the corridor, you automatically assume that they are working. On the other hand, if you see them once a month or twice a quarter, you might start doubting their productivity. Managers will have to learn to trust their remote teams by focusing on the deliverables, a major shift from the old order which gave credit to the number of hours spent at the desk.
Learn to ‘read’ signals: In the virtual world, leaders tend to connect for task-based agendas, relying on technology. However, humans need face-to-face interactions to trust and share their ideas. Push for video calls – both at an individual level and at group level. Video-calls are ideal for client meetings and internal reviews as they allow screen-sharing and increased participation. Also, these calls enable you to observe a range of emotions like anger, happiness, confusion and few micro-expressions, making them ideal for conducting confidential, difficult or sensitive conversations. While many body signals get compromised using technology tools, learn to read vocal intonations and non-verbal signals to better understand your teams. Be quick to catch cues from members who could be feeling lonely, appearing less motivated or possibly facing mental health issues. Being clued-in enhances the leader’s ability to sense conflicts and discontent at an earlier stage.
Micromanaging is passé: Check-in frequently but resist micromanaging. Maintain clarity of communication, track the deliverables and let your teams take ownership for their work. Be accessible in case they need help and have a clear understanding of what you expect from each other. By making teams within teams, you decentralize decision-making too, ensuring you are not the centre of every decision taken. Besides increasing productivity and reducing micromanaging, this strategy grooms future leaders and builds capability.
Promote a culture of sharing: Email, phone call, video call or social media - what is the right communication tool for this query? Matching the technology to your communication query requires planning. Plan the levels of escalation and communicate them to your team. For example, use mobile-enabled individual messaging for an instant response and use the same tool for group messaging to quickly get multiple responses. Pick up the phone for an urgent need, use emails for documenting details while video-calls are to be used for longer difficult conversations. Managers who schedule one-on-one chats only when things go bad instil fear in the minds of their team members. While praise and words support / encouragement happen naturally in-person meetings but they need to happen in the virtual world too.
Maintain transparency: Create a culture of being non-judgmental and learn to manage biases. In the virtual world, it’s easier to create sub-groups and alienate others. As a leader, you have to be sensitive to this and nip it in the bud.
Enhance your listening skills: As a leader, an integral part of your job is listening to your teams and clients. With remote working, leaders are expected to further sharpen their ability listen, offering support and encouragement. Listen effectively, focus on vocal intonations, summarize and repeat ensuring you have a good grip on the ‘real’ problem.
Create a sense of togetherness: Like a traditional business meeting, start remote interactions with small talk too. Ask pointed questions to individual members e.g. ‘How was your weekend?’, ‘What is the news from your city?” or ‘Give us a visual trip of your work zone?’ Small talk creates a bridge, works as an ice-breaker and helps build relationships. Scheduling a Zoom coffee for one-on-one interactions or a Happy Hour for team drinks is an excellent way to bond.
Civility remains non-negotiable: Some members will be comfortable using technology while others maybe awkward as they view it as a physical barrier, leading to aggressiveness, rudeness and off-hand comments. As a leader, be firm about accepted behaviour and set the boundaries.